Senator Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska) introduced the 325-page National Energy Security Policy Act of 2001 at a Washington, DC press conference on February 26. The proposal “is the starting point for what will be an important debate during this session of the 107th Congress,” said Murkowski.
“For too long, we’ve focused on the symptoms,” said Murkowski. “This bill helps us address the cause. While that takes time, we will be in much better shape in the end.”
Murkowski, who has served as chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee since 1995, was joined at the announcement by Sen. John Breaux (D-Louisiana), a cosponsor of the measure.
The proposal, according to its preamble, is intended
“To Protect the Energy Security of the United States and Decrease America’s Dependency on Foreign Oil Sources to 50% by the Year 2011 by Enhancing the Use of Renewable Energy Resources, Conserving Energy Resources, Improving Energy Efficiencies, and Increasing Domestic Energy Supplies; Improve Environmental Quality by Reducing Emissions of Air Pollutants and Greenhouse Gases; Mitigate the Effect of Increases in Energy Prices on the American Consumer, including the Poor and the Elderly; and for other purposes.”
A comprehensive package of proposals, the measure encourages increased production of traditional sources of energy–but seeks to advance cleaner technologies for those sources by encouraging accelerated technology research and development. It also promotes alternative-fuel vehicles by extending existing tax credits for flexible fuel and electric vehicles through 2008 and modifies the renewable energy production tax credit to include open-loop biomass, agricultural and animal waste, incremental hydro-power, geothermal, landfill gas, and electricity co-generation from coke, iron or iron ore, and steel.
“Through a broad range of balanced proposals, this bill seeks to increase the use of alternative sources, the efficient use of energy, and our own domestic energy supply,” explained Murkowski. “At the same time, the bill will help improve the environment through the application of new technologies and lay the groundwork for even greater advances in the future. Altogether the bill can be summed up in one phrase: Using the fuels of today to get to the technologies of tomorrow.”
“It’s about time”
Myron Ebell, director of global warming & international environmental policy for the Washington, DC-based Competitive Enterprise Institute, said “it’s about time” the U.S. develop an energy strategy aimed at strengthening domestic supply.
“For eight years,” explains Ebell, “the previous administration consistently pursued policies designed to lower energy production, constrict supplies, and raise prices. This never-articulated aim of raising energy prices in order to force people to consume less energy has finally been exposed.”
Ebell acknowledges the National Energy Security Policy Act could not solve overnight the problems created by the “energy-suppression policies of the past eight years.” But if Murkowski’s proposal is enacted, Ebell says, “it will help to re-establish the economic and regulatory conditions necessary for America’s energy industries to provide Americans with the inexpensive, abundant, and reliable energy upon which our prosperity is based.”
A key component of the bill is a provision that would permit oil drilling inside the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a wilderness area in Alaska’s north slope. “It is going to take a team effort to solve this problem,” Murkowski said. “We can’t afford to leave our best players on the bench.
“That means it is necessary to responsibly open certain parts of Alaska’s Coastal Plain, our nation’s best hope for new domestic exploration. It can be done in an environmentally thoughtful and careful manner and it can replace the oil we buy from Saudi Arabia for the next 30 years.”
That proposal, which has met strong resistance in Congress in the past, is vehemently opposed by many Democrats and some Republicans, who say it would needlessly disrupt the refuge.
In a statement available on its Web site, Environmental Defense claims Murkowski’s measure “moves America in precisely the wrong direction–toward more dependence on fossil fuels and less energy freedom.” The statement continues, “The bill would place enormous pressures on our natural resources, including national treasures such as the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, coastal areas and Western public lands; worsen air quality across America; increase our dependence on fossil fuels; and exacerbate global warming around the world.”
Katherine Silverthorne, senior policy officer for the World Wildlife Fund’s Climate Change Campaign, agreed. “Current energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies can reduce pollution and reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” she said. “There is no reason for reckless policies that sacrifice our environment to meet our energy demands.”
“No surprise there,” said Rob Bradley, president of the Houston, Texas-based Institute for Energy Research. “I think a major goal of nongovernment organizations like this one [WWF-Climate Change] is to block new oil fields wherever they can to increase prices and hasten the end of the hydrocarbon age. Since nature isn’t providing the scarcity they have long warned about and wanted, they have to do it politically.”
CEI’s Ebell agreed. “Powerful forces have worked mightily to shame people into believing that consuming energy is bad, and that Americans should therefore feel guilty about consuming so much.
“But as the American people are finding out in the current crisis, affordable energy is one of the foundations of our prosperity and our standard of living.”
For more information . . .
The full text of Senator Frank Murkowski’s 325-page National Energy Security Policy Act of 2001 is available on the Senator’s Web site at http://www.senate.gov/~murkowski/pdfs/NatEnergySecurityAct.pdf.
Or use PolicyBot, The Heartland Institute’s free online research service, to request documents #230060 in Adobe Acrobat’s PDF format. Point your browser to http://www.heartland.org and click on PolicyBot.