Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham

This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, June 11, 2003, that was edited for clarity. Click here for complete access to all of Neil Cavuto's CEO interviews.

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NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Here we go again. Violence erupts in the Middle East. Oil prices, at least initially, popping here.

I want you to take a look at this. This is a chart of oil today. What’s circled is when we first had news of the terror strike in Jerusalem. They kind of stabilized after that. Coincidence? Let’s ask Spencer Abraham. He’s the Department of Energy secretary.

Secretary, always good to have you. Thanks for coming.


CAVUTO: Boy, we didn’t need much of a reminder that energy’s still volatile. Are you worried about a summer big run-up?

ABRAHAM: Well, you know, we always monitor this closely, and we know that any change in energy price, if it goes up, affects the working families of this country in the pocketbook pretty quickly. So we are concerned about natural gas prices, as you know, and we’re watching it closely.

But we’re doing things about it. We’re going to be convening a national summit to look at what we can do this year to make sure the summer and winter months aren’t seeing excessively high bills, but if we get bad weather, it can affect the outcome.

CAVUTO: Yes, but the big problem now is natural gas. We’re taking a look at the latest contracts for that energy product, as you know, Secretary. That’s the culprit, even had Alan Greenspan talking about it. He almost sounded like he was trying to do your job, but the fact is he’s worried about it. Are you worried about it?

ABRAHAM: We are concerned, and, back in May, I called for a national summit of people from the producer side as well as the consumer side to work together to identify some things we can do to address both the summer as well as the upcoming winter. We’ve got a shorter amount of inventory than we would like, and we’re going to do our best to achieve it.

Now the problem is, though, Neil, that these kinds of episodes keep happening, and one of the real needs we have in this country is for national energy policy legislation, and so we hope finally this year, after we’ve tried now for three straight years, that Congress will finish the job and pass an energy bill so in the future -- not the immediate future, but in a long-term sense -- we can avoid some of these unnecessary price spikes and problems.

CAVUTO: But you can’t avoid fights with environmentalists, sir. I’m sure you’re aware that they’re the same group that is against exploring areas and tapping areas where natural gas reserves are said to be. The biggest. Boone Pickens, of course, big in this field, was saying as much a few days ago. Do you think that that’s going to be your biggest roadblock?

ABRAHAM: Well, I think that there are a lot of groups who only want us to try to solve the problem by reducing demand and conservation and energy efficiency solutions, and we support those. But we do have to have more production, and I hope that, when we pass energy legislation, we can address the production side as well as the conservation side.

We’re for a balanced policy, and we also think we need to have more diverse sources of energy. You know, in recent years, there’s been a tremendous emphasis on natural gas as the fuel of choice for almost all new electricity generation.

Our administration believes that we need to keep coal in the mix, although we want it to be clean coal, we want to keep nuclear power in the mix, so that we have balance and we don’t have these spikes when one or the other area ends up with too much focus on it.

CAVUTO: But let me ask you about that, Secretary. To your credit, you were waving the cautionary flag about natural gas prices long before they became a page one issue. I commend you for that.

But I wonder whether this administration appreciated what you were saying because now it appears that there’s like a frantic after-the-fact kind of rush to do something when genie’s out of the bottle, the prices are skyrocketing, and there’s little way to reverse that for the time being.

ABRAHAM: Well, there are some things you can’t control, and the weather’s one of them. I mean one of the reasons why our inventories are low is because the weather this past winter was very cold, and that’s something that -- much as Washington likes to think it can solve all of America’s problems, it’s the one area that Washington can only affect a little bit.

CAVUTO: Yes, but, in all seriousness, Secretary -- I didn’t mean to interrupt you there, but you could have argued the same for oil prices in the nasty winter, and yet they were relatively stable. They did run up, as you said, but came running back down. It seemed the natural gas thing, the weather notwithstanding, was a big oomph for everybody.

ABRAHAM: Well, you know, again, I think I speak for the administration when it comes to energy, both policy issues, but also in terms of solutions, and our department’s been out front working on behalf of the American people to try to address this.

Now, look, there’s a lot that has to be done, and one of the things that all Americans can help make happen here is that we can conserve a little bit more. People can be, I think, a little more conscious about how much they use in terms of energy this summer, and some of those things everybody can take a role in.

But, look, we need to pass energy legislation. This is the third year we’ve been asking Congress to act. The bill is before the Senate now. They need to finish the job soon.

CAVUTO: All right. Secretary, always a pleasure. Appreciate it.

ABRAHAM: Nice to be with you, Neil.

CAVUTO: The energy secretary of the United States. Spencer Abraham.

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