- The Washington Times - Monday, April 1, 2002

The Bush administration last week released documents detailing who members of the president's energy task force consulted with while developing policy recommendations. That task force members consulted with firms that produce energy shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. Nor is it a surprise that those companies stood to benefit from their suggestions which were, after all, on producing more energy. Some of those companies, may have even have (gasp) made soft-money donations to high-ranking Republicans who were also members of the energy task force, such as Energy Secretary and former Sen. Spencer Abraham.
What's surprising is the time and effort the panel spent trying to procure input from the environmental groups for whom energy production is anathema. After whining for a full year that it had been snubbed, the Natural Resources Defense Council finally conceded last week that it had several more meetings with high-level task force members and that many of those recommendations were incorporated in the report. It showed. Forty percent of the panel's recommendations were directed at conservation and the environment. In fact, the panel probably listened far too much to members of environmental groups, even though many responded with great reluctance to queries from task force members. In short, there's not even a hint of a quid pro quo,
But there could be a whiff of collusion in the Senate. After all, Majority Leader Tom Daschle's energy bill is stuffed with incentives for renewable energy and energy "efficiency." Perhaps Mr. Daschle should lay out the names of the individuals and groups that he and his people consulted with when writing his energy bill, and how many dollars in soft-money donations he took from such parties as his bill was being put together. Incidentally, one of the people Mr. Daschle almost certainly consulted with was John Podesta, former Clinton White House chief of staff and now a lobbyist for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Regardless of Mr. Daschle's windy consultations, the Bush administration could have helped itself out by being more forthright in the release of documents related to energy task force activities, especially after the stench of the Enron scandal began descending. There's no reason to doubt the administration officials who proclaim that they are fully complying with the law, but they have not helped their own case by blacking out large portions of some of the released documents. Still, all the blather about who consulted with whom won't add a watt of electricity to the power grid or a drop of oil to the supply line. The consultations are over with, the documents have been dumped, and an energy bill still hasn't made it to the president's desk.


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