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Congress to Form New Energy Policy

Aired August 15, 2003 - 19:26   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And welcome back. I'm Anderson Cooper, live in Times Square, where the power is back on in this part of the city at least.
Want to talk about the politics of all of this. An investigation which has been announced is going to be launched into exactly what went wrong.

We are joined now from New Orleans by Congressman Billy Tauzin. He is the chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Congressman Tauzin, we appreciate you joining us. Who is to blame for this blackout?

REP. BILLY TAUZIN (R), LOUISIANA: Anderson, it's combination of many problems, including the fact that the northeast was opposed to the new construction of power plants and most parts of the country oppose the building of new transmission lines. Nobody wants them in their back yard.

And so the old transmission systems end up carrying much more electricity than they should and they carry it longer distances than they should. And sooner or later they break down.

We predicted this was going to happen in New York following the California situation for the very same reasons.

COOPER: Well, I mean, if this was predicted, there are a lot of people especially in New York who are sort of saying politicians are to blame. You know, it wasn't a failure of power, it was a failure of politics, wasn't it?

TAUZIN: It's a failure of folks around the country recognizing that you can't do without a power plant near your city. And if you won't build one near your city or to shut the ones that are there down, as New Yorkers want to shut down the one on Long Island, for example, that supplies 35 percent of their power, you end up depending upon somebody else to build a plant and long transmission lines to service you, which nobody wants to build. Transmission facility is the hardest license in America.

COOPER: So Congressman, as you know -- you're from Louisiana -- there are a lot of folks in the south and the west who say they don't want to pay for power for people in the north. I mean, if there is that kind of opposition, how do you overcome that? Doesn't someone have to give? TAUZIN: That's not true. In fact, my state has welcomed and licensed merchant plants. It has facilities that create electricity in Louisiana and sell it across state lines to our neighbors. We do this extensively.

The problem basically is that we need a new national energy policy that modernizes these grids and makes it easier to get a license for a new grid and to modernize and update a grid. And to build new plants where we need them. And until we have that new energy policy which is now in conference between the House and the Senate, or these kind of situations are going to persist.

COOPER: There are some who are saying there needs to be -- or in order to get sort of modernization going, it needs to be separated from an overall energy policy. Do you support that at all or are you saying one goes with the other?

TAUZIN: It all goes together. You can't have a good electricity policy until you a good basic energy policy. Electricity doesn't come out of the wall. It comes out of a plant that uses either coal or nuclear or generally natural gas and we're short of natural gas in America. We have doubled the prices we had year of natural gas because it's in such high demand.

We have a problem licensing any more nuclear plants. We have a real problem licensing any coal plants.

So the question is, where do you think you're going to get electricity? And if you won't build a plant near your hometown if you're going to depend upon electric lines to bring it to you who's going to license the new line?

So we've got some real problems of regional politics we've got to deal with, not the least of which is where we get the energy to fuel the electric plants that are going to provide the power to a great city like New York.

COOPER: You say Congress is going to investigate. How long is it going to take?

TAUZIN: Well, it won't take very long. I think we'll find out within days and weeks exactly what went wrong on this grid. I think we're going to need a task force that's just composed of both Canadian officials and American officials. I think you're going to see that coming.

And my committee's on it already. By the time we meet in September, we'll have the mayor and the governor of New York and other officials before us, along the energy secretary and the federal and we'll get some good answers as to what went wrong.

But I can tell you the solutions are going to be very complex. They're going to be politically hard fought. But by the end of September, early October, we'll have a new energy policy on the president's desk.

COOPER: All right. Congressman Billy Tauzin, appreciate you joining us tonight. Thank you very much.


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