PRESIDENT will direct federal government to save energy

Thursday, May 3rd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bush plans to order federal agencies in California to turn off escalators and keep building temperatures at 78 degrees in order to cut energy consumption in power-strapped regions such as the West Coast.

Bush is sending his energy secretary to California to underscore his concern.

Bush was to issue the presidential directive Thursday, after meeting with Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.

He was going to ask heads of executive departments and agencies to identify areas where energy savings might be achieved, an administration official said Wednesday. Another said federal agencies were being asked to conserve energy by turning off escalators and keeping building temperatures at 78 degrees.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Bush's directive would apply to any region that may have energy problems, ``but clearly the principal area is California.''

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was expected to point to the Pentagon and other military facilities as places where significant energy savings can be achieved.

From the White House meeting, Abraham was to fly to San Francisco and other California cities during a two-day trip. He was to discuss the plan with federal officials in the state during his trip, part of an effort to ``educate federal employees on how they can save energy,'' one said.

It was not clear how much of a reduction Bush would order at federal sites. But two officials said Bush was pressing for an energy reduction at military installations as well.

The planned directive came in advance of the recommendations from a White House task force that is developing a national energy strategy. That panel met for 90 minutes on Wednesday, and is expected to issue its findings by midmonth.

Bush has faced intense pressure to assist California during an electricity crisis that has threatened to cripple the nation's largest state. Bush contends he has done virtually everything the state has asked him to do, but Democratic Gov. Gray Davis has accused him of ducking the issue.

While the Republican president has visited more than two dozen states, he has not visited California, where he lost decisively in November.

Several Cabinet officials have, though. Advisers have said Bush planned to go to California, but had to scrap the trip to help negotiate the release of 24 U.S. crew members who were forced to land in China after their Navy plane collided with a Chinese fighter.