Last week Senator Lisa Murkowski, ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, released Energy 20/20. It is a detailed analysis of ways in which the government can assure that the United States has “abundant, affordable, clean, diverse and secure” energy. The Senator states that the document is intended to be a starting point for discussion not a draft for potential legislation.
It has been many years since Congress passed comprehensive energy legislation (2005) and the domestic energy situation has changed significantly since then. However, Congress is unlikely to tackle a major energy bill when budget cuts, immigration and gun control are awaiting action. In spite of this congressional logjam, some elements included in her blueprint are likely to be introduced into the Senate.
The Senator’s blueprint advocates for expansion of all domestic energy resources. She notes that the country can benefit by defining green technologies as those technologies that have less impact on human health and the environment than the most likely alternative. She proposes advancing these technologies through basic or fundamental government research paid for by an Advanced Energy Trust Fund that would receive a share of federal revenues from increased energy production.
The blueprint would replace federal mandates favoring particular energy technologies with market-based, technology-neutral incentives.
The blueprint has numerous recommendations for ways to improve government regulatory procedures, starting with transferring NOAA (now in the Department of Commerce) and the Forest Service (now in the Department of Agriculture) to the Department of the Interior. The blueprint also calls for reform of the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) procedures and simpler, faster permitting on federal lands.
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