A clear signal as to the significance of energy policy to the new administration was President George W. Bush’s creation of the National Energy Policy Development (NEPD) Group during his second week in office. The importance of the group was evident by its composition. Vice President Dick Cheney was selected to head the assembly that consisted of 14 cabinet members, agency chiefs, and top White House advisors. On May 16th, the NEPD delivered an extensive report to the President. The report containes 105 proposals reportedly designed to overcome the obvious imbalance between the country’s energy needs and the available supply. The plan suggests actions to be accomplished throughout the government: 12 would be implemented by executive action, federal agencies would be responsible for carrying out 73, and Congress would accomplish the remaining 20. In the cover letter accompanying the report, the Group asserted that the NEPD aims to promote dependable, affordable and environmentally sound energy production to satisfy the nation’s future energy needs. Also identified for concern is the ever-increasing dependence on foreign oil imports, anticipating that the 52 percent required in 2000 will rise to 64 percent by 2020. Another issue of importance is the shrinking capacity of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to respond to oil supply disruptions. It was stated that the 83-day capacity in 1992 has since been reduced to the current 54-day supply.
In an ominous projection, there was warning of a looming energy shortage that would rival that experienced in the 1970s when the U.S. produced 39 percent more oil than it now does. Citing the expanding economy, increasing population, and higher standard of living; energy conservation and technological advances in energy efficiency would be required to face the problem of energy deficiencies. Recognized were needed repairs to and expansion of the nation’s energy infrastructure to respond to the outdated transmission lines, pipelines, refineries and electricity generators presently considered to be inadequate or inefficient.
Proposed National Goals
Five specific national goals were identified. These are to modernize conservation practices, to renovate the existing energy infrastructure, to increase domestic energy supplies, to increase and improve environmental protection, and to improve the nation’s energy security.
Recommendations to increase energy production include the suggested opening of part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and using $1.2 billion from the successful bid bonuses for research into alternative and renewable energy resources. An executive order was issued directing federal agencies to consider regulatory action to accomplish energy conservation. Legislation will be suggested to expand alternative fuel tax incentives. In addition the report recommends funding clean coal technology research at a $2 billion level over a ten year period. Other production-oriented recommendations include streamlining the hydropower and nuclear licensing processes and expanding the use of nuclear energy in conjunction with the establishment of a national repository for nuclear waste. The report stressed that all the proposed activities would be accomplished using environmentally sound practices.
Two full chapters of the report, entitled “Protecting America’s Environment” and “Using Energy Wisely,” are devoted to environmental issues. Air quality, cleaner electrical generation, development of clean coal technology, improved efficiencies in electrical production, the need for improved water quality, and the need for ecosystem protection are all specifically addressed. However, if these inclusions were intended to satisfy the environmental community, it does not appear to have worked. Environmental groups have criticized the plan and hinted at strong opposition.
The power shift in the Senate to the Democrats with Senator Jim Jeffords (VT) departure from the Republicans to become independent will reflect a dramatic change between the Senate majority and the White House proposal. The change in leadership of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee from Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska) to Jeff Bingaman (D-New Mexico) may not affect much of the proposal except for the issue of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Yet there are clear indications that a fierce battle in Congress over the environmental implications of energy production is bond to occur.
This column is a bimonthly feature written by John J. Dragonetti,
CPG-02779, who is Senior Advisor to the American Geological Institute’s
Government Affairs Program. The complete text of the energy report is available
at the White House website, http://www.whitehouse.gov/energy/. Additional
information on the energy report and current energy issues in Congress
is available at the http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis.html#energy.
Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program.
Contributed by John Dragonetti, AGI Government Affairs.
Posted May 13, 2002
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