House Energy and Commerce Chair Outlines Energy Policy Needs for Emerging U.S. Energy Abundance

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, on Tuesday unveiled five pillars on which U.S. energy policy should be built and discussed how the nation should tackle climate risks and grid threats. 

The lawmaker told attendees at the Energy Information Administration (EIA) 2014 Energy Conference that the nation’s new era of energy abundance made it necessary “to usher in a new era for energy policy.”

Compared to 1977, when President Carter warned domestic production of oil and gas was running out, the U.S. is today the world’s biggest oil producer, surpassing Saudi Arabia and Russia, he said. “In fact, we have more energy than any other nation and according to EIA, we produced enough energy in 2013 to meet 84% of the country’s demand—a remarkable turnaround from 2005, when we hit a low of just 65%.”

Upton’s vision for U.S. energy policy—which he called “the Architecture of Abundance”—is founded on modernizing infrastructure, maintaining diverse electricity generation, permitting a new manufacturing renaissance, harnessing energy efficiency and innovation, and unleashing energy diplomacy, he said.

To help modernize energy transmission and distribution infrastructure, the House has already passed H.R. 3, a bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, and H.R. 1900, a bill to restore predictability to gas pipeline permitting, Upton said.

However, it is crucial that the nation also make sure its energy infrastructure is resilient to climate risks and can prevent and withstand emerging threats such as cyber and physical threats.

“The climate is an issue that often comes up when we talk about energy policy, and I agree that it ought to be part of our conversation. One thing we should all be able to agree on is that storms are becoming more destructive because more people and property stand in their way,” he said. But while the nation should increase its resiliency to weather events, it doesn’t need “a climate policy that will hamstring our economy and make energy more expensive, all without actually changing the climate,” he said.

At the same time, the U.S. also needs to maintain diverse electricity generation, he said. “That’s why we’re so concerned about the administration’s aggressive approach to limit and undermine critical baseload sources of generation like coal and nuclear,” Upton said.

“We all want a clean environment, and we’ve done a lot of things for cleaner water and cleaner air,” he added. “But if we’re going to compete with the rest of the world, we’re going to need [fossil fuel] energy sources.”

To that end, the House has passed H.R. 3826, a bill that would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator from issuing, implementing, or enforcing any rules under the Clean Air Act that establish a performance standard for greenhouse gas emissions from any new fossil fuel–fired source. It has also pushed through H.R. 2218 to phase-in state-based rules for coal ash recycling and management. “We’re also going to keep pressing the administration to follow the law when it comes to nuclear waste,” he said.

Along with bills to increase transparency and require timely rules and guidance for certain air permits, the House approved H.R. 2126, a bill that includes four separate energy efficiency measures. It also backed H.R. 6, a bill to speed up the approval of natural gas export applications at the Department of Energy.

Upton said the Energy and Commerce Committee welcomes every “good idea,” and that it does “better when we work together.” Bipartisan success has been achievable, he said. In the 112th Congress, 88 bills passed by the House were signed into law. In the current 113th Congress, of 62 bills passed by the House so far, only 15 have been signed into law.

Actions on many bipartisan House bills, especially on energy, were stalled in the Senate, he said.

Sonal Patel, associate editor (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)



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