SPECIAL UPDATE: Bush Administration Releases National Energy Policy

(Posted 5-19-01)

This update was originally sent out as an e-mail message to AGI's member societies.

IN A NUTSHELL: On May 17th, President Bush released a comprehensive national energy policy developed by a task force headed by Vice President Dick Cheney.  The bulk of the task force's 105 recommendations can be carried out by presidential order and federal agency actions, but 20 require congressional approval. Both the House and Senate are moving forward with comprehensive energy bills incorporating the president's proposals. Although the Cheney report addresses both energy supply and demand, the most controversial provisions focus on increasing domestic supply of petroleum, natural gas, coal, nuclear, and hydroelectric energy.


Days after his inauguration, President George W. Bush announced his intention to have Vice President Dick Cheney lead a National Energy Policy Development Group comprised of top administration officials. Their charge: to propose a comprehensive national energy policy.  Cheney's group released its report -- Reliable, Affordable, and Environmentally Sound Energy for America's Future -- on May 16th to the president and Cabinet, and the report was released publicly the following day.  The report is available in PDF format at http://www.whitehouse.gov/energy/. The president's comments are available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/05/20010517-2.html.

Overall, the report makes 105 recommendations of which 12 can be accomplished by executive order and another 73 can be accomplished by agency action. The remaining 20 recommendations require congressional action.  A majority of the recommendations relate to infrastructure and international relationships.  Below are some of the key recommendations related to the earth sciences:


Since President Bush announced the formation of Cheney's task force in January, two major Senate bills have been the focus of congressional action in developing a national policy: the National Energy Security Act (the Republican bill) and the Comprehensive and Balanced Energy Policy Act of 2001 (the Democrat bill).  Although numerous hearings have been held, the bills themselves were put on the back burner until the release of the president's plan.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Frank Murkowski (R-AK) released his National Energy Security Act of 2001 (S.388 and S. 389) in February. The pair of bills -- one focused exclusively on tax policy -- aims to decrease the nation's reliance on foreign oil to 50 percent by 2011 through a suite of policy changes. Provisions include tax incentives for domestic oil and gas production, measures to expedite construction of gas pipelines, measures to promote energy conservation, incentives for research and development into "clean coal" technology, and many others addressing a range of energy sources.

Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Tom Daschle (D-SD) sponsored the Comprehensive and Balanced Energy Policy Act (S. 597) and its companion tax bill (S. 596) in March.  According to Bingaman, his legislation couples increased production with improved efficiency and decreased demand.  The legislation "takes into account climate change policy, because the two are inextricably mixed and are linked together."  Provisions in the bills seek to improve fuel efficiency in the transportation sector, decrease industry and domestic consumption through incentives to purchase more efficient products, and increase research and development in both supply and demand sectors.

Now that the Cheney report is out and these two bills have been well circulated on Capitol Hill, Congress will begin to hold hearings on pulling the pieces together to establish a comprehensive national policy.  House Energy and Commerce Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-LA) has announced he plans to separate the twenty provisions that require congressional approval into several smaller bills.  Murkowski will take the Senate down the opposite path by keeping the energy package an omnibus bill.

Murkowski's Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee has already scheduled a hearing on May 22nd to review all three of the plans.  It will most likely fall on this committee to merge the three into a truly comprehensive plan of action that can obtain the bipartisan support necessary for passage in an evenly divided Senate.

Sources: E&E News, "Reliable, Affordable, and Environmentally Sound Energy for America's Future" report, Washington Post, and White House press releases.

Special update prepared by Margaret Baker, AGI Government Affairs Program.

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program.

Posted May 19, 2001

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