From the Hill : National energy policy a vital need

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 9, 2002


The House and Senate have embarked upon a mission we have not attempted in a decade: enacting a comprehensive national energy policy. After years of seeming indifference toward America’s energy future, we are undertaking a task that is not only about reliable electricity, pipeline safety, conservation, and production, it may be most importantly about our national security. This legislation is absolutely critical in the war against terrorism and – aside from the effort to create a Department of Homeland Security – will be the most important bill Congress considers this year in fighting that war.

Our nation’s energy infrastructure is deteriorating and ill prepared to meet energy demands expected to nearly double over the next 20 years. We lack sufficient domestic energy sources to keep up with advances in technology. And we have become more and more dependent on volatile Middle-Eastern countries, such as Iraq, for oil. But enacting a national energy policy is not only about meeting the energy demands of our homes, businesses and automobiles, it also is about providing the essential energy necessary across the spectrum of federal, state, and local anti-terror efforts. We simply cannot fight terrorism without ensuring that our nation’s energy future is secure.

As Chairman of the House-Senate energy conference that is in the process of ironing out the remaining differences between the House and Senate-passed energy bills, I am confident that bipartisanship will prevail and that we will agree upon a balanced and sensible approach to energy production and conservation that will help our nation meet its energy demands well into the future.

My colleagues and I have made substantial progress toward that goal. Over the summer and during the past few weeks, we have resolved over 60 separate issues that will help our nation meet many of its energy conservation and efficiency challenges, improve the integrity of pipelines that move fuels throughout this country, expand nuclear power capacity, and increase the availability of various energy sources.

I am particularly encouraged by the resolution of two critical issues: Our pipeline safety legislation will ensure the safety of our nation’s oil and natural gas pipelines by stepping up inspections to prevent leaks and ruptures and improving operation and construction, especially near homes, businesses, and recreational facilities. And reauthorization of the Price-Anderson Act will ensure victims are compensated in the event of an accident at a nuclear facility and pave the way for the construction of much needed nuclear power plants. Nuclear power is an essential backbone of domestic energy and more must be produced to help meet growing demand.

Other important production measures agreed upon by conferees include approval for the construction of the Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline that will move natural gas from Alaska into the United States, and a comprehensive research and development program to promote environmentally safe energy production using clean coal technology.

Additionally, the package of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and state energy measures approved by conferees is a key step forward toward completing this bill. Among these are initiatives to give two-thirds more funding to the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helps low-income families pay energy bills, and to expand the Energy Star Program which sets efficiency standards for many household appliances. Other agreements ensure that all future affordable housing will be built energy efficient, mandate that all federal government buildings reduce energy consumption by 45 percent, and facilitate improved energy efficiency at schools and hospitals. Several renewable energy matters also were resolved, including a provision that addresses development of renewable energy resources on federal lands.

This progress is promising, but our work is not done. Conferees must settle several important measures including allowing for more oil and gas production here at home to meet growing public demand and reduce America’s energy dependence on foreign nations. Certainly conservation and environmental efforts play a significant role in reducing demand. But make no mistake, without new production sources here in the United States, our energy future is not secure.

The House-passed energy bill contains other effective production provisions, most notably, in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Today nearly 750,000 barrels of oil a day enter the United States from Iraq, sending billions of U.S. dollars into Saddam Hussein’s coffers. He uses that money to support terrorist organizations, families of suicide bombers, and terrorist training camps. There is a better way. The same amount of oil that we buy from Iraq could easily be produced in ANWR if we include provisions in the final energy package permitting environmentally friendly development there.

The reliable supply and transmission of electricity must be another essential element of this energy policy. Affordable, reliable electricity is the life-blood of our society. I look forward to working with my Senate colleagues to settle on the proper course for the future of our nation’s electricity system, which is so vital to the success of our economy and our quality of life.

All of these production measures must be balanced with a significant investment in conservation efforts. For example, as this was written, the House has made an offer to the Senate regarding light truck fuel consumption for SUV’s and minivans by five billion gallons over the next six years – providing the same benefits to our environment as taking all 1999 minivans and SUV’s off the road for two years.

I hope and expect that my colleagues and I can settle our remaining differences and agree upon a balanced approach to energy production and conservation that will help us meet our future energy needs, bolster national security, improve our economy, and strengthen America’s ability to fight terrorism. We can and we must send a final package to the President’s desk before Congress adjourns in early October. It is a goal that we will work day and night to achieve, a goal that when reached, will keep America running strong well into the 21st century.

BILLY TAUZIN represents the Third Congressional District of Louisiana.