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Frontlines

Fortnightly Magazine - April 1 2000

published an exclusive interview with Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the likely Republican candidate for president, but not for Al Gore, the likely candidate for the Democrats, though we did our best to line up an interview with the vice president to run with that story.

So you can imagine our delight when, just as we were putting this issue to bed, in comes a fax from Al Gore's campaign headquarters, with a letter addressed to the from the vice president himself.

In that letter (abbreviated here for publication) the vice president cites the Kyoto Protocol is an historic accomplishment, and sees his task (if elected president) to come forward with "sensible ideas of my own" to secure its ratification and to design the policies necessary for its implementation.

He also makes sure readers will know where he stands on that dreaded portfolio standard.

 

Editorial in the Balance
We give equal time to the Democratic candidate.

Thank you for this opportunity to address the symposium on energy policy. (See "Energy Legislation in 2000? The Pros Place Their Bets," Feb. 1, p. 26.)

As you know, electric utility restructuring is a complicated issue. Electric utility customers are interested in electricity services that are reliable, clean, and affordable. The Department of Energy estimates that retail electricity competition could save consumers $20 billion per year on their electricity bills. Carefully designed legislation would also provide many environmental benefits by facilitating investments in clean technologies, such as energy efficiency, renewable energy, and natural gas. Finally, competition would help unleash a wave of innovation in the electricity industry, creating new jobs, products, and services.

I believe that proper electric utility restructuring legislation should be built around certain key principles. I will mention a few.

First, there should be a flexible mandate requiring all utilities to allow their retail customers to purchase power from a supplier of their choice, but it should permit states or non-regulated utilities to opt out of the mandate if their customers would be better served through an alternative policy.

Second, environmental objectives should be achieved through the adoption of a fund to finance energy efficiency and other public benefits, a renewable portfolio standard to ensure a certain level of electricity from renewable sources (subject to a cost cap), and a labeling mechanism that will help consumers identify environmentally friendly sources of power.

Third, utilities should be able to recover prudently incurred, legitimate, and verifiable retail stranded costs that cannot be reasonably mitigated, although states should continue to determine the recovery of these investments under their own laws.

The Clinton-Gore administration has proposed legislation on these issues that I believe best embodies these key principles. As president, however, I would be willing to work with members of Congress, as long as the key principles for electricity restructuring legislation that I have outlined were still clearly achieved.

I fully support the administration's plan for a 7.5 percent target for renewable energy in electricity restructuring legislation as the best approach for the nation. As negotiations on electricity restructuring legislation proceed in Congress, I will support