- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 10, 2001

Blackouts rolled though California again this week, a thunderous prelude to what will almost certainly be a stormy summer of arguments about energy shortages punctuated by brownouts and blackouts crackling across the country.
Its not surprising that California, let by Gov. Gray "prince of darkness" Davis and his dim Democratic cohorts who dominate the California state legislature have come up with so few positive solutions to Californias state-wide problems. Instead of allowing the free market to regulate price and demand, they have merely blamed one "evil" entity after another, whether corporate gougers, Californias Republican legislators (all three of them) or the Bush administration.
In contrast, the Bush administration has moved cooly and wisely, allowing the imposition of no more than the most limited of power caps (which left Democrats howling more than Allan Ginsberg), and insisting upon, and expediting, supply-side solutions, such as speeding the permit process for the construction of new power plants.
The administration has also demonstrated its commitment to conservation: The White House will presumably be allowing employees to wear short-sleeves to work since if Washington runs short of power, White House air conditioners (and air conditioners at all other federal agencies) wont kick on until the interior temperature rises to 78 degrees. The Department of Defense plans to reduce its energy needs by 10 percent at its facilities in California, and President Bush has instructed other executive agencies to find ways to conserve.
Yet Mr. Bush has also made it clear that energy conservation, which is, de facto, growth limiting, is not sufficient to solve this summers power woes. "We cant conserve our way to energy independence, nor can we conserve our way to having enough energy available." At a press conference this week, the presidents press secretary, Ari Fleischer, added, "The president also believes that the American peoples use of energy is a reflection of the strength of our economy, of the way of life that the American people have come to enjoy. And he wants to make certain that a national energy policy … includes a way of allowing the American people to continue to enjoy the way of life that has made the United States such a leading nation in the world." Mr. Bush is set to give a major energy address on May 18, presumably in connection with the publication of the recommendations of the White House energy task force. This speech ought to reflect the same line of thinking expressed here, though there are some concerns that Mr. Bush may be buying into the global warming Kyoto mythology.
While the administration is clearly and correctly focused on long-term solutions, it is regrettable that it has not moved more forthrightly on cutting the federal gasoline tax. While Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham claimed, "I couldnt get 40 votes," for such a cut last year while he was in the Senate, circumstances have changed substantially as gasoline prices continue to soar to record levels. The administration would be wise to pursue such a step, which would at least force Democrats to justify their opposition to such an expeditious step towards cutting consumer energy costs.
In the end, it will take conservation, copious supply, and conservative solutions to pierce the darkness in California.

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