- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 28, 2000

Vice President Al Gore, appealing to what he called a "new mainstream" of environment-conscious voters, yesterday proposed $75 billion in tax breaks and incentives to boost fuel conservation.

"It is an old, timid way of thinking to suggest that those who put the good of the earth at the heart of the American dream are somehow outside the mainstream," Mr. Gore said.

"It is new, bold thinking to realize that the mainstream has shifted like a mighty river."

Mr. Gore, speaking at an energy production plant in Philadelphia, looked to the future even as gas prices soar above $2 per gallon in critical Midwestern battleground states.

"We will prove once and for all that we can clean up pollution, make our power systems more efficient and more reliable and move away from dependence on others, all with no new taxes, no new bureaucracies and no onerous regulations," Mr. Gore said.

A spokesman for Texas Gov. George W. Bush said Mr. Gore offered "recycled proposals" that do nothing to decrease dependence on foreign oil.

"This is more about Al Gore trying to avoid paying a political price because of high gas prices than it is about reducing prices at the pump," Bush spokesman Scott McClellan said.

Eight years after he wrote "Earth in the Balance" detailing his "strategic goal of completely eliminating the internal combustion engine" Mr. Gore still is trying to nail down the support of environmentalists without appearing an extremist.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bush a Republican who led his Democratic rival in the presidential race by 13 points in a USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll released Monday is seeking to broaden his coalition by reaching out to Hispanics and blacks who traditionally support Democrats.

Environmental groups are among the Clinton-Gore administration's staunchest supporters and they again are expected to line up behind the vice president.

The Sierra Club, which will not endorse a candidate until the fall, yesterday praised Mr. Gore's remarks.

"Vice President Gore's plan to clean up America's aging power plants could stop their smokestacks from belching so much global-warming pollution and lung-burning soot and smog," said Carl Pope, the organization's executive director.

"Tough, comprehensive standards like those outlined by Vice President Gore will help Americans breathe easier and protect our climate."

Daniel Weiss, political director of the Sierra Club, said "the differences couldn't be clearer" between Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush.

"It's like the difference between [pioneering naturalist] John Muir and the 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' guy," he told Reuters news agency.

But there are cracks in Mr. Gore's environmental coalition.

Last year, a Sierra Club board member urged colleagues not to endorse Mr. Gore, citing his "tawdry environmental record" and his willingness to leave nature "hostage to the highest bidder."

"With this legacy, no real environmentalist could ever endorse Al Gore," Michael Dorsey wrote in an internal e-mail.

Consumer advocate Ralph Nader, the Green Party's nominee, is attacking Mr. Gore from the left, accusing the vice president of supporting Corporate America at the expense of the environment.

Mr. Nader says he is not concerned that he could take enough votes from Mr. Gore to help Mr. Bush win in California or in Midwest battleground states.

Friends of the Earth endorsed former Sen. Bill Bradley over Mr. Gore in the Democratic presidential primaries.

Mr. Bush recently proposed his own five-point plan to encourage conservation through grants and tax credits.

Environmentalists praised Mr. Bush's proposal to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund at $900 million annually.

Mark Whiteis-Helm, a spokesman for Friends of the Earth, said at the time that there is "some divisiveness in the environmental community" about the strength of Mr. Gore's record on the environment.

But he said environmentalists prefer Mr. Gore's record to Mr. Bush's record in Texas and they are likely to line up behind the vice president.

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