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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

are better ways to promote renewable energy that do not harm consumers.

As noted in the president's State of the Union address, why the focus on hydrogen fuel via a $1.2 billion initiative?

The National Energy Policy issued nearly two years ago recommended that the president direct the department to develop next-generation energy technologies, and specifically focused on hydrogen and fusion. The president carried out this recommendation by announcing the FreedomCAR initiative, a program designed to greatly accelerate the pace of development of hydrogen vehicles. The potential benefits of hydrogen-fueled vehicles are incredible. Hydrogen can be produced from diverse domestic energy sources, freeing us from reliance on foreign imports for the energy we use at home. Hydrogen can power fuel cell vehicles with more than twice the efficiency of today's engines. Hydrogen-powered vehicles would have a tremendous positive impact on the environment, as they would produce none of the harmful emissions that we see with today's gasoline-powered fleet. The only byproduct of a fuel cell is pure water.

Federal research and development programs focus on technologies that are over the horizon, technologies that are unlikely to attract commercial investment. If our initiative is successful, we could see hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in auto showrooms by 2020. The incredible potential benefits of hydrogen-fueled vehicles are well worth the investment.

How does the situation in the Middle East affect expected energy legislation?

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 to problems that were in the making for years.

However, the situation in the Middle East does remind us of the wisdom of the president's conclusion that the United States needs to take action to reduce reliance on energy imports, particularly oil imports. The situation in the Middle East may help Congress appreciate the dangers of increased dependence on foreign oil imports. The Senate vote on ANWR suggests that some in the Senate do not yet understand the danger. We have a series of long-term energy challenges that require action now. They will not go away. Inaction will not make them disappear. We tried inaction for 10 years, and the result was record import levels. The prior administration demonstrated indifference to our rising dependence on foreign imports. This administration is committed to working with Congress to develop solutions to our long-term energy challenges. We are ready to make the tough decisions needed to strengthen America's energy security. We have made significant progress, but much more needs to be done.

There have been objections by some states to FERC's proposed standard market design. Is the subject best left to the FERC, or do you expect Congress to intervene?

There are serious problems in electricity markets under the status quo-dramatic price spikes, market manipulation, transmission bottlenecks, and inadequate investment in transmission and new generation. Poor market rules helped cause these problems and were a prime cause of the electricity crisis in California and the West. The