Think tank: Renewed concern for energy as Congress returns

25 January 2010 00:00  [Source: ICB]

As the House and Senate return from their recess, there are renewed concerns among energy and chemical interests that well-meaning legislators and White House policy-makers could cripple the economy in the name of climate control.

 Rex Features
By most accounts, prospects for congressional passage this year of a cap-and-trade emission-reduction mandate are slim at best.

It's an election year, and many in Congress are both weary and wary of any major legislative undertakings that will be seen to raise energy costs and jeopardize jobs and the economy just as things are starting to look a bit better.

But while cap-and-trade was to form the core of a climate-change bill, such as the measure approved by the House last year, there may be an effort to seek Senate approval for a "climate lite" bill.

Such a bill would lack the scary elements of a cap-and-trade mandate but would seek to reduce US emissions of greenhouse gases by creating still more funding and tax incentives for alternative and renewable "green" energy resources - at the expense of conventional hydrocarbon energy.

A top US energy industry leader last week warned that President Barack Obama's policies and efforts by Congress to impose climate-change mandates will destroy jobs and undermine chemical production and other manufacturing.

Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, said: "Policies advanced recently seem aimed at chilling the job creation potential of domestic oil and natural gas development."

The Department of the Interior has announced new restrictions for oil and gas exploration and development on public lands, an action that has been criticized by Gerard and other energy industry officials.

Gerard also raises objections to a variety of bills now being considered by Congress that would impose emissions reductions on US utilities and the broad manufacturing sector in order to combat global warming.

"Some climate proposals would put US refiners at a competitive disadvantage, driving jobs out of the country, along with their emissions. Other proposals would increase costs on the oil and natural gas industry, depressing new investment in domestic oil and gas prospects."

While endorsing efforts to move the US toward a clean energy future - and noting that the nation's oil and gas producers are leading investors in alternative power technologies - Gerard cited studies showing that oil and gas will still supply more than half of the country's energy in 2030.

By: Joe Kamalick
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