Energy Conference Update #13 (Scene Setter)

October 8, 2003
12:00 AM
Our complaints about the process that Republicans have followed in the energy conference are well known and widely reported. So, as you start thinking about “setting the table” for next week, we thought we’d summarize what Democrats view as the most persistent problems in the GOP’s draft conference report. (Or, more accurately, what we object to so far, recognizing that the shroud of secrecy has yet to be lifted from key elements of this important legislation.) Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The conference report would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration and drilling; Hydrogen. The conference report would abandon the bipartisan Senate hydrogen title, reducing funding for hydrogen research, development and demonstration projects by $1 billion per year and eliminating specific goals to move hydrogen vehicles out of the laboratories and onto the nation's roads; Hydroelectric dam relicensing. The conference report would disadvantage states, Indian tribes and the public in creating new appeals procedures for hydroelectric relicensing proceedings which would allow only the industry to initiate appeals; Indian energy. The conference report would waive the environmental review process for energy development projects on Indian lands and undermine the federal trust responsibility to Indian tribes with respect to energy development on these lands; Offshore oil drilling. The conference report would give the Secretary of the Interior new authority with regard to oil and gas facilities in areas on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) currently under leasing moratoria, require an inventory of oil and gas resources in the OCS, and undermine protection of the Padre Island National Seashore from the impacts of oil and gas development; and Subsidy provisions. The conference report provides million of dollars in direct incentive payments to mature energy industries (e.g., hydroelectric plants, new turbines at existing plants) to undertake equipment upgrades they would have to do anyway. In addition, the report authorizes a $1.1 billion nuclear reactor in Idaho, with a potential exemption from normal federal project management rules, to demonstrate hydrogen production technologies that are not projected to be economic. Democrats believe the following provisions should be included in the conference report: Strong consumer protections. The conference report should require mandatory reliability standards, protect consumers against utility mergers and consolidations, and ensure all forms of market manipulation are illegal. In addition, the conference report should protect consumers against fraud and market manipulation of other energy commodities, such as gasoline and natural gas; Renewable Portfolio Standard. The conference report should require utilities to generate 10 percent of their electricity from renewable energy (wind, solar, geothermal and biomass) facilities by 2020; Renewable fuels/MTBE. The conference report should require an increase in renewable fuels from 2 billion gallons to 5 billions in 10 years. In addition, the report should ban the use of methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) and not include a liability waiver for MTBE manufacturers; Climate change. The conference report should establish a comprehensive framework to address global warming including the creation of a White House Office on Climate Change Policy, the development of a national strategy, the expansion of science programs, and the promotion of clean energy technologies; and Oil savings. The conference report should adopt the oil savings amendment that passed the Senate by a vote of 99-1. The amendment would require the President to implement economy-wide measures in order to reduce petroleum import dependence and conserve oil throughout the U.S. economy sufficient to reduce total U.S. petroleum demand by 1 million barrels per day by 2013. # # #