Ford Says There's Plenty Of Blame To Go Around In California Energy Crisis

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:27 PM EDT

( - Former President Gerald R. Ford, who retired to Palm Springs, Calif., after leaving the presidency in 1977, said Monday there is "plenty of blame" to go around in California's current energy crisis.

But the former president praised the current president for his handling of the crisis.

Ford also praised President George W. Bush for traveling to California last week to take a personal look at the problem.

Ford said that as a California resident, he knows there is plenty of blame to go around in the state's current energy crisis - "more blame than megawatts in the search for scapegoats," as he put it.

Speaking at a luncheon at Washington's National Press Club, Ford noted the tendency on all sides to seek out obvious villains. But, he said, "The (Bush) administration deserves praise for its willingness to tackle serious problems in a serious way, to resist the temptation to point fingers or mislead people at a time when the credibility of government is on the line."

In a veiled criticism of Democrats, Ford said quick fixes won't help California or the nation: "Short-term solutions, so bold, may get us through the next election, but they will hardly address the fundamental issues of adequacy or reliable energy supplies for our nation, whose appetite, to be blunt, has outstripped our available resources."

Bush's recent trip to California has been fodder for critical Democrats. According to Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Californians were deeply disappointed about what President Bush didn't say. We were hoping that he would announce that he is taking immediate action and that price relief is on the way right now."

Eshoo, who gave the Democrats' response to President Bush's nationwide radio address on Saturday, said Californians realize that a flawed deregulation scheme, supported by Republicans and Democrats alike, caused much of the energy crisis, and she said now is the time for Republicans and Democrats to come together to solve our energy problems. "Too much is at stake," Eschoo said.

Eshoo urged an energy policy that combines new generation and conservation, and she explained how California is taking steps to build new power plants to boost its generation capacity. She also said that on the conservation front, "Californians take a back seat to no one."

However, she did criticize the Bush administration for failing to call for increased fuel efficiency in today's cars and trucks. Just an extra three miles a gallon, she said, would
save 390 million barrels of oil a year - equal to the yearly production of Quatar and Oman.

"President Bush should enforce the federal law on the books today, which guarantee that consumers pay just and reasonable prices for their electricity and natural gas. Westerners would immediately see relief from the generators who are gouging and gaming the system by withholding power we have available right now to drive up prices five, ten, even twenty times their market value," Eshoo said.