Schumer Blames Bush Policies for Blackout

The massive blackout in Northern states and Canada is an indictment of the Bush administration's failed deregulatory energy policies, Sen. Charles Schumer (search), D-N.Y., said Saturday.

In the Democratic Party's weekly radio address, Schumer blamed an outdated and loosely regulated power system for the power outage, which stretched from New York to Ontario, Canada, to Michigan, and left 50 million people in the dark.

"Under-investment in transmission lines and a weak oversight board controlled by utilities have created an unstable, unreliable and overloaded patchwork system for transmitting power from one place to the other," Schumer said.

"I can think of no greater indictment of this policy than the millions of people without power and the loss of billions of dollars that occurred last week," he said.

He found a culprit in what he called the Republican administration's "doctrinal commitment to unfettered deregulation."

Schumer, a member of the Senate Energy Committee (search), blamed "failed economic theory from the Depression era," and insisted "we Democrats are not going to let Republicans play Russian roulette with our nation's power supply."

Congress, which is set to revisit a pending energy bill when it returns from recess, should impose new standards for reliability, power transmission, and grid performance, the senator said.

Schumer also called for tax incentives to companies that improve power grids, and federal aid for the most-needed upgrades.

On a trip to Oregon this week, President Bush urged Congress to get an energy bill to his desk quickly once it returns in September following its August recess. He also has called for reliability standards in the bill and incentives to companies that improve their infrastructure.

The House and Senate have both passed versions of the energy bill, but the differing measures face substantial reworking following the nation's worst blackout.