ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Sen. Frank Murkowski appears to be assuming the role of energy adviser to Texas Gov. George Bush, and will deliver a speech next week in Washington on behalf of the Republican presidential contender.
Murkowski chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The Alaska Republican is slated to appear Wednesday at the 11th annual Energy Efficiency Forum.
Murkowski will be ''speaking on behalf of George W. Bush,'' according to a press release about the event.
David Garman, Murkowski's chief of staff, said organizers wanted Bush to address the National Press Club event, whose theme is ''Challenges for the Next Administration.'' But Bush declined the invitation and his campaign staff contacted Murkowski about filling in.
''The senator will not be speaking on behalf of the campaign,'' Garman said, indicating there may be some energy-related topics about which the senator and the Bush campaign do not agree.
But Garman could not immediately think of any energy policy differences between Bush and Murkowski.
''There is tremendous agreement on the core issues,'' Garman said.
That includes opening the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration and development. Democratic presidential contender Al Gore opposes that policy.
Garman said Murkowski and Bush have talked several times about national energy issues, including the Arctic refuge.
Next week's speakers also will include President Clinton's energy secretary, Bill Richardson, with whom Murkowski has clashed frequently over energy policy and rising gasoline prices.
Previous forums have been well attended by government officials and industry leaders.
With Bush and Murkowski in such harmony on energy issues, is there a new job opportunity on the horizon if Bush wins in November?
''That's not even ripe for premature speculation,'' Garman said.
A call by the Anchorage Daily News to the Bush campaign was not immediately returned.
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