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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

specifically at this time? No.

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

The proposed national energy policy will help to modernize our infrastructure and wholesale power markets to ensure the reliable delivery of electricity. The events of California and the West demonstrated what can happen with a poorly designed, semi-regulated market. The provisions proposed in the new energy bill would give FERC much needed new authority to oversee competitive wholesale power markets, such as prohibiting round-trip trading, increasing market transparency, increasing FERC's penalty authority, fixing FERC's refund-effective date, and giving FERC additional jurisdiction over all spot market sales and interstate transmission. These measures will help markets work better. These provisions also will help to restore consumer and regulator confidence in the sector. And, they will help to restore investor confidence.

This sector relies on capital from investors. Electricity is our nation's most capital-intensive industry. The merchant power sector, responsible for the majority of new power construction, lost more than 80 percent of its market capitalization in 2002. By most estimates, of the new power plants that were scheduled to come on line in 2003-2004 … as much as 30 percent of these projects have already been canceled. You can't flip a switch and get a new power plant. So we must ... we must restore the confidence necessary for investments to flow again to build power plants and expand generating capacity.

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

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, business 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.

"My Republican colleagues seem to be largely in favor of FERC's misguided rule on SMD. This rule essentially tramples states' rights and makes local utilities bid for power on their own transmission lines against behemoths to serve their customers first."

The 107th Congress failed to send a comprehensive energy bill to President Bush. Do you expect a comprehensive bill with an electricity title to make it to his desk this Congress?

As we began writing an energy bill last Congress, members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on a bipartisan basis decided that, in the absence of a consensus, including an electricity title could only jeopardize the rest of the bill. The wisdom of that approach was confirmed late last year, when electricity proved to be one of the most difficult issues in conference. The lack of resolution on that issue is one of the reasons the administration ultimately pulled the