Bush, Gore highlight energy strategies

Texas Gov. George W. Bush faulted Vice-President Al Gore and the Clinton administration for not developing a comprehensive energy policy during the past 8 years, while Gore accused major oil companies and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries of manipulating oil prices. The two US presidential candidates discussed details of their energy policies during the first presidential debate Tuesday night in Boston.

Texas Gov. George W. Bush criticized Vice-President Al Gore and the Clinton administration for not developing a comprehensive energy policy, while Gore said the US needed to "free itself from the price manipulations of big oil companies and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries."

The two presidential candidates outlined their plans towards developing energy resources at the first presidential debate in Boston Tuesday night. Bush proposed increasing domestic oil and natural gas exploration and production while Gore said he would offer tax cuts and incentives for developing more fuel-efficient cars, factories, and furnaces and for developing alternative sources of energy.

Gore said that Bush's plan to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to exploration and production was environmentally unsound and would give the US only a few months of oil that wouldn't start flowing "for many years into the future." Bush countered that remark by saying that only a small portion of Alaska would be opened, and once online, would produce 1 million b/d of oil. "I would rather that a million come from our own hemisphere�as opposed to Saddam Hussein."

Gore also said incentives should be given to develop domestic resources such as deep natural gas reserves in the Gulf of Mexico and onshore oil stripper wells, but renewable sources of energy and domestic sources "that are cleaner and better" also should be developed.

Bush said he favored building pipelines to move natural gas from Alaska to the US. "We've got abundant supplies of energy here in America, and we'd better get out there and...start exploring it. Otherwise, we're going to be in deep trouble in the future because of our dependency upon foreign sources of crude." He also touched on an initiative listed in his energy policy to create a "North American Energy Policy" with Canada and Mexico (OGJ Online, Sept. 29, 2000). Bush said he discussed with Mexican President Vicente Fox plans to expedite the exploration and production of natural gas in Mexico for use in the US.

Both candidates said they favored developing clean-coal technologies to make use of US domestic coal reserves and secure funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) fund, used to help lower-income residents pay for heating fuel in the winter.

At one point, debate moderator Jim Lehrer asked if it would be fair to characterize the differences between Gore and Bush's plans as Gore doing something on the consumption end, while Bush was focusing on the production end. Gore said that he was doing something both on the supply side and production side well as on the consumption side.

Last week, Bush unveiled the details of an energy policy featuring 20 initiatives that he said would decrease US dependence on foreign oil companies (OGJ Online, Sep. 29, 2000). Bush said he would funnel about $1 billion to LIHEAP over the next 10 years from federal oil and gas royalty income, and also proposed reforming and raising the funding for the federal weatherization program and state energy programs at a cost of $1.4 billion the next 10 years. Bush also said his administration would only use the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) in times of war or major supply disruptions.

The Clinton administration recently announced it would release 30 million bbls of oil from the SPR over a 30-day period to reduce crude oil prices and raise home heating oil and gasoline stocks (OGJ Online, Sep. 23, 2000). Gore had urged Pres. Clinton to tap the 571-million bbl SPR before this winter, saying that "Americans should not have to choose between heating and eating this winter." Bush said the administration's move was politically motivated.

In August, the National Democratic Convention presented its platform, which includes prohibiting oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge east of the Prudhoe Bay field in Alaska. The Democratic Party also said it would continue to focus on environmental protection. The platform said that Gore was committed to "protecting the coasts of California and Florida and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil and gas drilling."

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