BPC asks White House to formally coordinate federal energy policies

The Bipartisan Policy Center urged President Barack Obama’s administration to make energy a top policy priority in its second term. BPC recommended forming a national energy strategy council to oversee all US energy policy aspects, and directing the US Department of Energy secretary to conduct a federal interagency energy policy review every 4 years.

BPC’s new report recommends a framework and process within the federal executive branch similar to the approach to develop national energy security in which the administration prepares a strategy subject to a quadrennial review prepared by the US Department of Defense.

“[DOE] and 20 other agencies involved in energy policy each play an important role in the development and implementation of our national energy policy,” noted former US Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-ND), who was on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and now is a co-chairman of BPC’s Energy Project. “But with that many agencies involved in energy issues, coordination, implementation, and oversight are often difficult. It’s like an orchestra without a conductor. While the Obama administration is currently assembling itself for the next four years, the time is ripe to reevaluate how our energy policies can be better structured,” he said.

An early release

BPC plans to issue a fuller set of federal energy policy recommendations early in 2013. It decided to issue this report now so the White House will have some fresh energy ideas as it forms its team for the next 4 years. The report also is aimed at members of the incoming 113th Congress, which would have to pass legislation implementing the recommendations if the White House embraces them.

“With the beginning of a new presidential term, we have a remarkable opportunity to institutionalize a process for creating strategic national energy policy,” said retired US Marine Corps Gen. Jim Jones, who led the US European Command from 2003 to 2006 and is Energy Security Chairman within BPC’s Energy Project. “The recommendations we present today establish an architecture to improve energy goal setting, policy formulation, and coordination.”

Given the long lead times major energy projects require, Jones said achieving long-term objectives requires visionary short-term actions. “The parts of government which deal with energy now have no way to come together,” he indicated. “This would not require major expenditures—simply rearranging some deck chairs.”

Tackling this lack of policy coordination now—when the US energy outlook has moved from scarcity to abundance—makes more sense than waiting for the next supply crunch, maintained former US Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), who is the BPC Energy Project’s other co-chairman.

“This is a coordination—not a command-and-control—concept,” he explained. “It’s a way to bring all these groups together.”

Inclusive effort

“Our concept involves Cabinet officers, but it’s open to all stakeholders,” added former US Environmental Protection Agency Administrator William K. Reilly, who is the BPC Energy Project’s Energy and Environment chairman. “The effort is intended to be inclusive, and take advantage of everyone’s knowledge and expertise.”

BPC officials said they already have spoken with Obama administration officials about their recommendations.

Lott said he also has spoken directly with US Sen. Ronald L. Wyden (D-Ore.), the likely new Energy and Natural Resources Committee chairman, as well as the committee’s ranking minority member, Lisa Murkowski (R-Alas.), and US Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), who is a member of the Senate Finance Committee’s Energy, Natural Resources, and Infrastructure Subcommittee.

Jones said BPC hopes the US Chamber of Commerce and other public policy organizations will support the proposals. “We haven’t worked on this for 2 years to let our recommendations sit around and gather dust,” Dorgan added.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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