Abraham, fellow politicians boo price caps, tout industry at EEI

By Kathleen Davis, Associate Editor
Electric Light & Power

June 6, 2001—Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham, Congressman W.J. Tauzin (Rep.-La.) and Senator Mary Landrieu (Dem.-La.) gave slightly differing views of the “energy crisis” at Edison Electric Institute’s (EEI) Annual Convention and Expo in New Orleans early this week, but they all agreed that the crisis needs to be dealt with swiftly and that price caps were not the solution.

Tauzin and Landrieu kicked off the conference together by speaking at the opening general session Sunday afternoon. Both agreed that Gov. Davis’ proposed price caps would not help the nation veer away from energy disaster.

“California tells the rest of us to adopt price controls; I hope we have better sense,” Tauzin commented.

Landrieu also stated that price caps were not the answer, but she turned the focus towards generation, stating that “one of the solutions [to the crisis] is to have a great mix” of traditional and renewable energy forms. And Landrieu, more than either Tauzin or Abraham, stressed conservation as a participating factor in a stable energy future, stating it “needs to play a vital role.”

Abraham seemed to mostly agree with both Tauzin and Landrieu, although conservation played little role in his talk. He gave the energy industry a quick overview of President Bush’s National Energy Policy during the closing general session yesterday.

Introduced as “a great American” by incoming EEI president and TXU chairman and CEO Erle Nye, Abraham brought along a personal message for the industry executives from President Bush himself. Within the text quotations cited by Nye, President Bush told the conference attendees, “I salute you for your leadership.”

After briefly commenting that EEI “is one of the outstanding organizations in this country,” Abraham focused solely on the Bush energy plan in his short speech.

“There are no quick fixes to America’s energy crisis,” he stated. “Everyone likes power, but no one likes power generation and its delivery.”

Pressing that America needs to just say no to both price caps and OPEC dependency, Abraham went on to discuss energy diversity on the side of generation and the need to boost the national grid on the side of transmission. He commented that he hoped for a future grid that goes past regional concentration to an interstate system “where power can move as freely as the family automobile.”

Finally, Abraham called upon the executives in the audience to assist him with the debate over the energy policy, to open discussions on the subject.

“I hope you help us to continue this dialogue,” he said.