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

“I do not expect to be asked to be a secretary in a Bushadministration. [But] I’m honored that my name has been floated,”Archer, who is retiring from Congress after 30 years, said at theNatural Gas Roundtable in Washington, D.C. last Monday.

When asked if this meant he would flat out refuse the Departmentof Energy (DOE) post if offered it by Bush, he told NGI, “I’m notgoing to try to speculate on anything. I’m not campaigning for acabinet position in [the Bush] administration.”

This scenario, of course, hinges on Bush winning the 25electoral votes in Florida, which at press time Friday still wereup for grabs. Even if Bush wins, some have speculated he might pickDemocrats for a few cabinet posts, such as DOE secretary, in anattempt to heal the deep partisan wounds in the nation. That mightplace Archer, a Republican, low on the list of potential candidatesfor 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 underBush than under Vice President Al Gore. He expects there will be”some significant push” by a Bush White House to recognize and dealwith the problems facing energy.

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

“We have a lot to do to bolster our domestic production,” Archersaid, and “yes, we should do what we can to conserve” energy. Hesaid he thinks Bush “will do a good balancing” of the two, but hedoubts Gore would be able to do the same.

As a sign of this commitment, he pointed to Bush’s pledge toopen the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to greater oil andnatural gas development. “There’s no reason why ANWR cannot bedeveloped in a way that it does not interfere with theenvironment.It’s the biggest thing that we can do to reducedependency on foreign [energy].”

For Gore to call ANWR a “precious landscape treasure,” Archersaid, simply shows that he’s never traveled to the region. Anyonewho’s ever been there knows “it’s the most godforsaken land” in theentire United States, he noted.

On wider issues that have emerged from presidential elections,Archer called “misguided” the ground swell of support that hasemerged for eliminating the Electoral College. “To me, there’s noother alternative that makes any sense,” he told energy executives.”You are inevitably going to enhance the viability of splinteredparties if you go [solely] to a popular vote. This country will bemore divided in a way that we have never, never seen.” He believesthe next Congress “is going to be tied up on this issue in asignificant way.”

Susan Parker

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