Murkowski's plans

Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-Alas.) has a combative agenda for the Energy and Natural Resources Committee this year.

Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-Alas.) has a combative agenda for the Energy and Natural Resources Committee this year.

Chairman Murkowski recently introduced a retail electricity decontrol bill. He said, "Our legislative task is to trim federal regulation down to the absolute minimum but at the same time not halt the state progress on retail competition or interfere with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's progress on bulk power market competition."

The senator doesn't necessarily expect to pass legislation this year. "The idea is to see how far we can get. Maybe we can reach agreement on some of the issues."

The committee completed hearings on the recent home heating oil price increases in New England and plans more (OGJ, Feb. 28, 2000, p. 32).

Murkowski plans hearings on the Environmental Protection Agency's regulation of coal-fired power plants. He expects a hearing on the Project on Government Oversight's payments to two federal employees from the proceeds of a royalty lawsuit (OGJ, July 5, 1999, p. 34). And he plans hearings on how the US will meet increasing natural gas demand in the next decade, despite restrictions to resources on public lands.

Product prices

Murkowski said the administration's solutions to the home heating oil crisis have a serious void.

"I think what was notably lacking in the suggested solutions was any effort to concentrate on encouraging domestic production. That's just not within the administration's policy.

"I think domestic producers have the potential to contribute significantly more oil if they had the chance, but this administration continues to put roadblocks to development."

Murkowski said the nation could face another fuel crisis soon.

"You could have a crunch on gasoline this summer. There are those who forecast $2/gal gasoline, and I'm one who thinks that's quite likely.

"The consumer hasn't really been hit yet hard enough by higher oil prices to provide the expected response. If he has to pay $2/gal to refill his sports utility vehicle at $60 a whack, he's going to ask what's going on with oil production."

Imported oil

Murkowski said Americans should be outraged that US Energy Sec. Bill Richardson has had to urge members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to produce more oil.

And he said, "When one considers that Iraq emerged in the past year as the fastest growing source of US oil imports-we have no choice but to question where we are placing the energy security of this nation."

Murkowski said that, during the Clinton administration, US production has dropped 17%, while consumption has increased 14%. He said the nation is nearly 56% dependent on foreign oil.

The administration's domestic oil policy has been to suppress domestic production with increased taxes and deny exploration and development.

"The administration has not offered a single viable alternative to petroleum as an energy source. They have thrown up roadblocks to development of coal-fired plants, hydro dams, nuclear power, and natural gas."

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