Kerry Urges White House to Disclose Enron Talks

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, a potential Democratic presidential candidate, said Tuesday the White House should make public details about meetings with Enron and other energy companies when the administration crafted its energy agenda.

"Exxon, Mobil, Enron or Chevron enjoyed an access bonanza at the expense of consumers and state of the art environmental technology manufacturers," declared Kerry as he outlined his alternative energy proposals.

Administration officials have said that early last year members of Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force met with Enron officials six times and that Cheney met for a half hour with Enron chairman Kenneth Lay, discussing energy.

Kerry said the administration's energy strategy, focusing heavily on fossil fuel development, reflects the administration's close ties to big corporations, including now-bankrupt Enron Corp.

At the same time, companies offering innovative alternative energy solutions, nor public interest groups "were permitted to compete fairly and openly for the White House ear" on the task force developed its energy priorities, said Kerry in a speech to the nonprofit Center for National Policy.

In Belle, W.Va., the heart of coal country, Bush called for Senate approval of his energy proposals including drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

Kerry, and several other Democratic senators, have vowed to filibuster any bill that calls for drilling in the Alaska refuge. Supporters of opening the refuge to oil companies do not have the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster.

Many of the key elements of Bush's energy plan passed the Republican-controlled House last summer. In the Senate, Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., has promised to take up an energy bill next month. Kerry supports much of the Democratic bill, but wants more aggressive measures on increasing auto fuel economy.

Kerry said the public should be told the details of meetings Cheney's energy task force had with Enron and other energy companies because "we have a right to know as Americans whether or not these companies were indeed the cause of that policy."

"The point is not whether or not something illegal happened," said Kerry.

Among Kerry's energy proposals were:

— A goal of having one-fifth of electricity generated from alternative and renewable sources by 2020.

— An increase in motor vehicle fuel economy requirements, although he did say specifically how much of an increase he wants.

— Tax incentives for energy efficient appliances, lighting and electronics.

The administration, and a House-passed energy bill, does not set a goal for electricity production from renewables; calls for studying future changes in federal automobile fuel economy rules, but makes no commitment; and has more modest incentives for energy efficiency appliances and lights.