Richardson: Gas is Finally Getting the Support it Deserves

With promises for the "de-carbonization of energy," more state involvement in Energy Department's initiatives, and "help for our own people-domestic oil and gas producers," the new DOE Secretary Bill Richardson sparked a standing ovation from approximately 400 attendees at the DOE-NARUC Natural Gas Conference in Pittsburgh last week.

The Energy Department has "paid too much attention to the Congress and not enough to the states," Richardson told the gathering of state regulatory personnel and industry representatives. He said he hoped to "beef up new ways to work with state regulatory agencies," and draw them into the process for DOE initiatives, including legislation to restructure the electric industry. A key factor in electric industry changes and in meeting environmental targets is the use of natural gas, the former eight-term congressman from New Mexico and long-time member of the House Energy and Mineral Resources subcommittee said.

DOE recognizes the "potential of natural gas to more cleanly power our country." Its expanded use will lead to the "de-carbonization of energy," Richardson said.

As DOE secretary, which he has been for six weeks now, Richard said he would make sure DOE either "provides the stimulus" for greater gas use or "gets out of the way" of the industry. He said he fully supports legislation currently before Congress that would set efficiency standards for energy appliances for federal use that would consider the full fuel cycle, including emissions and energy costs. "This is a solid first step to leveling the playing field." Richardson said he wants to "reduce the barriers for supply and demand of natural gas."

Also, Richardson left late last week for the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperative Energy Industry conference, where he planned to present an initiative to create open and competitive gas markets and promote investment in gas infrastructure and development projects to help rebuild Asian economies.

He said one of his main priorities in the next session of congress would be creation of a new electric infrastructure. DOE is in process of fine tuning its electric restructuring bill and is starting to build state support. Richardson asked for help from NARUC attendees.

To deal with the issue of climate change Richardson wants to see a significant portion of DOE's R&ampD budget devoted to natural gas which he believes will serve as a bridge fuel to a cleaner environment. An assistant secretary currently is doing a major review of DOE's R&ampD budget with an eye to emphasizing technologies aimed at clean power generation, he said.

Richardson said he also is looking at help for marginal well producers, possibly in the form of tax relief, and at measures for pipeline deregulation.

Ellen Beswick

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