BUSH touts energy plan in radio address; Davis airs criticism


Saturday, May 19th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6



WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bush and California Gov. Gray Davis squared off over energy policy in dueling radio speeches Saturday, with Bush saying his more than 100 proposals are vital to ``protect family budgets.''

The president also argued for prompt action to stave off environmentally dangerous acts of desperation by an energy-strapped nation.

``If we fail to act, our environment will suffer as government officials struggle to prevent blackouts in the only way possible _ by calling on more polluting emergency backup generators and by running less-efficient old power plants too long and too hard,'' Bush said in his weekly broadcast.

Pressing his campaign for increased oil, coal and nuclear energy development, Bush said the average family energy bill has ``skyrocketed'' by 25 percent over the past three years.

``That's a hardship for every family,'' he said. ''... We need to act to protect family budgets.''

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Responding in the Democrats' radio address, Davis urged Bush, a former Texas oilman, to ``stand up to your friends in the energy business and exercise the federal government's exclusive responsibility to ensure energy prices are reasonable.''

Davis contended that ``price gouging'' has caused California's annual power bill to leap from $7 billion in 1999 to an estimated $50 billion to $60 billion this year.

``What's going on here, pure and simple, is unconscionable price gouging by the big energy producers _ most of them _ incidentally, located in Texas,'' the governor said.

Without short-term price relief, he said, ``the crisis here in California and the West will spill over and damage the already sluggish national economy.''

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Bush has emphatically rejected price caps, which Davis has sought for his state. Wholesale electricity costs in California are expected to reach $70 billion this year, 10 times greater than two years ago.