Energy Not Invited to Democratic Convention
California continued to sizzle through last week, but some were
oblivious. The word "energy," let alone a policy statement on the
subject, was nearly impossible to find at the Democratic National
Convention in Los Angeles. A media aide for the Democrats put in a
computerized search under the word "energy" in the party's platform
committee report on the convention Internet web site and drew
blanks Monday, the opening day of the political show.
Later in the week, the same aide was picking out sentences and
phrases to try to demonstrate that the topic was not overlooked and
de-emphasized. "It's there," he assured a reporter.
The platform statement is grouped into three broad categories,
"prosperity, progress and peace." There are a few paragraphs on
environmental policy, a small part of which touches on energy in
terms of cleaner more efficient transportation and global warming.
The word "energy" still doesn't creep in much in the text.
"America is blessed with abundant low-cost sources of coal,
petroleum and natural gas, but must use them wisely and ensure that
changes in the energy sector promote a workforce whose skills are
expanded, utilized and rewarded," a small section in the middle of
the environmental subsection stated. "Democrats believe that with
the right incentives to encourage the development and deployment of
clean energy technologies, we can make all our energy sources
cleaner, safer and healthier for our children."
As California officials were declaring the four days of the
convention (Aug. 14-17) as "power watch" days, and issuing Stage
one and two alerts because of tight electricity supplies in the
midst of statewide hot weather, the Democratic convention speeches
and the platform materials seemed unconcerned with electric
industry restructuring, renewable energy incentives and
skyrocketing natural gas and gasoline prices this summer, along
with peak-demand electricity prices on average five to eight times
higher than last summer.
At the Democrat aide's suggestion, a pre-convention speech by
Vice President Al Gore turned out to be the most definitive energy
statement from the Democrats, much more so than the party's
platform statement. In his remarks Aug. 12, in Springfield, TN,
birthplace of Silent Spring author Rachel Carson, Presidential
candidate Gore proposed that the next 10 years be labeled as the
"Environmental Decade," emphasizing among various air, water and
land initiatives the need to "invest more in conservation,
renewable energy and fast-growing technologies that combat
pollution," along with leading an international attack on global
Candidate Gore went on to endorse helping power plants cut
harmful emissions, lowering the nation's reliance on foreign oil
and strengthening the national power grid's reliability.
In the platform, these ideas are translated into one-liners or
phrases, such as the need for all families to have "simple security
of .clean, safe, reliable, affordable electricity for (their)
Buried in the middle of a paragraph talking about raising global
environmental standards, the platform promises that "no new
bureaucracies, no new agencies, nor new organizations" will be
created to implement this vision. However, in the Aug. 12 speech,
candidate Gore proposed creating a National Energy Security and
Environmental Trust Fund using part of the federal budget surplus.
Outside of the platform, several speakers at the convention
endorsed various tax credits for alternate fuel vehicles and the
use of renewable energy resources. Everyone talked about an
"investment in the environment" (including energy) much as they
promoted investments in education, crime control, universal health
insurance, and senior prescription drugs.
Electrical interruptions from rolling brownout and blackouts
that might still occur this summer could change the emphasis, but
for now, energy as a topic doesn't appear to have a high profile
with the Al Gore-Joe Lieberman candidacy.
Richard Nemec, Los Angeles