Nearly three years after the "macaca" moment that pushed him from national politics, former Virginia governor and senator George Allen re-emerged today as leader of an effort to fight Democratic energy bills and push for coal, oil and natural gas production.
The one-time Republican presidential hopeful appeared in a webcast with echoes of the "Harry and Louise" campaign that helped kill President Clinton's 1994 health care reform effort. Sitting in the kitchen of an Alexandria, Va., home, Allen derided the Democratic climate bill as a "cap and tax scheme" that would cost Americans money and kill jobs. Allen said his group, the American Energy Freedom Center, would educate people so that they demand Congress reject the legislation.
"Its purpose is to tell people the truthful story about America's energy potential that has never been told before and in a way that's never been utilized before including the Web," Allen said. "The American people ... if they have the right information, they'll make the right decisions."
The effort will feature monthly "kitchen table talks," Allen said. The group also plans to bring in experts to talk about energy. Using the key slogan of President Obama's presidential campaign, "Yes we can," Allen said "Yes we can achieve American energy freedom." Allen did not say exactly how the center or Web site would reach out to people.
He said the center would soon release government reports showing the amount of domestic energy that is available.
"Most Americans sitting at their kitchen table would be surprised to learn just how rich our country is in energy supply if the government would just step out of the way," Allen said.
Allen sat beside Denise Dunbar, who has given money to Republican campaigns, including Sen. John McCain's 2008 presidential effort, President George W. Bush's 2004 re-election and Allen's 2006 Senate re-election campaign. Allen lost that race after a widely circulated video showed him calling a campaign worker of his opponent "macaca," and referring to "the real Virginia."
Allen then disappeared from politics -- until now.
Wearing a suit complete with lapel pin, Allen smiled as he talked about the need to protect Americans from higher energy bills.
He said the cap-and-trade plan would cost Americans an average $200 to $260 per month. Asked about the source of that statistic, Allen said "various studies from MIT, whatever studies you have, Congressional Budget Office, there's plenty of studies and there's a range of costs."
Republicans have cited an MIT study from two years ago that said the permits sold in a cap-and-trade program from 2015 through 2050 would total $366 billion. Republicans divided that by 117 million American households and produced a cost per household of $3,128 per year.
That statistic has been criticized for using an old report and not factoring in the benefit of rebate money Americans could receive from permits to emit carbon that the government would auction off. Republicans in response have said that there is no guarantee that auction money would go back to Americans.
Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf at an Senate hearing in April testified that cutting greenhouse gases by 15 percent through a cap-and-trade program would cost the average U.S. household $1,600 per year. He said that number could be different depending on how policymakers decide to distribute revenue from the carbon allowances.
The American Energy Freedom Center is a partner group to the Institute for Energy Research, a not-for-profit that on its Web site says it backs "free market" energy as "the most efficient and effective solutions to today's global energy and environmental challenges."
The Institute for Energy Research is headed by Robert Bradley Jr., who worked at Enron Corp. as director of public policy analysis and speech writer for CEO Kenneth Lay.
The Institute for Energy Research, according to its Web site, is funded by individuals, foundations and corporations. It received money from Exxon Mobil Corp. from 2002 through 2007, according to Exxon Mobil documents posted on Greenpeace's Web site.
A video on the center's Web site yesterday showed Allen sitting at a desk, a photo of himself and his wife on a table in the background.
"Energy is the lifeblood of our American economy, the backbone of our security and essential to our way of life," Allen said in that video. "For nearly three decades we've had a counterproductive energy policy that's kept America's abundant, reliable energy resources under lock and key.
"And it's about to get worse," Allen says, thrusting his right hand forward, "unless we rise up and act."
That video bore the feel of a political commercial, with Allen telling viewers, "I'm George Allen, and I want to introduce you to the American Energy Freedom Center, partnering with the Institute for Energy Research. I founded this center to help promote the clean, creative, thoughtful utilization of American energy."