US Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alas.) announced a set of policy proposals that she said is designed to begin a national dialogue about energy.
“I believe there must be a new conversation—a better conversation—and I intend to start it today,” she said in a Feb. 4 address to the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioner’s 2013 winter meeting.
“New technologies are emerging, changing the facts as so many thought they knew them, and our nation’s energy discourse is not keeping up,” the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s ranking minority member continued. “It is time, despite some vastly different perspectives, to come together to address crucial and difficult issues.”
She said she worked with the committee’s staff to prepare the report, Energy 20/20: A Vision for America’s Energy Future, as a starting point for a broad discussion that begins with a simple proposition: Energy should be abundant, affordable, clean, and secure.
“It is not a term sheet for a comprehensive energy bill,” Murkowski emphasized. “It provides the basis for advanced civilization and improved standards of living. It allows us to live comfortably. It allows us to transport ourselves and cargo around our neighborhood and around the world. It allows us to produce food in the quantities necessary to feed the world’s population. It allows us to manufacture and communicate, and enables every aspect of modern life,” she said, adding, “Too often, we forget these crucial facts. Despite what many argue, affordable, abundant energy is not the problem. It is exactly what we should strive for.”
Many federal energy policies are outmoded because they’re based on growing scarcity, Murkowski asserted. “Instead of absence, we find ourselves on the verge of abundance,” she said. “There may never have been a time when we have had more potential for energy production—or for energy productivity. We can bring more energy to market, and we can also use that energy more wisely than ever before.”
At the same time, the US is in “a bit of a rut, policy-wise,” Murkowski added. “On paper and in words, most of us agree that an ‘all of the above’ energy policy is the best path. Yet our discussions of such a policy are anything but consistent,” she said. “And in the absence of a proper balance between energy production and environmental regulation, our nation is too often hamstrung by burdensome regulations, delayed permits, and overzealous litigation.”
Murkowski’s recommendations included promptly approving the proposed Keystone XL crude oil pipeline project’s cross-border permit, opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s coastal plain for leasing, and reforming permitting processes for energy, natural resources, and infrastructure projects.
But she also called for using increased government revenue from more leasing to create an Advanced Energy Trust Fund for clean energy research and to pay down the national debt. Murkowski also recommended addressing climate change by funding basic research, lowering the cost of financing for especially promising technologies, providing prudent and temporary subsidies that are fully offset, and reducing regulatory burdens for deployment.
A Natural Resources Defense Council official was critical of Murkowski’s effort. “Her energy blueprint for the future reads more like a cut-and-paste job from the fossil fuel industry’s playbook of the past,” said Franz Matzner, NRDC’s associate director of government affairs. “It relies extensively on policies and incentives for increased oil and gas drilling, while ruling out many of the policy tools most likely to reduce carbon pollution and bring cleaner energy technologies into the marketplace.”
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