A confidential list prepared by the Bush administration shows that Cheney and his aides had already held at least 40 meetings with interest groups, most of them from energy-producing industries. By the time of the meeting with environmental groups, according to a former White House official who provided the list to The Washington Post, the initial draft of the task force was substantially complete and President Bush had been briefed on its progress.
It's loaded with big oil executives, sure, but the list raises questions about why Cheney would fight so hard to keep it secret. I would suggest the two most important details from this story are the following: First, the observation that the actual Energy Bill had very different emphases than the Task Force report, which talked a lot about conservation and renewables.
The task force issued its report on May 16, 2001. Though the report was roundly criticized by environmental groups at the time, some energy experts say that in retrospect it appears better balanced than the administration's actual policy.
Divided into eight chapters, the report correctly forecast higher energy prices, stressed energy efficiency and conservation, and pushed for boosting domestic conventional energy supplies and increasing use of renewable energy. Although it advocated wider drilling and omitted climate-change measures, it also said that "using energy more wisely" was the nation's "first challenge."
Some key proposals, such as opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, have never won congressional approval, but some measures to encourage oil and gas production, coal output, and the development of biofuels and nuclear power have been included in Bush's budgets and in the 2005 energy bill.
And, the detail that Cheney had some meetings with people outside the realm of the Task Force.
Cheney appears to have played a more behind-the-scenes role in the task force's deliberations, the document indicates, listing only a handful of meetings with the vice president. Those included a previously reported meeting with Lay, who died last year; a meeting with officials from Sandia National Laboratories to discuss their economic models of the energy industry; and two sets of meetings with lawmakers. Cheney had other meetings, such as with John Browne, then the chief executive of BP, that were not listed on the task force's calendar.
The vice president also met with energy experts he had known, such as J. Robinson West, chairman of the Washington-based consulting firm PFC Energy and an old friend of Cheney's. [my emphasis]
In other words, there was the Task Force, which advocated renewables and conservation. And then there was the deliberation that resulted in the Energy Bill, which largely ignored those initiatives. It already appears clear from just the quotes from people who met with the Task Force that the Administration largely ignored Task Force recommendations. And as more of these people describe that super-secret deliberation process, it'll become clear, I suspect, that these records were secret as much to hide how much Cheney ignored this advice as for any other reason.
Update: One more thing to support this argument. The article makes a big deal of the fact that the Environmental Groups didn't get consulted until April 4, in a meeting that was largely show.
At 10 a.m. on April 4, 2001, representatives of 13 environmental groups were brought into the Old Executive Office Building for a long-anticipated meeting. Since late January, a task force headed by Vice President Cheney had been busy drawing up a new national energy policy, and the groups were getting their one chance to be heard.
Cheney was not there, but so many environmentalists were in the room that introductions took up "about half the meeting," recalled Erich Pica of Friends of the Earth. Anna Aurilio of the U.S. Public Interest Group said, "It was clear to us that they were just being nice to us."
Well, if you look at the list of meetings, there's a mass meeting on April 9, even after the mass environmental group meeting, with a bunch of energy companies--El Paso, Dynergy, Reliant, PG&E, Enron... you know the type. if the report was already substantively done on April 4, for the environmental group meeting, it was certainly substantively done for the mass energy company meeting. That is, this meeting was as much about pretend consultation as the environmental meeting was.