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Energy Time

Editorial, NY Times
Al Hubbard, the economic adviser who’s coordinating the administration’s energy strategy, recently promised that President Bush would produce “headlines above the fold that will knock your socks off in terms of our commitment to energy independence.” Every president since Richard Nixon has talked this way, while every year the country slides further into dependency. Mr. Bush’s overpromising has included a forecast that we would all be buying hydrogen-fueled cars in 20 years and his pledge a year ago to rid the country of its addiction to oil.

Still, we must hope that Mr. Bush is serious this time, because we simply cannot continue to hold our national security and the health of the planet hostage to our appetite for fossil fuels.

… For its part, Congress is churning out energy bills. But this is a recipe for paralysis unless it observes a few basic guideposts.

¶The last thing America needs is another multi-year debate leading to yet another giant bill that offers something for everyone without really changing the way this country produces and uses energy. Senators Harry Reid and Jeff Bingaman have produced the outlines of a bill that could become the template for more specific action. It sets two basic goals: reducing the country’s dependency on oil and reducing the risks of global warming. And it focuses on a handful of remedies, including more efficient automobiles, the rapid development of alternative fuels and cleaner ways of producing power.

¶Partisanship and posturing must be resisted. Right now, House Democrats are fixated on eliminating unnecessary tax breaks and closing loopholes that favor the oil and gas industry. Fair enough, but that’s not an energy policy.

…The world has lots of coal, which can indeed be converted to gasoline. But the process releases enormous amounts of carbon, far more than refining oil into gasoline does. Unless we are willing to invest in technologies that can sequester carbon emissions and keep them out of the atmosphere, turning to coal could be a disaster for global warming.

So far, nobody – not the coal industry, Congress or the White House – has displayed much interest in making these investments, just as nobody except for a few states like New York and some plucky private investors has shown much interest in the investments necessary to produce biofuels on a commercial scale. Without them, we’re just talking a good game, which is all Mr. Bush did last year.
(16 Jan 2007)
Also posted at Common Dreams.

Senate hearing: US foreign policy must consider changing energy world

Nick Snow, Oil & Gas Journal
US foreign policy needs to better recognize the impacts of a changing energy world, experts told the US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Jan. 10.

“We’re fighting in a post-9/11 environment with a pre-9/11 energy policy that’s not sufficient to deal with disruptions,” said Robert Hormats, vice-chairman of Goldman Sachs (International). “Look at what’s happening in Nigeria, where there are kidnappings; in Russia, which is trying to exercise more direct influence on oil and gas, and in Iran and Iraq, where political prospects are uncertain.”

Hormats was one of five witnesses discussing the geopolitics of oil in the committee’s first hearing of the 110th Congress. …

While technically not yet the committee chairman because the Senate had not held its elections, Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) ran the hearing, which he intended to help establish a context for subsequent deliberations. “The idea is to begin the year with an overview of the geopolitics of oil. I hope that it’s useful,” he said.

Other committee members sought information about potential benefits of developing alternative fuels more aggressively or sharing technology with other countries. Witnesses essentially responded that there’s no single solution and every option needs to be pursued to reduce US dependence on crude imports from politically unstable foreign suppliers.
(10 Jan 2007)
Good report. Another account appeared at Global Public Media:

Democrats drying up oil industry tax breaks

Richard Simon, LA Times
When oil company executives came before the Republican-controlled Congress in 2005 to defend their record profits amid high gasoline prices, they were spared the indignity of being sworn in under bright TV lights, as the tobacco chiefs had been a decade earlier.

But with Democrats in charge, perhaps no industry will find the new Congress less hospitable than the oil industry.

That will be underscored Thursday when the House is expected to approve a bill that would repeal billions of dollars in oil industry tax breaks passed by the GOP-controlled Congress.

The measure would raise about $14 billion over 10 years by repealing the tax breaks and by closing a loophole that allowed royalty-free offshore oil leases. The money would be used to promote energy conservation and develop alternative fuels.

Currently, the government spends about $1.2 billion a year on projects to promote energy efficiency and renewable fuels.

“It looks like Congress is looking to rebalance the equation,” said Bill Prindle, acting executive director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, an energy think tank based in Washington.

Repealing the tax breaks will be the last of a spate of measures, including today’s vote to cut interest rates for student loans, that House Democrats pledged to pass in their first 100 legislative hours.
(17 Jan 2007)
Related from Rigzone: U.S. House Ready to Vote on Oil Tax, Royalty Plan.