The broad energy policy bill, which the House passed in August, would be disastrous for the nation if passed with few changes, a member and former chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission said.

"If this legislation is finalized and sent to President Bush as the House passed it, it could hurt, not help, America by building barriers to production of domestic energy supplies. In the face of expanding global demand for energy, this legislation defies logic," said Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones in an opinion article in the Washington Post Tuesday.

The House measure proposes to eliminate $16 billion in tax incentives for oil and natural gas production, which would then go to pay for the development of renewable fuels. The measure includes tax and loan incentives for the development of wind, solar and geothermal power, while stripping incentives approved just two years ago for fossil fuels. The Bush administration has threatened a veto it if the higher taxes on oil and gas production are in a final bill.

The nation's oil and gas resources should be considered "our generation's victory garden in the face of today's struggle to maintain energy security," Jones wrote. "Yet Congress is slamming the door on development of large domestic reserves of hydrocarbons."

She called on Capitol Hill not to repeat the mistakes of the late 1970s, when "cries for windfall-profits taxes and price controls led to misguided policies...and squelched any coherent energy policy discussion."

Federal policymakers "must cast off '70s thinking and learn from the recent experiences of energy-producing states such as Texas," where a "new era of oil and gas exploration has begun," Jones said. She noted that strict environmental rules and targeted tax credits for drilling in hard-to-reach reservoirs, along with advanced technologies, have kept Texas the nation's top producer of oil and natural gas.

The Lone Star state's "shining star" is the Barnett Shale play, a 16-county swath in north-central Texas that is producing 1.5 Bcf/d of gas, according to Jones. She predicts it may become the largest natural gas field in the country.

"Energy development in Texas has been achieved mostly on privately owned property. Why can't our federal lands be used as productively?" she asked. "Congress insists on keeping the [Arctic National Wildlife] Refuge and other potential domestic resources off-limits and ignores the fact that modern exploration techniques could limit drilling in the refuge to a 2,000-acre footprint, or not even half of 1% of the refuge's 19 million acres."

Moreover, "America's vast offshore oil and gas reserves in the Outer Continental Shelf remain mostly off-limits to exploration, but successful wells would provide revenue that could be used to fund development of alternative sources of energy for decades to come," Jones said.

"Public policies that support rather than impede efforts to increase responsible domestic production are what America needs to retake control of its energy lifeblood from rogue dictators and banana republics."

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