At times moderator Jim Lehrer of PBS practically needed a bucket of cold water to keep Democratic nominee Al Gore and Republican nominee George W. Bush from breaking the agreed-to format. Each candidate tried to best the other with their proposals covering a myriad of issues, including Social Security, abortion, health care, foreign relations – and oil supplies and fuel prices.
Just 20 minutes into debate, Lehrer asked Gore “how he would contrast his approach to preventing future oil price and supply problems like we have now, to the approach of Governor Bush.”
Gore responded that it’s a matter of “short term and long term components.” He said over the long term his energy policy will focus on increasing supply, lessening consumption and offering incentives for alternative and renewable sources of energy. Gore also proposed offering tax credits and incentives for the rapid development of less polluting vehicles and other equipment, which he said help create new jobs.
In the short term Gore said the United States has to “free ourselves from the domination of the big oil companies,” which he accused of being able to manipulate prices, as well as from the OPEC oil cartel.
Gore was also highly critical of Bush for his plans that call for opening Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, saying it will offer only a few months oil supply and would destroy the environment. In contrast, the Republican challenger and admitted former “small oil person in Texas” said he wants to encourage more oil exploration at home to lessen the United States’ dependence on foreign oil, including drilling in Alaska. He blamed Gore and President Clinton for not having an energy plan for the last eight years, saying the “results have finally caught up with America.”
Gore took a slight jab at Republicans following Bush’s remark, saying most of the energy related plans he has supported have been defeated by Congress, while at the same time almost seeming to concede that the White House needs to “get serious about this energy crisis.”
In his rebuttal, Bush proposed a “hemispheric energy policy” where the United States, Canada and Mexico would come together to solve energy problems, including working with Mexico to transport their natural gas supplies into the U.S. to lessen the United States’ dependence on foreign oil.
The next presidential debate is set for Oct. 11 at the Wake Forest University Campus in Winston-Salem, N.C., and the final debate will take place Oct. 17 at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo. There will be one debate between the candidates for vice president. It’s set for Thursday at Centre College in Danville, Ky. Coverage of the debates is being provided by the three major TV networks as well as CNN, MSNBC and on the radio through National Public Radio. All are scheduled for 90 minutes and are set to begin around 9:00 p.m., Eastern time. You can read complete transcripts of the debates by going to the web page of The Commission On Presidential Debates at www.debates.org/index.html.