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Red, White, and Ready: The Patriotic Push for Energy Legislation

After 10 years of waiting, some experts say a Republican-controlled Congress and a patriotic mood will make the difference in passing energy legislation this year.
Fortnightly Magazine - May 1 2003

to determine whether all, some, or none of the dividends they received are taxable. Finally, I question whether this is possible at a time when we already face huge deficits, and we are [taking] on the cost of a war.

Will Congress likely get involved with FERC's proposed standard market design, and if so, how?

The Senate already is quite involved with the FERC's proposed standard market design rule. A good many of my colleagues have concerns about the draft's aim to exert jurisdiction over retail transmission in interstate commerce. Also, there seems to be strong objections, on both sides of the aisle, to the so-called "one size fits all" nature of the proposed rule. I'm not yet in a position to defend the details of what has been proposed, since it is only a draft and surely will be modified. But I do support the direction that FERC is taking. The SMD may have problems as to many of the details, but that does not mean that it is not necessary-even essential.

How would an energy bill promote repair and expansion of our energy infrastructure?

We have promoted a bill that tries to balance reasonable production enhancements with environmental protections, with meaningful conservation efforts, and with pursuit of alternative energy resources. On electricity, our bill last year would have authorized a structure to protect the reliability of the electricity system, and it would have subjected the entire grid to the same set of rules. It is not clear if we can do that this year, but it would be worthwhile.

What would you like to tell our readers about the direction of energy policy in the United States?

Energy is central to our nation's present and future prosperity. Improving and strengthening our national energy system can provide significant economic benefits for every American; similarly, vulnerabilities in our national energy system can present major threats to our national economic health. Also, there have been significant changes in energy markets since the last time Congress considered comprehensive energy legislation more than a decade ago.

"The situation in the Middle East does not directly bear on energy legislation. We proposed the National Energy Policy in May 2001 as a long-range plan to address long-range problems. It was not intended as a quick fix."

Do you expect the 108th Congress to present President Bush with a comprehensive energy bill this year, including an electric title? If not, what issues are of the most importance for inclusion in piecemeal legislation?

We think there is an excellent chance at getting comprehensive and balanced energy legislation enacted in the 108th Congress. We came close last year and are trying to build on the progress that was achieved. We have an opportunity to take action now to bolster our energy security and prevent a future energy crisis. I hope we take advantage of the window of opportunity.

From our perspective, some of the most important elements of comprehensive energy legislation are modernizing federal electricity laws, promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy, authorizing environmentally responsible development of the oil and