President Bush last week put the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on notice that it should deal swiftly with complaints from the public involving illegal overcharges on energy, and instructed FERC to closely monitor electricity suppliers to ensure they are charging “fair and reasonable” prices.

“I’m calling on the FTC to make sure nobody in America gets illegally overcharged. And we’re going to make sure FERC will monitor electricity suppliers” to assure that rates will be “fair and reasonable,” Bush said following a Cabinet meeting last Wednesday, during which Vice President Dick Cheney and the energy task force gave a briefing on their national energy policy report.

But Bush responded “none whatsoever” when he was asked whether there was any evidence of illegal energy pricing or unreasonable power rates that would warrant FTC and FERC action now. He added, however, that FERC “has actually rebated money back to people in the state of California. They have already acted on the notion of reasonable pricing. And we expect FERC to continue to do that.”

As for the energy task force report, Bush said, “It’s tough in that it lays out the problems; it’s a direct assessment of neglect.” But, he added, “We’re going to solve this problem.”

The president further indicated that his comprehensive energy plan will provide relief to California. “My plan helps people [there] in the short term and long term by recognizing the problem and by expediting energy development,” he said, adding that he was “deeply concerned” about the state’s energy woes. He pledged to continue to work closely with Gov. Gray Davis, who repeatedly has asked the Bush administration for price controls in the California energy markets. Bush restated his opposition to price controls Wednesday. “Price controls do not increase supply, nor do they affect demand.”

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