Cheney Heads Up Cabinet Task Force on Energy
President Bush announced last week he has established a
Cabinet-level task force that will be led by Vice President Richard
Cheney to deal with the worsening energy picture.
The "task force that's being assembled will not only deal with
the very short-run issues" in the California and the western
regional power markets, "but obviously the longer-term [energy]
issues that will be confronting our country for awhile, unless
we're willing to act boldly and swiftly, which we will do," Bush
said last Monday during a strategy meeting on energy at the White
He noted that the session was the first in what would be a
series of meetings to be chaired by Cheney to discuss national
energy policy. Others on the task force are Energy Secretary
Spencer Abraham, Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, Transportation
Secretary Norman Mineta, Interior Secretary Gale Norton,
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christie Whitman,
Commerce Secretary Donald Evans and Agriculture Secretary Ann
"This is a matter of high concern for this administration...And
we're going to formulate a strategy to deal with it," Bush said.
Cheney will "report back to me and to the nation [on] how best to
cope with high-energy prices and how best to cope with reliance
upon foreign oil," as well as on ways to "encourage the development
of pipelines and power-generating capacity" in the nation.
"We have been dealing with this issue, obviously, because of the
state of California's woes," said Bush, who added "it looks like
they're making progress in California" to address the power
shortages and escalating prices. He believes "the situation is
going to be best remedied in California, by Californians."
The administration is "very aware" that the turmoil in the
state's bulk power markets "is beginning to affect the neighboring
states," raising concerns among the governors of several western
states, Bush said. He noted the White House was equally as
distressed about it, and said the task force would confront the
White House officials last week made it clear that the Bush
administration will offer no more help to California once the
emergency orders requiring suppliers to sell power and natural gas
to the state's cash-strapped utilities expire on Feb. 7.
"They should expect no more help from the White House," said
Larry Lindsey, Bush's top economic advisor, during the CBS "Face
the Nation" on Jan. 28. "It's not that we don't want to give them
help. If we could send thunderbolts into the electric grid to run
electricity, we would do it. We can't," he noted.
"If that's their decision, they [the Bush administration] need
to be ready to live with that and come out with a federal
response," said a gas industry lobbyist in Washington D.C. By
federal response, he said he meant "we need a national energy
policy which would entail several actions that might help alleviate
the situation in California, but would also deal nationwide with