Never mind leveling it; somebody just upset the playing field for national energy legislation in the next two years.
The appointment of U.S. Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) as ambassador to China could very well put the running of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in the hands of two very capable oil-state ladies.
Just follow the bouncing ball. Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat with Republican leanings where her home state's oil industry is concerned, is everyone’s bet to move up to chairman of the committee if, as expected, Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden abandons the post to become chairman of the Finance Committee when Finance Chairman Baucus heads for the Far East. Finance is a much more powerful post and not one to be turned down lightly.
It's not clear how enthusiastic Wyden will be for the newly-formed tax reform proposal Baucus leaves behind in the Finance Committee, but that was bound to be a very slow boat anyway. That's not where the action is.
Aiding and abetting Landrieu on Senate energy will be the top Republican on the panel, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Now what do Louisiana and Alaska have in common? It's certainly not climate. Both ladies have been aggressive when it comes to pushing energy proposals to make the most of U.S.resources.
The difference now is that as chairman, Landrieu could set the agenda for the committee and possibly bring up some of those energy proposals that so far have unilaterally rolled through the Republican-controlled House and then passed quietly into the nether world. There's no guarantee of Senate passage, but it's possible that with modifications and some dealmaking (practically a lost art) there might be some progress. Murkowski was an expert at negotiations with the previous Democratic Chairman, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM). These committee moves are likely, but the Senate leadership hasn’t committed itself yet.
Nevertheless, industry strategists should be huddling right now on their next game play.