LOS ANGELES -- President Bush traveled across the country to deliver news Gov. Gray Davis doesn't want to hear: He won't force down soaring electricity prices that have cost California nearly $8 billion since January.
The Republican president and the embattled Democratic governor arranged a 20-meeting Tuesday to talk about California's energy crisis, but there was no indication they would break their stalemate.
Bush opposes price limits on wholesale electricity that utilities buy, arguing they do nothing to address supply-and-demand issues at the heart of the crisis.
Davis contends federal energy regulators are ignoring their mandate to ensure "just and fair" electricity prices.
With no sign of a break in the deadlock, each side maneuvered for maximum advantage from Bush's first full day in California as president.
Davis, in an interview Tuesday on ABC's "Good Morning America," defended his record on licensing more power plants.
"We've licensed 15 plants. Ten are under construction, four will be online this summer, four next summer, and by the end of 2003 we will have built our way out of this problem. But between now and then, we are getting gouged unbelievably," Davis said.
The Bush administration timed positive energy announcements to coincide with the president's visit.
At the Marine Corps base at Camp Pendleton, Bush was announcing the expansion of a program that provides federal money to help low-income residents pay for power.
Bush was proposing $150 million, in addition to $300 million already budgeted for a component of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, to provide special help to cash-strapped residents of California and certain Midwest areas such as Chicago, a senior administration aide said.
Bush was also reminding state residents of his order that military facilities in the state cut peak-hour usage by 10 percent.
To alleviate an electricity bottleneck on a crucial south-north transmission path, the Department of Energy announced that the Western Area Power Authority will try to raise money from a variety of private and public entities to finance a crucial additional lines.
"The Bush administration is taking a leadership role in addressing a long-neglected problem in California's electricity transmission system," said Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham. "California's electricity problems developed over a period of years and cannot be solved overnight. However, we can move now on actions that will help avert the same types of problems from recurring year after year."
Davis had a letter for Bush from top economists who maintain price caps are justified and necessary.
Aides to the governor expressed amazement that Bush would travel all the way to California with no major announcement in hand, and predicted Davis would respond with "polite rage."
Mindful of the national stage he commanded, Davis planned a news conference to air his grievances.
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