Gore In The Balance

With high gas prices an issue in this year's race for the White House, Vice President Al Gore has rolled out a "no new taxes, no new bureaucracies" energy plan centered on $75 billion in tax breaks for fuel-efficient technologies.

"We will say to the nation's investors and entrepreneurs: If you invest in these new technologies, America will invest in you," the Democratic presidential contender said Tuesday at a cleaner-burning power plant in Philadelphia.

As Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill were criticizing the Clinton-Gore administration in Washington for not doing more to bring down prices at the gas pump, the vice president framed his energy strategy as a way "to make sure Americans will be free forever from the dominance of big oil and foreign oil."

Gore also called for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to conduct public hearings, including consumer testimony, as part of its price-gouging investigation into the summer spike in prices.

In contrast with his proposals in his 1992 book Earth in the Balance, which advocated energy taxes to discourage wasteful consumption, Gore's new plan instead uses tax subsidies to encourage conservation.

"We will prove once and for all that we can clean up pollution, make our power systems more efficient and more reliable and move away from dependence on others - all with no new taxes, no new bureaucracies and no onerous regulations," Gore said.

Cleaning up the environment and developing pollution-free energy technologies are part of a "next-stage prosperity," he said, "powered by cleaner, more reliable energy in a healthy, truly livable environment."

Gore's package comes with a 10-year, $75 billion price tag. The bulk of that - $68 billion - would go toward "a menu of financial mechanisms such as tax incentives, loans, grants, bonds or other financial instruments to those power plants and industries that come forward with projects that promise to dramatically reduce climate and health-threatening pollution."

The rest amounted to little more than extensions and expansions of current policy that would have to be approved by Congress, including doubling the tax credit for producers who make electricity from wind, biomass and landfill methane. Gore also proposed allowing businesses to take accelerated tax deductions for investments in clean technology.

George W. Bush's campaign denounced the vice president's plan as a hastily conceived response to the gas price crisis.

"In a transparent attempt to fix a political problem with voters angry over higher gas prices, Al Gore is offering recycled ideas that will not reduce our dependence on foreign oil," said Dan Bartlett, spokesman for the GOP presidential candidate and Texas governor.

Bush has proposed increasing U.S. self-reliance in energy through steps including allowing oil drilling the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and continued use of hydroelectric power frm dams in the northwest.

Gore has been traveling often to Pennsylvania, a targeted battleground for the November election. On Wednesday, Gore was going to Columbus, Ohio, to detail proposed tax incentives for consumers to purchase environmentally friendly goods and services.