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Former President Bush Lists Challenges as Energy Congress Convenes in Houston

Houston Chronicle -- September. 14, 1998

Meeting the world's energy requirements for the next century will require locating hard-to-find supplies, dispersing new technologies worldwide and developing more efficient ways to use the globe's finite energy resources, former President Bush told delegates at opening ceremonies of the World Energy Council Congress here Sunday.

Bush, who was enlisted at the 11th hour after President Clinton canceled his appearance at the gathering, received two standing ovations before and after his remarks that capped the ceremonies which included a laser light show and children dressed in ethnic garb singing "It's a Small World."

Bush stressed that the work of the council -- developing strategies for the world's energy needs for the next 100 years -- should be approached from a global perspective, a task that is easier now with the breakup of the former Soviet Union. "This is a challenge that transcends national boundaries and political ideologies," Bush said. "Such challenges are not for people with a parochial vision of the world."

An estimated 5,000 delegates have gathered in Houston for the congress that runs through Thursday. The congress is held every three years and brings together political and business leaders worldwide to discuss the world's energy needs. This congress has about 90 countries represented.

Harking back to the concept of a "New World Order" that Bush began during the Persian Gulf War, he noted that gatherings such as these are now devoid of Cold War mentalities. "There is no longer that superpower rivalry," he said. "The Russians are here with us today and they are our friends." Saying he did not want to sound arrogant, Bush said the United States continues to have an obligation to be the leader of the free world, to "stay in the game."

Although Clinton did not attend, newly installed Energy Secretary Bill Richardson was at the gathering. He spoke briefly at the opening ceremonies and will make a formal address today.

Also speaking at the ceremonies was John Baker, chairman of the World Energy Council and one of the figures that played a significant role in the privatization of the power industry in the United Kingdom. With the world awash in cheap oil, Baker said, the globe no longer faces problems finding adequate energy supplies but now must deal with issues of protecting the environment and sustaining the world's energy supplies. The issues facing the congress, Baker said, should not be viewed simply in the context of satisfying customers or shareholders. In a world where some people still burn wood and dung for their energy needs, providing energy to all of the planet is "something to be tackled for the greater good," Baker said.

The 200,000 square feet of exhibits* associated with the congress at the George R. Brown Convention Center will open today for the delegates.

* Former US President George Bush was our first guest at the GENI Exhibit!

And US Energy Secretary Bill Richardson stopped by the next morning!