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Posted on  

January 23, 2002

Kerry Attacks Bush Energy Policy

By Elizabeth Wilner ABCNEWS.com

The likely presidential contender takes on President Bush and claims energy as his signature issue.

Sen. John Kerry slammed the Bush administration's energy policy and Enron ties yesterday, offering some politically intriguing rhetoric in one of the clearest signals to date that the Massachusetts Democrat intends to run for president in 2004.

In a speech hosted by a Washington think tank, Kerry criticized the White House energy task force as too influenced by industry and not interested enough in making America less dependent upon foreign oil, or in cultivating new sources of energy to slow global warming.

During the question-and-answer session following the speech, Kerry dared the White House to release the names of those who participated in the energy task force proceedings. "If the White House were proud of who was there, if they thought [the list] reflected a fair balance," they would release the names, Kerry said.

Reaching Out to Wider Audience

Kerry spoke not only to the 100 or so in the audience, but to nine television cameras aimed at the podium and a group of national political reporters who attended the speech to gain some measure of his potential as a national candidate. Although he seemed to stumble whenever he veered from the prepared text during the 40-minute address, he turned in a solid and often enthusiastic performance.

Kerry's own proposed energy policy includes a series of tax incentives, including tax credits aimed at improving the fuel efficiency of cars. Kerry stressed during the speech that he is "not proposing that we all drive small," nor that "we mandate the use of public transit."

"I am proposing that we build the cars, SUVs, minivans and trucks we all want to drive, but make them more efficient," he said.

Kerry's aides are aware that former Vice President Al Gore's views on the environment sometimes caused him trouble with business leaders and union members.

The Massachusetts senator also took care to note his backing for the ethanol subsidy, which any presidential contender hoping to compete in the Iowa caucuses is bound to support, and he called for "making coal a cleaner fuel" possibly a reference to the battleground states of Pennsylvania and West Virginia, which President Bush happened to be visiting at about the same time Kerry spoke.

All of which suggests the Kerry camp hopes simultaneously to make him the first Democrat to tap into the latent political potential of the environmental movement, and to prove his pro-business credentials.

Kerry's efforts to woo the environmental community away from Gore have not gone unnoticed by close observers nor has the fact that Gore has not publicly engaged in a fight with the Massachusetts senator to keep them in his camp.


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