Vice-President Cheney to head energy policy task force

US President George W. Bush Monday named a cabinet task force to develop a national energy policy. Vice-President Dick Cheney, the former chairman and CEO of Halliburton Co., will head the study. Meanwhile, Senate energy committee members are expected to propose an energy policy package next week.

WASHINGTON, DC�US President George W. Bush Monday named a cabinet task force to develop a national energy policy.

He said Vice-President Dick Cheney, the former chairman and CEO of Halliburton Co., will head the study. Bush said, "Can't think of a better man to run it than the vice-president."

Also on the task force are Treasury Sec. Paul O'Neill, Energy Sec. Spencer Abraham, Commerce Sec. Donald Evans, Agriculture Sec. Ann Veneman, Transportation Sec. Norman Mineta, Interior Sec. nominee Gail Norton, and Environmental Protection Agency administrator nominee Christie Whitman. It was not disclosed when the task force would issue a report.

Meanwhile, members of the Senate energy and natural resources committee are expected to propose a slate of energy policy proposals next week. That package will expand on legislation that Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-Alas.) proposed last year.

Bush said, "This is a matter of high concern for this administration, because it's a matter of high concern for our nation. It's becoming very clear to the country that demand is outstripping supply, that there are more users of electricity and natural gas than there is new units being found, and we've got to do something about that.

"This administration is concerned about the people who work for living, concerned about people who struggle every day to get ahead. And we understand�fully understand�what high energy costs can mean to people in America. And we're going to formulate a strategy to deal with it."

Bush said the task force would address issues such as high energy prices, reliance on foreign oil imports, and development of pipelines and power-generating capacity.

He said a key issue is, "How do we encourage conservation on the one hand, and bring more energy into the marketplace?"

Bush has advocated opening the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern Alaska to exploration. "I campaigned hard on the notion of having an environmentally sensitive exploration to ANWR, and I think we can do so."

He said the study would examine the electric power crisis in California. "We're very aware in this administration that the situation in California is beginning to affect neighboring states. If we don't find more energy supplies to meet growing demand in places like California, the consumer is going to pay a dear price."

But Bush stressed the California problem should be solved there. "It's now up to the people of California, the elected officials of California, to correct a flawed law, and we're encouraged that they're doing so."

White House Press Sec. Ari Fleischer said energy represents 6% of the nation's GDP. "The costs for consumers for energy are going up nationally ... which is another reminder of why our nation needs a national, comprehensive energy policy.

"What's important, in the president's opinion, is to increase supply. And we need to increase our supply from domestic supplies, which means oil, it means natural gas, it means coal, it means clean-burning coal. That's where the focus will be, to a substantial degree. There will be other measures, as well."

Fleischer said, "President Bush is determined to focus on a long-term solution, so that his successors and their successors will not be back in the same box that he is in today. We have inherited this energy crisis, this looming energy crisis. One of the reasons is (that) we did not have from the previous administration a long-term energy policy in place. President Bush's focus will indeed be long-term.

"But short-term steps can be taken. If there are any, we will see. But if a government only lurches from short-term crisis to short-term crisis, that government will never solve their nation's long-term problems."

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