OGJ Online Staff
The energy plan President George W. Bush disclosed offers 105 recommendations on a wide range of energy issues from wellhead to burner tip.
Of those initiatives, 73 are directives to federal agencies. An executive order called on all federal agencies to consider energy policy when implementing major rules; a related order seeks to streamline permitting for energy-related projects.
The focus now shifts to Capitol Hill, where Republican lawmakers hope to implement most if not all of the legislative recommendations in the report by this fall. Some Democrats say that timetable is too ambitious, since so many contentious issues are on the table.
Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate said they would craft energy legislation before the Labor Day holiday in early September that will encourage domestic supply and reduce demand. But Bush administration officials concede that getting a closely divided Capitol Hill to agree on specific details will be a tough, although certainly not insurmountable, feat.
Hard political realities may also help soften the partisan rhetoric that has so far thwarted cooperation between the two parties. Congress must move quickly, according to most political analysts, since skyrocketing energy costs are a big concern to the general public and those worries could affect congressional elections next year.
Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Frank Murkowski (R-Alas.) said, “Today this nation has an energy policy,” Murkowski said. “Yesterday we didn’t have one but now we do,” he said, referring to the White House plan. “We will do everything possible to move this.”
Senate Democrats also complain that Republican proposals have been “developed in secret” with no emphasis on short-term relief from high fuel prices.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) said his party stands ready to reshape energy policy, but so far Republicans have “just taken a page from the past.”
Another Democrat, Harry Reid of Nevada, said the GOP proposal is just an industry mouthpiece, noting that GOP should stand for “Gas, Oil, and Plutonium.”
A separate group of senators, representing a bipartisan group of lawmakers from the energy-dependent Northeast, offered a more optimistic view.
“We need compromise and a lot of it,” said Susan Collins (R-Me.). Collins and Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York say one example would be to support more drilling in the Rocky Mountain region, provided that Republicans consider tougher fuel-efficiency standards for sport utility vehicles.
In the House, House Energy and Commerce Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.) said, “We have a big plate ahead of us.” Tauzin envisioned his committee passing portions of the White House’s conservation proposals initially, then supply-side measures. Also before the committee this summer will be electricity restructuring legislation, pipeline safety and nuclear waste. House leaders may opt to package different bills together over the summer, Tauzin said, although it is too soon to tell what legislation may win approval first.
House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) said the president’s plan “makes the wrong choices for the American people.” According to Gephardt, the proposal “looks like an ExxonMobil annual report, and maybe that’s what it is.”