After Florida, Diverse Energy Policies Ahead
While THE vote recount continues and with little change dictated
by the elections in the energy leadership in the House and Senate,
energy industry pundits were at leisure to explore energy policy
scenarios under Democratic or Republican regimes and potential
candidates to fill the top slots in either eventuality.
If Texas Gov. George W. Bush is elected president, it seems
clear that energy policy will get a higher priority and could even
be a leading item for a new administration taking office in
mid-January. Bush's energy policy is heavy on incentives for
conventional supply, while Vice President Al Gore's strategy is
wrapped up in environmental concerns and leans toward conservation.
Implementation of these strategies for either candidate will have
to take into account the lack of a mandate in an election result
that couldn't get any closer.
That and the fact that much of Bush's strategy, directed at
redressing the balance after "seven and a half years without an
energy policy" includes so many measures which could be viewed as
self-serving for the oil industry, argues for selection of a
Democrat as energy secretary, according to Matthew Simmons, head of
Simmons & Co. International. Simmons, who aided in the
formulation of the Bush energy strategy, told Daily GPI "it would
really pay big dividends to have someone on the other side of the
aisle," delivering the news in the energy hotspot. He pointed out
that President Clinton has turned to Republicans for leadership in
the Defense Department, where his administration is vulnerable.
"There probably will be a very short window" for names to be
dropped into the ring, Simmons said. A total party switch in
administrations means the whole top layer of the federal government
must be turned over in a very short time period.
Vice President Al Gore, on the other hand, would have more
leisure to replace Clinton Democrats with Gore Democrats. If he
chooses to replace Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, he would have
a ready candidate in former FERC Chair Elizabeth Moler, who came
very close to achieving the top spot twice under the Clinton
administration, but lost out to political expediency.
She also has strong environmental credentials, which would fit
into the Gore focus. Moler, however, also is a pragmatist who is
very knowledgeable about the industry and conceivably could fit
into the slot of a Democrat in a Republican regime. Other names
that also would fit that bill, industry observers say, would be
former Senate Energy Committee Chairman J. Bennett Johnston of
Louisiana and President David Boren of Oklahoma University, who
formerly represented Oklahoma Democrats in the U.S. Senate. Both
men were popular and highly regarded during their Washington tour.
Another name that has been mentioned as a possibly energy secretary
in a Bush administration is Rep. Billy Tauzin, (R-LA), who has long
been a friend of the oil industry.
Among those mentioned as possible contenders for commissioner
and/or chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission under a
Bush administration are stand-outs on the Oklahoma Corporation
Commission, Chairman Bob Anthony, a Republican, and Vice-Chairman
Denise Bode, a past president of the Independent Petroleum
Association and legal counsel in Boren's Senate office.
Among the more controversial measures espoused in the Bush
energy plan are opening up 8% of the Arctic National Wildlife
Refuge, examining federal policies on drilling for natural gas on
currently restricted federal lands, improving the regulatory
process to encourage more refining capacity, requiring regulators
to develop a comprehensive policy for approving pipelines, focusing
funds on "clean coal" technologies and streamlining re-licensing of
hydroelectric projects and oppose breaching of dams.
Simmons said Bush's strategy also calls for setting up an early
warning system for the nation's energy deliverability by making the
secretary of energy a standing member of the National Security
Council. "Somebody basically needs to be wearing the energy hat to
set off the fire alarm. If we had had that in place, we could have
seen today's problems coming two years ago." Bush also would work
to make energy security a priority of U. S. foreign policy and
develop a North American Energy Policy with Canada and Mexico.
Gore's policy centers on creating an energy security and
environment trust fund that will provide various incentives,
including tax credits, to encourage consumers to drive
energy-efficient cars and live in energy-efficient homes and for
the development of energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly
technologies. The fund would further the twin goals of guaranteeing
sufficient energy and reducing pollution to counter global warming.
Both candidates favor measures to fund energy assistance for
The answers can't come soon enough for Simmons, who is concerned
that Northeast stocks of home heating oil currently are 25% of what
they were last year at this time. For the "tragedy" the nation
could face this winter "there just isn't a silver bullet." Simmons
recently warned the nation was ill-prepared to enter "the perfect
energy crisis" that could face the nation this winter (see NGI,