Sunday, June 17, 2012

Murkowski comments on U.S. energy policy

In a speech to an energy policy forum hosted by George Washington University and Arent Fox LLP on June 5 Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, spelled out her ideas on the needed goals for a U.S. energy policy. Murkowski is the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Commenting that the nation does not currently have a coherent or long-term policy at the federal level, Murkowski said that a policy should be non-partisan and should address the need for energy that is abundant, affordable, clean, diverse and secure. “One thing I won’t do is stand here and tell you which resources, which technologies — or even which exact policies — will enable us to meet our energy goals,” Murkowski said. “Some of that will be laid out in the energy plan I intend to release this summer. For now, I’ll simply say that it’s inappropriate for the federal government to focus on one technology, to the exclusion of others. Markets and consumers will make the choice far better than anyone else. What policymakers should focus on instead is outcomes, and we should be open to a number of routes that could help us get there.” Six factors Murkowski outlined six factors that she said would underpin the successful development of legislation to address the energy policy question. First, legislation must be developed through the Congressional committee process, rather than through some other group of lawmakers brought together to work on energy legislation. Second, there needs to be a balance between different energy technologies, encouraging oil and gas production on federal lands while also focusing on innovation. Third, people need to “make some hard decisions” on the extent of the government’s role in technical innovation. “The federal government can help fund research that would otherwise not be undertaken, but our job is not to offer subsidies that never end or subsidies that prop up a technology every step of the way to commercialization,” Murkowski said, citing Department of Energy involvement in North Slope methane hydrate research as a good example of government research funding. Fourth, energy policies must pay for themselves, Murkowski said, commenting that federal economic stimulus funding for clean energy had resulted in a lower payback than anticipated. Fifth, legislation should not directly or indirectly increase the price of energy. And sixth, the energy legislation needs to be brought for consideration on the Senate floor, rather than languishing low down in the legislative priority list as has tended to happen in recent years. Loan guarantees Murkowski later commented in response to a question that, despite the recent tainting of the use of government loan guarantees, with funds going into unsuccessful renewable energy development, she believes that the government does have a role in encouraging new technologies but that “there has to be a kind of glide path out” of a project. “Some are suggesting the plug just needs to be pulled (on the loan guarantee program),” Murkowski said. “I don’t think that needs to be the case. I think we need to make sure that the loan guarantee program operates as Congress intended.” —Alan Bailey

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