- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 15, 2001

The White House yesterday highlighted a rift between two big Democratic constituencies, labor and environmentalists, by arranging a meeting with transportation and building trade union leaders who support the Bush energy plan.
Teamsters President James P. Hoffa enthusiastically endorsed President Bushs proposal to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling at a White House meeting with Vice President Richard B. Cheney, Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao, energy task force members and 17 other union leaders.
At a time of rising unemployment, the drilling plan alone would create another 25,000 jobs for Teamsters workers involved in building pipelines and transportation, and another 700,000 jobs nationwide for workers of all kinds, a Teamsters spokesman said, quoting a study by Wharton Econometrics, an economic forecasting firm.
The Teamsters last year endorsed Vice President Al Gores bid for the presidency.
The energy plan also calls for building between 1,300 and 1,900 power plants and spending $150 billion on new pipelines and transmission facilities, creating millions more jobs for carpenters plus energy, electrical, construction, and operation and maintenance workers represented by unions, according to administration and union estimates.
"We like a lot of things" about the energy plan, said Mr. Hoffa after the White House meeting. "We do believe we need more nuclear plants. We do believe we need more refining capacity; we havent been building refineries."
Mr. Hoffa said he agreed with the White Houses emphasis on developing and producing energy, rather than trying to solve the problem through conservation.
"American workers will be solving this problem; they will be building the resources to refine and generate new energy," he said, echoing one of Mr. Cheneys talking points. "There is no magic bullet here, there is no short answer. This is a long-term problem, its going to be a long-term solution."
Douglas McCarron, general president of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, a union that opposed Mr. Bush during the presidential campaign, said what the vice president told him about the energy plan "sounded good."
Mr. McCarron emphasized that the plan appeals to union members not only because it would create thousands of jobs but because it would solve a major pocketbook problem affecting workers — chronically high prices for gas, electricity and home heating fuel.
Just last week, the average price of self-service regular gasoline hit a record high of $1.713 a gallon.
"My members, the AFL-CIO members, were paying too much for gas, were paying too much for electricity," Mr. McCarron said. "The problem is theres a lack of supply; we have got to increase the supply … if we have more supply, the price will go down."
Coming at a time when environmentalists and most Democrats appear to have declared all-out war against the energy plan, the support of key labor groups could prove critical in swaying some Democrats to vote for Republican-sponsored energy legislation in Congress.
The arctic drilling proposal is at the top of the hit list of nearly every environmental group. Environmentalists also vehemently oppose most of the other energy development proposals that the administration and private forecasters say will create thousands, if not millions, of jobs.
On drilling in the Arctic reserve, Mr. Hoffa said, "The bottom line is, the population is getting bigger, we have more and more people driving and where is the gasoline coming from?
"We need the gasoline, we need the fuel from Alaska. Its a large pool of oil up there, and I think thatll be helpful to solving the problem."
Environmentalists also have targeted for extinction coal-fire power plants, arguing they issue far more air pollutants than other forms of energy. That stand infuriated mine workers unions and led to a rare Republican victory by Mr. Bush in West Virginia last year.
Mr. Hoffa pointed out that coal can be purified through refining processes.
He also disagreed with environmentalists and Democrats who charge that the administrations plan is only aimed at filling the coffers of oil companies. By putting an emphasis on creating thousands of new and highly paid construction-related jobs, he said, it ensures that "big oil" doesnt get all the profits.


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