Panel outlines national strategy for energy

Developing new supplies, efficiency of use stressed

December 09, 2004|By COX NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON - A coherent national energy strategy should include greater subsidies for nuclear power, stricter government standards for auto fuel efficiency and mandatory limits on greenhouse gases, a private commission said yesterday.

The two-year, $5 million study by a group that comprised corporate executives, environmentalists, union officials and academics said the country must significantly reduce energy consumption while also developing new supplies.

The National Commission on Energy Policy said it had sought realistic policies that might break stalemates that for years have stymied development of clear national energy goals.

Congress has failed to pass a comprehensive energy policy bill for the past four years. Another sweeping bill is expected to receive early attention next year.

The commission's key proposals include:

Increasing and diversifying world oil production.

Significantly raising federal fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks.

Implementing mandatory, economy-wide caps on greenhouse gas emissions.

Making it easier for the Bureau of Land Management to develop natural gas resources on government land and reducing barriers to pipelines and other "critical energy infrastructure."

Investing in development of a new generation of nuclear power plants and "fulfilling existing federal commitments on nuclear waste management."

Increasing federal investment in development of renewable energy, including non-petroleum transportation fuels such as ethanol.

Increasing government investment in clean coal technologies and ways to "sequester" carbon dioxide in underground caverns.

"For a great many people, environmental issues are everything, and for a great many others, production issues are everything," said John W. Rowe, chairman and CEO of Exelon Corp. and one of the commission's three co-chairs. "What we think we have offered is a balanced package."

Former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator William Reilly, another co-chairman, said the report recommends policies that would bring about "a gradual but decisive shift toward greater energy security and reduced danger of climate change."

A preamble to the report said "it should not be assumed that every member is entirely satisfied with every formulation in the report," but the members had reached consensus on the recommendations "as a package."

But to some people, the report had something to offend everyone, and it sparked quick criticism from opposing interests.

"The self-appointed, self-styled National Commission on Energy Policy is a lobby for special interests and big government masquerading as an official-sounding panel of unbiased experts," said Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a pro-business nonprofit group.

The Natural Resources Defense Council said the commission's report "found agreement on some helpful solutions," but "also contains some truly terrible ideas."

The chairmen of the energy committees in the House and Senate, Rep. Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, and Sen. Pete Domenici, a New Mexico Republican, had no reaction to the report yesterday.

Other congressional comments were mixed.

Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, whose state is a major coal producer, said the commission had "set aside partisan agenda and personal bias in favor of a realistic assessment of the state of the nation's energy policy today and its direction for tomorrow."

But Sen. James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, said it was "unfortunate that a few extreme members of the commission were able to convince their colleagues to join them in doing the politically correct thing" in recommending a greenhouse gas emissions cap.

The National Association of Manufacturers said the climate change provision would represent "a significant threat to U.S. industrial growth."

Scott Segal, executive director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, said the lobbying group, which represents utilities, "cannot endorse many of the recommendations in this report" but does "agree that the nation needs to do the hard work of grappling with energy policy sooner rather than later."

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