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Energy Plan Results in Loud Cries From Both Sides During Meeting

BY Pam Easton
by Pam Easton on 7/16/01.

Advocates for wind power and other renewable energy sources bickered with supporters of President Bush's aggressive plans for more power plants and offshore drilling at a town hall meeting Monday night in the nation's energy capital.

"The Bush plan is just a scam," protesters against the plan shouted as they marched in a circle in front of a 20-foot-tall inflatable White House replica with four smoke stacks emerging from its roof.

They said renewable energy, such as wind power, should be considered before reverting to old methods, such as coal burning.

"We're calling it the Bush-Cheney toxic two-step," Peter Altman, executive director of the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development Coalition, said of Bush's energy plan. "That's how this Bush energy plan was put together. They think we need more power plants, more refineries and more drilling. And to do that, we are going to have to have less environmental control.

"That's sounds to me like a toxic two-step with industry playing the tune."

Those who support the plan stood across the parking lot of a Houston community college campus where the meeting took place. They wore red shirts that read, "Reliable Energy Now," and held signs, "Global Warming is Bull."

"The bottom line is even if it does hurt the environment to some extent, let 's be realistic-do you want to turn your light switch on?" said Carol Jones, a member of Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy.

Jones, who supports Bush's energy plan, said protesters such as those marching and chanting across the parking lot, have kept energy companies from building new power plants and refineries for years. She said they've also stymied efforts to drill for additional oil.

"If we keep on with this, we are not going to have any more energy," she said.

U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, echoed Jones' concern and blamed California liberals for the state's power woes during a tense meeting in which unison boos and cheers were common.

"What's going on in California is a result of radical environmentalism," DeLay said. "We have not had an energy policy for the last eight years. We've had just the opposite. We've had an anti-energy policy."

DeLay credits Bush with "taking the bull by the horns" to change that and deliver an energy policy no matter what the protest.

"America has a serious energy problem right now," he said. "We've had people stopping us from building new power plants. That's why they don't have energy in California right now."

"We are too dependent on foreign oil. For years, reactionary extremists have held consumers hostage. We didn't get here overnight, and no matter how much you protest, we are going to give you an energy plan."

DeLay was part of a Republican roadshow promoting the national energy strategy Vice President Dick Cheney shaped. Cheney, suffering laryngitis, had to skip a speech in Philadelphia.

Those opposed to the plan said they don't want to trade "public health for corporate wealth."

"Houston has been an oil and gas town forever," said Margot Clarke, director of the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund in Texas. "But people whose children are suffering from asthma attacks are not going to be so accepting of business as usual."