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Energy Not Invited to Democratic Convention

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 warming.

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) homes."

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

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