Principle over Politics? The Domestic Policy of the George H. W. Bush Presidency

By Richard Himelfarb; Rosanna Perotti | Go to book overview

Discussant: Martin L. Allday

I initially was nominated by President Bush to be the general counsel at the Department of the Interior, and I really looked forward to that, because I love to fish and hunt, and ended up chairing the FERC [Federal Energy Regulatory Commission], which is one of the most arcane agencies in the city. But I like to think we did good work, and I’ll explain some of that during this period.

When they’re viewed from afar, the topics of this panel—environment and energy—would seem to put almost opposing sides together, for the most part. Environmental proponents would seem to be supportive of a policy that prevents many uses of this country’s natural resources, but they’re very important, the resources are, as you all know. And the proponents and champions of policies to provide reliable energy, these are, of course, also critical. In my opinion, there needs to be a balance of some sort arrived at by the folks that are environmentalists and the people that are trying to find oil and gas so that you can keep your house warm, so you can drive your car, so the elevators work and you don’t have to climb up ten stories. So it’s kind of, if you will, a conflict of sorts. But we worked at trying to—worked with them, and they worked a little bit with us, I think. Everybody seemed to be thankful that they can stop at a service station today and fill up their car with gasoline at a $1, $1.25.

And really and truly, that’s, in my opinion, one of the reasons that this place is not jammed full of people, because it’s easy to go into a filling station and fill up for a $1.25 a gallon, when it’s $4 or $3.50 anyway over in France, and it’s nice to be able to throw the switch and have the lights come on, and people take that as a given. It’s not a given. It’s got problems, as was alluded by the earlier speaker.

Most everybody that I know loves the outdoors and our great country—what a wonderful place it is! Unfortunately, most of the main energy business, consisting of production and transportation—oil, gas, coal, and electricity, generally speaking—affects the environment somewhat adversely most of the time. You cannot produce oil or gas without drilling for it, and that requires roads to take your equipment in, your drilling rigs; you have to build a drilling pad to locate the rigs on. And also, you’re going to be disturbing the land when you mine coal—or any other mineral, for that matter. And where does electricity come from? Electricity comes from generators that have fuel requirements: oil, gas, or coal. Or, perhaps, hydroelectricity, which is generated by a dam that has been put across a river. And I’ll tell you, you put a dam in and you have affected the run of that river in a big-time way.

And so, when you get production in the field, you’ve got to get it out some way. You can truck oil, so they can use the roads. You don’t truck gas. You’ve got to have pipelines in order to transport gas. It’s that simple. And when you’re laying a pipeline for 1,500 miles, you have certainly messed up the surface, to a large degree, along that pipeline’s route.

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