While THE vote recount continues and with little change dictatedby the elections in the energy leadership in the House and Senate,energy industry pundits were at leisure to explore energy policyscenarios under Democratic or Republican regimes and potentialcandidates to fill the top slots in either eventuality.
If Texas Gov. George W. Bush is elected president, it seemsclear that energy policy will get a higher priority and could evenbe a leading item for a new administration taking office inmid-January. Bush’s energy policy is heavy on incentives forconventional supply, while Vice President Al Gore’s strategy iswrapped up in environmental concerns and leans toward conservation.Implementation of these strategies for either candidate will haveto take into account the lack of a mandate in an election resultthat couldn’t get any closer.
That and the fact that much of Bush’s strategy, directed atredressing the balance after “seven and a half years without anenergy policy” includes so many measures which could be viewed asself-serving for the oil industry, argues for selection of aDemocrat as energy secretary, according to Matthew Simmons, head ofSimmons & Co. International. Simmons, who aided in theformulation of the Bush energy strategy, told Daily GPI “it wouldreally pay big dividends to have someone on the other side of theaisle,” delivering the news in the energy hotspot. He pointed outthat President Clinton has turned to Republicans for leadership inthe Defense Department, where his administration is vulnerable.
“There probably will be a very short window” for names to bedropped into the ring, Simmons said. A total party switch inadministrations means the whole top layer of the federal governmentmust be turned over in a very short time period.
Vice President Al Gore, on the other hand, would have moreleisure to replace Clinton Democrats with Gore Democrats. If hechooses to replace Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, he would havea ready candidate in former FERC Chair Elizabeth Moler, who camevery close to achieving the top spot twice under the Clintonadministration, but lost out to political expediency.
She also has strong environmental credentials, which would fitinto the Gore focus. Moler, however, also is a pragmatist who isvery knowledgeable about the industry and conceivably could fitinto the slot of a Democrat in a Republican regime. Other namesthat also would fit that bill, industry observers say, would beformer Senate Energy Committee Chairman J. Bennett Johnston ofLouisiana and President David Boren of Oklahoma University, whoformerly represented Oklahoma Democrats in the U.S. Senate. Bothmen were popular and highly regarded during their Washington tour.Another name that has been mentioned as a possibly energy secretaryin a Bush administration is Rep. Billy Tauzin, (R-LA), who has longbeen a friend of the oil industry.
Among those mentioned as possible contenders for commissionerand/or chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission under aBush administration are stand-outs on the Oklahoma CorporationCommission, Chairman Bob Anthony, a Republican, and Vice-ChairmanDenise Bode, a past president of the Independent PetroleumAssociation and legal counsel in Boren’s Senate office.
Among the more controversial measures espoused in the Bushenergy plan are opening up 8% of the Arctic National WildlifeRefuge, examining federal policies on drilling for natural gas oncurrently restricted federal lands, improving the regulatoryprocess to encourage more refining capacity, requiring regulatorsto develop a comprehensive policy for approving pipelines, focusingfunds on “clean coal” technologies and streamlining re-licensing ofhydroelectric projects and oppose breaching of dams.
Simmons said Bush’s strategy also calls for setting up an earlywarning system for the nation’s energy deliverability by making thesecretary of energy a standing member of the National SecurityCouncil. “Somebody basically needs to be wearing the energy hat toset off the fire alarm. If we had had that in place, we could haveseen today’s problems coming two years ago.” Bush also would workto make energy security a priority of U. S. foreign policy anddevelop a North American Energy Policy with Canada and Mexico.
Gore’s policy centers on creating an energy security andenvironment trust fund that will provide various incentives,including tax credits, to encourage consumers to driveenergy-efficient cars and live in energy-efficient homes and forthe development of energy-efficient and environmentally-friendlytechnologies. The fund would further the twin goals of guaranteeingsufficient energy and reducing pollution to counter global warming.Both candidates favor measures to fund energy assistance forlow-income groups.
The answers can’t come soon enough for Simmons, who is concernedthat Northeast stocks of home heating oil currently are 25% of whatthey were last year at this time. For the “tragedy” the nationcould face this winter “there just isn’t a silver bullet.” Simmonsrecently warned the nation was ill-prepared to enter “the perfectenergy crisis” that could face the nation this winter (see NGI,Oct. 30).
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