Bush, California governor in war of words over energy

Under fire for downplaying conservation as a response to high energy prices, President George W. Bush said the administration is doing its part “by cutting peak hour energy use at federal facilities in California.”

Responding California Democratic Gov. Gray Davis called the Bush approach a “travesty” and singled out Houston’s Reliant Energy Inc. for criticism for recently charging “$2,000/Mw-hr for the last hundred megawatts of power necessary to keep the lights on. That is a dramatic increase over the $30/Mw-hr we paid a year ago.”

Davis reiterated complaints the federal government isn’t doing enough to rein in wholesale power prices. “So I hope that President Bush and I can agree that any worthy energy policy must address the price gouging of consumers by greedy energy suppliers, particularly in states like California that are working valiantly to bring additional supply on line,” Davis sid..

In his weekly Saturday radio address, Bush said he is “very concerned” about the possibility of blackouts in California this summer. He noted military installations pledged to reduce peak hourly usage 10% this summer. He also promised the energy plan he is scheduled to unveil Thursday will include conservation measures, especially those that promote energy efficiency.

Over the long term, Bush said, the most effective way to conserve energy is by using energy more productively. He noted US industry uses 40% less energy to produce new goods and services than it in 1973, the year of the Arab oil embargo.

What’s more, Bush said, conservation doesn’t have to mean doing without. “It can mean building sensors into new buildings to shut the lights off as soon as people leave a room,” he said. “It can mean upgrading the transmission lines that deliver electricity to your home so less is wasted on the way. We can raise our standard of living wisely and in harmony with our environment.”

Bush said his plan will call for investment in new energy technology, improving appliance standards, and new incentives to encourage industry to replace outdated equipment.

Davis said California is the second most energy efficient state in the nation because its energy efficiency standards far exceed federal standards. This summer the state is offering $800 million in incentives for individuals and businesses to reduce electricity usage even more, he said.

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