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ENERGY secretary plugs for Bush plan

Updated:

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham saw a silver lining on Monday in the California electricity crisis, saying it could help sell President Bush's energy plan.

At a news conference near a high-tech natural gas well in Oklahoma City, Abraham said the Bush plan recognizes the need to increase domestic oil and gas production.

He said California's problems and annual summer gasoline price spikes elsewhere are giving Americans in non-producing states ``a different perspective'' that could lead to needed changes in energy policy.

Abraham and Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla, appeared at a news conference outside the Louis Dreyfus ``Pelican 1'' natural gas drilling rig in northwest Oklahoma City.

The rig takes the name, ``Pelican,'' from a restaurant operating near the site.

``The directional drilling work at the Pelican rig demonstrates the ability of the industry to conduct drilling explorations in populated areas in a safe and environmentally sensitive manner,'' Abraham said.

He said many are not aware of environmentally friendly improvements in drilling techniques. That lack of knowledge, he said, has contributed to the controversy over the idea of drilling in an Alaska wilderness area.

The Bush administration has made it a top priority to increase production of domestic energy resources in order to meet the gap between supply and demand, Abraham said.

He said Bush has presented a balanced approach that also will promote environmental stewardship and repair the country's aging energy infrastructure.

Abraham was scheduled to attend a fundraising event for Inhofe later Monday.

Inhofe, who is up for re-election in 2002, plugged for a bill to give oil companies a tax credit once the price of oil goes below a certain level.

The senator has clashed with Bush on several issues, including education and the suspension of Navy bombing exercises in Puerto Rico.

While he has worried that the president might make too many concessions to environmentalists at the expense of the oil industry, Inhofe said Monday Bush received ``a bum rap'' over the California crisis.

He laid the blame for the crisis on the failure of California to build nuclear power plants and other facilities.
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