US Chamber's energy institute unveils 'energy realities' plan

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Feb. 1 -- The US Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy unveiled a five-part plan that calls on maximizing domestic resources, making new and clean energy technologies more affordable, eliminating regulatory barriers to new projects, not putting existing energy sources out of business, and encouraging the free and fair trade of energy resources and technologies globally.

The plan was formulated after Energy Institute officials returned from the first phase of their Energy Reality Tour, a nationwide dialogue with thousands of business and community leaders on a variety of energy issues, according to Karen A. Harbert, the institute’s president.

“The plan we’ve put forward today highlights ways to address the five most pressing problems that are holding us back, from the lack of access to our own energy resources to the bureaucratic and regulatory problems that are preventing us from building almost any energy infrastructure and holding back progress on clean and renewable energy,” she told reporters at a briefing.

“Facing Our Energy Realities: A Plan to Fuel Our Recovery” aims to present achievable solutions which enjoy bipartisan support to barriers which have developed in Washington during the past 2 years to develop all energy sources, Harbert said. The institute now will try to build public and congressional support for the new plan, which builds on the institute’s earlier “Blueprint for Securing America’s Energy Future,” she indicated.

The new plan calls for more use of domestic energy resources by promoting energy efficiency, improving access to more federal lands, and allowing more resources to be developed. To make new and clean energy technologies more affordable, it proposes forming a self-funding Clean Energy Bank to commit to such technologies’ innovation and demonstration and provide the necessary financing.

Removal of barriers
The plan also calls for removing unnecessary barriers to new projects without weakening environmental reviews, and prioritizing and permitting interstate electricity transmission systems. A chief component is creating a predictable regulatory environment because regulations which are constantly changing or being revised impede investments in all types of energy. “Policymakers should place high priority on those measures that are revenue-neutral, given the current fiscal climate,” the plan suggests.

Its recommendation that existing energy technologies should not be put out of business is based on the idea that the Clean Air and Clean Water acts should not be used indiscriminately to threaten production of enough energy from traditional sources to provide a smooth transition to cleaner sources.

“Unfortunately, in recent years they have been used indiscriminately by the Environmental Protection Agency, certain states, and activists to threaten energy resources, facilities, and the hundreds of thousands of jobs they support in ways not originally envisioned by Congress,” the Energy Institute’s new plan continues. “America must begin the difficult process of critically examining the application of these laws and amending them to provide the necessary predictability business needs to continue investments in cleaner, secure sources of energy.”

In its call to encourage free and fair trade of energy resources and technology globally, the plan calls on the US government to work aggressively with other countries to break down barriers to production of resources which include rare earth elements as well as oil, gas, coal, and minerals. It also urges elimination of tariffs on clean energy technologies and goods, and removal of discriminatory trade policies such as restrictions on imports of oil produced from Canadian oil sands enacted under the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act and “Buy American” provisions in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“In this economic and political environment, policymakers are seeking solutions which will get us on the right path without bringing us further in debt,” Harbert said. “All of these solutions come at little or no taxpayer expense, but would dramatically improve our energy security in both the short and long term.”

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