Rep. Archer Mentioned as DOE Secretary Candidate

Retiring Rep. Bill Archer (R-TX) was coy yesterday when asked to respond to reports that he is being considered for Energy Secretary should Texas Gov. George W. Bush ultimately be declared the next president.

"I do not expect to be asked to be a secretary in a Bush administration. [But] I'm honored that my name has been floated," Archer, who is retiring from Congress after 30 years, said at the Natural Gas Roundtable in Washington, D.C. Monday.

When asked if this meant he would flat out refuse the Department of Energy (DOE) post if offered it by Bush, he told Daily GPI, "I'm not going to try to speculate on anything. I'm not campaigning for a cabinet position in [the Bush] administration."

This scenario, of course, hinges on Bush winning the 25 electoral votes in Florida, which still are very much up for grabs. Even if Bush should win the Sunshine State, some have speculated he might pick Democrats for a few cabinet posts, such as DOE secretary, in an attempt to heal the deep partisan wounds in the nation. That might place Archer, a Republican, low on the list of potential candidates for DOE secretary.

As chairman of the powerful House Way and Means Committee for the past six years, the long-time Congressman is well thought of by the oil and natural gas industries.

He believes the energy industry will fare much better under Bush as opposed to under Vice President Al Gore. He expects there will be "some significant push" by a Bush White House to recognize and deal with the problems facing energy.

In fact, "the way that we decide a realistic energy policy, I think, will be a major topic in the next Congress," Archer said. Although much of Congress will be divided along partisan lines in the next session, he believes lawmakers will be able to come to agreement on energy issues if they have "proper direction" from the White House.

"We have a lot to do to bolster our domestic production," Archer said, and "yes, we should do what we can to conserve" energy. He said he thinks Bush "will do a good balancing" of the two, but he doubts Gore would be able to do the same.

He pointed to Bush's pledge to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to greater oil and natural gas development. "There's no reason why ANWR cannot be developed in a way that it does not interfere with the environment.It's the biggest thing that we can do to reduce dependency on foreign [energy]."

For Gore to call ANWR a "precious landscape treasure," Archer said, simply shows that he's never traveled to the region. Anyone who's ever been there knows "it's the most godforsaken land" in the entire United States, he noted.

On wider issues that emerged from last week's elections, Archer called "misguided" the ground swell of support for eliminating the electoral college. "To me, there's no other alternative that makes any sense," he told energy executives. "You are inevitably going to enhance the viability of splintered parties if you go [solely] to a popular vote. This country will be more divided in a way that we have never, never seen." He believes the next Congress "is going to be tied up on this issue in a significant way."

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