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CNN Today

President-Elect Appoints Like-Minded Energy Secretary

Aired January 4, 2001 - 4:40 p.m. ET

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

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: With the changing of the guard at the White House, we know the country's energy policy will be in the hands of George W. Bush. What will that mean?

We get some answers from CNN national correspondent Tony Clark.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TONY CLARK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Both the president-elect and the vice president-elect are oil men by profession. Increasing U.S. energy production is something they believe in strongly, including the controversial opening to drilling of the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT-ELECT: You bet I want to open up a small part of -- a part of Alaska, because when that field is on-line it will produce 1 million barrels a day.

CLARK: So when George W. Bush tapped former Senator Spencer Abraham to be his secretary of energy, he picked an ally in that battle.

SPENCER ABRAHAM, ENERGY SECRETARY NOMINEE: We have vast resources within the United States, and these are crucial to our country's security.

CLARK: Last year, Abraham tried unsuccessfully to get the protected Alaskan coastline opened up.

SEN. FRANK MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: Spence is a realist, and realism dictates that we need to generate more energy here in the United States.

CLARK: Alaska Senator Frank Murkowski says Abraham will be a secretary of energy who is action-oriented. Ironically, the action Abraham called for in the past was for the Energy Department to be abolished altogether, describing it as wasteful and having no core mission.

ABRAHAM: It is incumbent upon us, who campaigned on the notion that we can reduce the size of government, that we should reduce the size of government, to attack these problems in the kind of constructive way I believe we can.

CLARK: Abraham held that view as recently as last year.

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY-DESIGNATE: It shows that President-elect Bush is willing to put people in the Cabinet who don't hold his views in their entirety. You never can fill your Cabinet with people who are 100 percent of you.

Now some environmentalists worry about the direction Abraham will take the Energy Department. They point to his fight against tougher fuel efficiency standards, and his stance on environmental issues. In his November re-election bid, Abraham was the Sierra Club's No. 1 target.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, SIERRA CLUB AD)

NARRATOR: Great Lakes pollution is closing our beaches, poisoning our fish and threatening our drinking water. But instead of helping, Senator Spencer Abraham has voted against clean water and the Great Lakes.

(END VIDEO CLIP, SIERRA CLUB AD)

CLARK (on camera): The Sierra Club gave Abraham its lowest rating on environmental issues. According to one Sierra Club director, "Abraham led the fight for more gas-guzzling SUVs and to find the oil to keep them running." The group's concern is that Abraham's position could become U.S. energy policy.

Tony Clark, CNN, Austin.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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