WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) delivered the following opening statement today at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing looking at the contributing factors of last winter’s propane supply shortage:
“My aim is to ensure that energy is abundant, affordable, diverse, clean, and secure. The propane issues in the Midwest this past winter, in my judgment, is a reminder to us all of just how dire things can get when energy is not abundant, not affordable, and not diverse.
“The witnesses before us represent the key figures in this very difficult situation – the producer, the pipeline, the distributor, the regulator, the consumer, and the policy official. I thank you all for attending and look forward to your testimony. You each have part of the puzzle and hopefully we can help assemble a more complete picture today.
“Although only a short time has passed, we do know a few things with certainty. It is worthy conducting an inventory of the facts before we get started.
“At the most basic level, we know that propane inventories were low heading into the winter, which proved to be brutal, and that with low supplies and high demand, prices spiked. Supply and demand.
“But as policymakers we need more than just Econ 101 as we consider options for preventing such a crisis from recurring. We need to have a deeper understanding of the factors that were at play – and not just which factors, but how they interacted to produce the result that they produced.
“We know about the record propane production, the record corn production, the record temperatures, and the record prices.
“Stepping back, we also know something else to be true – that the oil and gas renaissance is highlighting the nation’s need for more infrastructure, and infrastructure that is more closely adapted to today’s new resource picture. Simply put, infrastructure is not keeping pace with production.
“And yet, we have to add another layer of analysis on top of that – because in some cases we have plenty of pipeline or storage capacity, but it is underutilized for certain reasons. Perhaps that also has a role to play in this situation.
“It is entirely possible – indeed, it is likely – that a completely satisfactory reckoning will prove to be elusive, at least for some time. There may be limitations on data, there may be conflicting accounts, there may be some room for ‘alternative competing hypotheses,’ as they say in the intelligence community.
“Not that any of this provides solace to the millions of Americans in the Midwest who had to endure this brutal winter. Not that uncertainty in the face of the changing seasons – and the next winter that lies not too far off – is particularly reassuring. I hope this hearing can help shed some light on this enormously complicated puzzle.”
Video of the full hearing is available on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee website.