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Special Event

Gore Delivers Address on Energy Policy

Aired September 21, 2000 - 11:01 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: That could, indeed, be good news for folks looking for good news about oil prices. None to be found right now. But, Congress is going to talk about that.

Let's bring in our Chris Black to find out what Congress has in store today to talk about these heating oil prices that are just around the corner -- Chris.

CHRIS BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Daryn, the House Government Reform Committee will be holding a hearing later today to get an update on what has happened in the six months since gasoline prices spiked. They're looking for some answers from Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, from the Environmental Protection Agency, head Carol Browner, from the head of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

There's a lot of finger pointing going on on Capitol Hill. Republicans have been very critical of the Clinton administration for not having a comprehensive energy policy. But, officials in the White House and also Democrats here on the Hill, say that there's plenty of blame to go around, that the Republican Congress has underfunded the energy department to the tune of $1.5 billion during the Clinton administration -- Daryn.

Chris, is that a fair criticism that -- you hear that over and over again from the Bush -- from the Bush campaign, that the Clinton administration has no energy policy. Is that true? or they just don't like the energy policy that they have?

BLACK: Well, the latter, really, is probably more true, though, to be fair, the energy has not been -- was not a big issue in the Clinton administration for a long time and it was not their primary focus. But it also wasn't the focus on here on Capitol Hill.

People, both lawmakers and the consumers, took a lot for granted. There was plenty of oil and gas out there. Americans, in fact, went back to big gas guzzlers. Everybody has an SUV now. And, the consumption increased dramatically. And U.S. dependence on foreign oil also increased.

Well, that happened very slowly over a long period of time and there's certainly plenty of blame to go around. But, no one wanted to do anything about it because all the answers are difficult answers. No one wants to give up that special car that they drive, an SUV, for example. And, people also don't like conservation measures because it's tough.

KAGAN: What about this idea, Chris, that we expect to hear from Vice President Al Gore just a few minutes from now, and, by the way, when the vice president does speak, we will going to that live. So, I might interrupt you. But, in the meantime, this idea he has of releasing these emergency oil reserves, will he find support for that in Congress?

BLACK: He certainly will find support on Capitol Hill. That's tremendously, though, debated, however, within the administration. The law has been very clear about the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. It's only supposed to be used in the case of a huge market disruption, not just a price increase. There's plenty of oil out there, it's just that it's expensive. So there's a lot of debate even within the government about what to do.

The real philosophical problem between the Republicans and the Democrats is about expanding domestic supplies of oil and gas. There is more oil and gas to be gotten in the United States. The problem is it's places that are highly protected under government law -- on federal land, for example, and also in some of the most pristine parts of this country, like Alaska. What a lot of environmentalist don't want to see, though, is those areas hurt with oil spills or whatever. But the Republicans...

KAGAN: Chris, I just have to do what I warned you I was going to have to do and interrupt you.

BLACK: OK, go ahead.

KAGAN: We do need to go to Hollywood, Maryland. Vice President Al Gore stepping up to the podium. We expect him to make an announcement about energy policy proposals.

VICE PRES. AL GORE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, my friends. It's great to be here. And, Sonny (ph), thank you for the warm welcome.

I'm so pleased to be here at Birch Oil (ph). I had a wonderful visit with Sonny and Peach (ph) earlier and with their children, who are here, Becky (ph) and Sherry (ph) and Kelly (ph), their daughters, and their son Elliot (ph). And I also had a good visit with Buddy (ph), Sonny's brother and his sons, Donny (ph) and Joe (ph). And other members of the Birch family are here. And it's great to have this kind of family tradition. As Sonny mentioned, this business was founded in 1928 by his grandfather.

And I felt like, as we were talking earlier and you were describing your dad and his ties in the community, I felt like I got to know him a little bit. And it's obvious from your relationship with the customers that I was able to talk with in a small group discussion earlier that you've got those same ties to the community. And that means that, for all these generations, three going on four going on five, of the Birch family, you have distributed heating oil throughout St. Mary's County helping to protect thousands of families from the winter cold. I love St. Mary's County and it's good to be back here always. I started the week in Hollywood, California and I'm proud to be in Hollywood, Maryland.

(APPLAUSE)

I came here to talk about a very serious challenge that we're facing in America. Today there are families right here in St. Mary's County and all across the country who are wondering how they are going to be able to pay for heat this winter. And those who heat with heating oil are especially concerned. Well, we have to change that.

Crude oil prices are at a 10-year high. And while the big oil companies have seen their profits increase by two to three times in the past year, small distributors like Sonny's are struggling to get heating oil to your homes. We have to change that.

At the same time, gasoline prices are skyrocketing. We started off the conversation earlier about heating oil and went right into gasoline prices, because for millions of working families and middle class families, just paying for the gasoline to drive back and forth to work or to go to the supermarket or to pick up your kids after school is becoming much more of a burden on the family's budget. And we have to change that.

GORE: Now, one of the central choices that we face in this election, just 47 days from now, is whether we will have a president who is willing to stand up to the big oil interests and fight for our families; that's the kind of president that I intend to be. I'm running for president to fight for you...

(APPLAUSE)

... to stand up for your interests.

(APPLAUSE)

You know, we've come a long way in the last eight years, but this election is not an award for past performance. I'm not asking any of you to vote for me on the basis of the economy we have. I ask for your support on the basis of the better, fairer economy and more prosperous America that we can build together.

Together, let's make sure that our prosperity enriches not just the few, but all of our families. Let's put more of the power and more of the choices back in your hands.

So for all of our progress, I am not satisfied. I'm not satisfied when the oil to heat your home becomes more a luxury and not a simple affordable necessity. I'm not satisfied when filling up your gas tank feels like a major purchase. America's energy resources should not be so reliant on others, so subject to shortages, so vulnerable to big oil interests with disregard for the public interests.

You ought to have the choice to get in your car, turn on your engine and go where you want, all at a reasonable price to you and your family. I'm here to tell you today, if I'm entrusted with the presidency, I will work toward the day when we are free forever of the dominance of big oil and foreign oil. We need more energy independence in our country.

(APPLAUSE)

We need to develop our own resources, including renewable resources.

Now, we all know that's a longer term challenge and we need a long-term solution, and I'll talk about that in a few minutes. But we cannot just wait around; families need action now. And there are steps that we can take right now before winter sets in to make heating oil affordable and to bring gasoline prices down at the pump.

To begin with, the OPEC nations have an obligation to live up to their promises. They pledged to increase oil production, and they have not. It's time for OPEC to get serious about the supply and price of oil, and stabilize the price at lower levels, as they promised they would.

And at a time when profits are gushing through the roof, Big Oil needs to stop the profiteering. This summer I called for a federal investigation of concentration, noncompetitiveness, and pricing practices in the oil industry, and we're still waiting for the results of that inquiry.

But this isn't rocket science, even though gasoline right now seems to be priced a lot like rocket fuel. We know what is going on here, and we have to end it.

And I promise you this: If I am president, I'm going to stand up to Big Oil and demand fair gasoline prices for our families and an end to unfair profiteering. We have to also press OPEC and Big Oil to act responsibly. And we also need aggressive national action right now.

In the face of rising prices for gasoline and home heating oil, I support oil releases from our national Strategic Petroleum Reserve. We ought to start with several releases of 5 million barrels each. And assuming that is successful, we should continue with these swaps in an effort to stabilize the price of oil at lower levels and help consumers.

Next, as families start to buy heating oil for the winter, we have to take a series of steps to make sure that they are not priced out of heat and home. So today, I'm calling on Congress to create a permanent home heating oil reserve for the Northeast, where the use is especially high. And especially in our coldest region, we have to see to it that families are not so vulnerable to price spikes in the winter months.

We should also help families by making it easier and cheaper for oil distributors like Burch Oil to keep more oil on reserve. Today, I'm proposing the creation of temporary tax credits for distributors, to build up oil stocks which would bring prices down for families. And we have to do more to help the hardest pressed families. In this time of high oil prices, let's release more low-income energy assistance across the country, right at the time when its needed.

And I call on Congress to increase our nation's budget for low income energy assistance every year, so struggling families are never left helpless and cold when a crisis hits.

These short-term measures that I've described here are urgent and vital. But as I mentioned earlier, by themselves, they are not enough.

We cannot keep building our lives around a fuel source that is often distant, too often uncertain and too easily manipulated by foreign oil and Big Oil. We have available to us in this country brand-new, job-creating technologies that in the years ahead can free us forever from gas tank price gouging.

So I'm proposing an energy security and environment trust, a commitment to a more prosperous economy powered by cleaner, cheaper and more reliable energy for families.

And let me tell you why I'm proposing this huge commitment to energy independence. There is more than one kind of national debt. Pollution is a kind of national debt; energy dependence left for our children is a kind of national debt. Both are a borrowing from future generations. And we should no more saddle our children and grandchildren with the cost of cleaning up our pollution and paying for our short-sighted energy dependence than we should saddle them with the burden of paying our bills.

So we will improve our nation's power systems and reduce pollution at the same time by giving special incentives to industry. We will work with industry to develop cleaner cars, trucks and buses, and then sell them not only here at home, but create even more jobs by selling them around the world.

We will cut taxes so families can start buying those cleaner cars and products like the more efficient oil boilers and furnaces that can save you money right away on your monthly bills. And if you get a tax credit for that, you'll have a stronger incentive to do so and you can make up the cost through savings more rapidly. And we'll invest in light rail and mass transit to liberate families from having to buy gasoline at any price if they prefer not to.

It all comes down to this, really: The choice should be in your hands. And you should never have to depend on the good will of the big oil companies just to heat your home or drive down the highway.

My cause in this election is hard-working, middle class families, the people who pay the taxes, bear the burdens, make the mortgage payments and car payments and should not have to empty their wallets just to fill up their gas tanks.

I will not go along with an agenda that is of Big Oil, by Big Oil and for Big Oil. We'll fight for the people. (APPLAUSE)

I will not go along with an agenda that gives all the power and all the choices to the big interests.

I know this about the job of the president: It is the only position in the Constitution that is intended to be filled by someone who has the responsibility to fight, not just for one district or for one state, not just for one group, not just for the wealthy and powerful, but for all of the people -- the people who drove here this morning, the people who are paying the bills, the people who are working hard to make ends meets, working longer hours, doing right by their families.

And you deserve somebody who is willing to fight for you. You deserve a voice and champion. You need help to do what is best for your families.

And if you entrust me with the presidency -- as I've said before, I know I won't always be the most exciting politician, but I will work hard for you everyday, I will stand up for you, I will fight for you, and I will never let you down.

(APPLAUSE)

So I ask you to join with me, now and 47 days from now. And together let's elect -- reelect Steny Hoyer to Congress from this district. He's doing a great job.

(APPLAUSE)

Let's put him in the majority.

KAGAN: We have been listening to Vice President Al Gore, as he makes his speech in Hollywood, Maryland. The vice president today talking about energy policy. Proposing that there be pressure put on OPEC, pressure put on big oil companies, and also reserves released from the federal emergency oil reserve.

Not everyone is going to agree with that. We will hear from a congressman who has a different position on that.

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