- The Washington Times - Friday, June 29, 2001

President Bush yesterday sent his long-range energy plan to Congress while trying to shift its focus away from drilling in Alaska and toward the slaying of "vampire" appliances that unnecessarily drain electricity.

Now that the Senate is controlled by Democrats who oppose the president's energy plan, Mr. Bush is trying to make it more palatable by emphasizing conservation over production, a reversal of his previous stance.

He told Department of Energy employees he wants to go "beyond the stale debates of whether or not we ought to drill for natural gas in Alaska."

"This strategy is much broader than that," the president said. "While I strongly believe we ought to explore for natural gas and hydrocarbons without destroying our environment — and I believe we can do so in Alaska — it's important for the American people to understand that we're talking way beyond just one single issue that seems to dominate the landscape here in Washington, D.C."

"Ours is a program that says we must conserve," he added.

To that end, Mr. Bush spent most of his speech talking about "vampire" appliances, such as cell-phone chargers and computers that consume electricity even when the phones are fully charged and the computers are idle. He deputized Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham as "the new vampire slayer" who will promote devices that use a fraction of the electricity.

"While that may not be much of a savings on an individual unit basis, when you multiply the amount of chargers plugged into people's walls all across America, one can begin to realize significant energy savings," the president said.

"We're talking about 52 billion kilowatt-hours of power a year, or the equivalent of 26 average-sized power plants," he added.

Mr. Bush pointed out that a new power plant was brought online Wednesday in California, where Democratic Gov. Gray Davis has tried to blame the state's energy crisis on the White House, although Mr. Bush went out of his way to praise the governor yesterday.

"I was pleased to see the governor inaugurated a new power plant in Chino, Calif., the beginning of what is a rational energy policy that will help the good people of California get out from underneath 10 years of neglect," the president said.

While there have been signs that the energy crisis has eased slightly in the short term, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer cautioned against abandoning a long-term energy strategy.

"There are still energy problems in this nation, and the president does not believe that we can be a nation that lurches month to month from crisis to crisis," Mr. Fleischer warned reporters.

Mr. Fleischer tried to put pressure on the Democratic majority in the Senate to set a schedule for action on the president's energy plan, as the Republican-controlled House has already done.

He pointed out that Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, "indicated the urgent need to move on energy" two months ago, when the Senate was controlled by Republicans.

Mr. Daschle yesterday said Democrats will "aggressively schedule" markups, debate and votes when they return from the July 4th recess.

Senate Republicans welcomed Mr. Bush's policy as a "balanced, common-sense approach" to turn back an "impending recession and flat-lined economy" and criticized Mr. Daschle's schedule as stalling.

"I know they are playing politics with this and are delaying it for political gain, while our standards of living are at stake," said Sen. Frank H. Murkowski, Alaska Republican.

Republicans say they are making daily requests of Democratic leaders to reschedule debate and votes, but their requests have gone unanswered.

"I'm glad the president has finished his work, now it's time for Congress to finish its work," said Sen. Larry E. Craig, Idaho Republican.

Republicans threatened to attach the energy package as an amendment to other bills moving through Congress if Democrats continue to stall.

• Audrey Hudson contributed to this report

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