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Rep. Archer Added to Roster of DOE Secretary Candidates

Rep. Archer Added to Roster of DOE Secretary Candidates

Retiring House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Archer (R-TX) last week would neither confirm nor deny whether he would accept the post of Energy Secretary in a Republican administration, if Texas Gov. George W. Bush ultimately is 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. last Monday.

When asked if this meant he would flat out refuse the Department of Energy (DOE) post if offered it by Bush, he told NGI, "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 at press time Friday still were up for grabs. Even if Bush wins, 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.

Other names being mentioned for DOE secretary under a Bush administration include former Sen. J. Bennett Johnston of Louisiana; former Sen. David Boren of Oklahoma, who is now president of Oklahoma University; and Reps. W. J. "Billy" Tauzin (R-LA) and Michael G. Oxley (R-OH). All four men are highly regarded in Washington and have worked well with the energy industry (See NGI, Nov. 13). Tauzin and Oxley reportedly both are seeking the chairmanship of the House Commerce Committee.

Archer believes the energy industry will fare much better under Bush than 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.

As a sign of this commitment, 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 have emerged from presidential elections, Archer called "misguided" the ground swell of support that has emerged 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."

Susan Parker

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