Cambridge Energy Research Associates Chairman Daniel Yergin captures in a few words oil's extraordinary past. Might those words one day describe the next 100 years of natural gas development?...
Utilities have little to show for the millions they pay in campaign contributions.
If Donald Trump could call Congress on the carpet, he would send lawmakers packing with those two now infamous words, "You're fired!"
Trump, at the conclusion of each episode of his reality TV show "The Apprentice," dumps an unlucky job candidate for failing to complete that show's business assignment to his liking.
Now think of how many times Congress has failed to pass an energy bill without incident. You certainly couldn't fit into a 15-episode reality show the number of times politicians said they'd deliver. No, if energy legislation served as TV drama, the show would stretch out over a 12-year mini-series. The only hit Congress had was way back in 1992 (the Energy Policy Act).
I may be in a nursing home before any substantive energy policy gets done on the Hill. And I think Trump would agree that, from a business perspective, the financial incentives and the will to pass an energy bill should be there.
In his show, 16 candidates go through the most grueling tasks in a cut-throat business environment, in hopes of being hired to a $250,000 job at the Trump organization. But politicians in 2003 and 2004 alone received millions from the electric utilities industry.
And they have been receiving millions more over the last few years.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the energy and natural resources industry has given Congress in excess of $250 million since 1992, and more than $316 million since 1990. In retrospect, and given the financial obstacles some utilities have had to endure, one might conclude that the money might have been better spent elsewhere. Unless, of course, some of those utility dollars spent were to preserve the status quo.
Follow the Money
In 2002, Sen. Pete V. Domenici, R-N.M., received $417,851 from the energy industry for his re-election campaign. In the 2004 election cycle, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, raked in $323,849. President George W. Bush has been the biggest recipient of campaign donations this year and in years past. What did the industry get for its money?
Rep. Barton and Sen. Domenici are widely seen as responsible for the failure of the comprehensive energy bill last year because of their fierce defense of a provision that would protect MTBE manufacturers from lawsuits.
Most utility executives are, to this day, still incensed when MTBE comes into the conversation. To add insult to injury, Domenici was caught defending MTBE yet again in a March 25 rebuttal to a Wall Street Journal editorial criticizing the cost of the bill.
Today, we are no closer to a comprehensive energy bill. In the last few months, the bill has been whittled down to an energy tax package as part of a jobs bill. This strategy failed once before when attached to an export tax bill.
Some industry watchers are not confident of passage. The energy bill "appears lifeless with roughly 50 legislative days left," writes Morgan Stanley in a recent equity research note. "Attempts to split pieces of the