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Energy chief: Electricity crisis looms Richardson: U.S. should encourage modernization

By Kevin Flynn Denver Rocky Mountain News Staff Writer


There will be a crisis in the nation's electrical supply system within five years if the federal government doesn't encourage the private sector to modernize, U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson said in Denver Tuesday.

Stumping for Vice President Al Gore's presidential campaign, Richardson told a group of 29 senior citizens at Windsor Gardens that Gore advocates deregulation of the electrical industry to promote start-up companies, alternative suppliers and investment in new technology.

Richardson, a former New Mexico congressman, said the electricity grid is out of date, while the country keeps gobbling up more wattage.

"A lot of utilities and power companies have not been investing in modernizing their facilities," he said.

He said Gore would support development of alternative energy sources. The Energy Department oversees the National Renewable Energy Lab, which researches such sources of energy as solar- and wind-generated electricity.

Gore supports tax credits for home upgrades to solar power and research into more efficient automobile engines, Richardson said.

"In the next two years, energy is going to be one of the top issues in the country," he told the group. Fueled by a predicted shortage of home heating oil in the Northeast, Richardson backed President Clinton's release of 30 million barrels of crude oil from the nation's strategic reserves to try to stabilize the price.

Richardson said that the price of oil still hasn't stabilized, although it has dropped somewhat.

"What you've seen in the last week is a gradual reduction in crude oil prices," he said. The price is around $31 a barrel, down from $37, and Richardson said the Clinton Administration would like to see it fall to between $20 and $25.

Gore's opponent, Republican George W. Bush, has criticized Clinton's move as politically motivated. Bush's platform calls for more domestic production and more cooperation with Mexico and Canada to develop North American petroleum resources.

Bush advocates creation of a reserve of petroleum specifically for the Northeast, where there is a greater reliance on heating oil than in other regions, instead of pulling crude from the nation's overall reserves.

October 11, 2000

-- Martin Thompson (, October 12, 2000

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