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USEA Wants Energy Issues on Front Burner

USEA Wants Energy Issues on Front Burner

A cross-section of U.S. energy representatives last week presented a laundry list of initiatives that they believe the White House, Congress and regulators must actively pursue to build up the nation's energy inventories, which they warn are at dangerously low levels.

In a 52-page report issued last Wednesday, energy company executives, lobbyists and industry analysts advocated a number of legislative and regulatory actions that have long been sought by the domestic energy industry, but which have taken on a new sense of urgency in light of the rolling electricity blackouts in California, threats of utility bankruptcies in the state, and soaring natural gas prices this winter.

The report by the United States Energy Association (USEA) in Washington D.C. calls for greater access to federal lands to carry out environmentally sound production, investment tax incentives and accelerated depreciation to encourage energy production and construction of new delivery infrastructure, more reliance on a diversified energy portfolio for the country, a balance between energy and environmental concerns, regulatory policies that are "simple, durable and predictable," and policies to encourage greater investment in power generation and transmission facilities.

The USEA members believe these principles and others should be central to any national energy policy that comes out of the White House, and to any comprehensive energy legislation that emerges from Congress. A Cabinet-level task force chaired by Vice President Dick Cheney currently is working on developing an energy strategy, while Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-AK) is expected to introduce a major energy bill today that will call for opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and gas drilling. The House is working towards an energy bill or bills as well.

While the USEA report did not specifically mention ANWR, American Petroleum Institute President Red Cavaney said "everything --- including ANWR --- should be on the table" when considering options to enhance domestic energy supplies. Cavaney is a USEA board member.

The USEA members urged policymakers not to favor one supply source over another, but rather to encourage the development of a broad-based portfolio of energy supplies --- oil, natural gas, coal, nuclear, electricity and alternative energy. While they support continued development of solar, wind and biomass energy sources, they recommended that policymakers focus their immediate attention on encouraging the development of traditional energy resources, which they said provide more than 98% of the nation's current energy supply.

As for the role of energy efficiency, the group said efficiency and energy production should have a "complementary relationship," but it doesn't believe there should be a "trade-off" of one for the other.

Moreover, the USEA called on policymakers to side with competition over regulation in the energy market. "...[G]overnment officials at all levels should not impose new regulations on the energy supply system --- even in an attempt to address health, safety and environmental issues --- unless those regulations are based on sound science and incorporate the most cost-effective options."

On the international front, the USEA believes there are a number of steps that the Bush administration and Congress can take to stimulate energy trade between the United States and Canada and Mexico. The Bush White House could put energy on the agenda when negotiating Western Hemisphere free trade agreements; work with the new government in Mexico to allow U.S. companies to participate in the oil, natural gas, coal and electric power sectors; and negotiate a North American energy trade strategy with Canada and Mexico, the group said.

Susan Parker

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