Now that the Energy Policy Act of 2005, passed by Congress and signed by President Bush this past summer, has had a chance to sink in, a review of the bill's perks and pork is in order. Supporters of the 1,724-page piece of legislation laud it as a triumph of job-creating bipartisanship that attempts to shore up our energy supply, while detractors call it a gargantuan giveaway to a well-heeled industry. Predicting the long-term effects of the legislation is difficult.
Will more federal authority be a boon or a barrier to the development of liquefied natural gas terminals and transmission lines? Will new reliability standards be sufficient-and will they be enforced?
One thing is certain: as even the president, the act's biggest supporter, has acknowledged, passage of the legislation won't have any immediate impact. "This bill is not going to solve our energy challenges overnight," Bush said just before signing the bill into law. "It's going to take years of focused efforts to alleviate those problems."
And the industry's long-term challenges became greater in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The president and the bill's sponsors-Pete Domenici, R-N.M., in the Senate, and Joe Barton, R-Texas, in the House-emphasize long-term supply, which they assure us the $12.3 billion, 10-year bill will bolster, and incentives for consumers to conserve energy. Yet the bill's critics in Congress call the bill a "series of missed opportunities" (Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.), and a "historic mistake" (Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass.) that should have done much more to wean the United States off its dependence on foreign oil.
Public Utilities Fortnightly is watching the fallout from the first major federal energy bill since 1992, and will continue to report on its consequences, both positive and negative.
First up are two views of the bill and its expected impact, written shortly after Bush signed the bill into law. Peter Fox-Penner sees promise in what he regards as an imperfect bill (see “A Welcome Truce in the Electricity Wars”), while Peter Van Doren and Jerry Taylor disagree (see “A Low-Voltage Energy Bill”). We hope readers enjoy what will be the first of many forums on the new legislation.