Senate’s work on energy a good start

Last week, the Senate approved energy legislation that will increase the production of biofuels, promote energy efficiency, raise fuel economy standards and help us find additional ways to conserve energy, diversify our fuel mix and lower emissions.

While I believe the Senate-passed bill could have done more to build on the comprehensive Energy Policy Act of 2005 to address our energy challenges and global climate change concerns, it nevertheless represents a step in the right direction.

A large portion of the Senate-passed bill is the product of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Our committee put together a bipartisan package that establishes a new renewable fuels mandate, with a special emphasis on cellulosic ethanol. We also created new efficiency standards, starting with the federal government but also including household appliances that will save consumers money. Finally, we authorized major research and development for carbon capture and sequestration technology that will help lower emissions from traditional power sources.

I’m proud of the work that the committee did, and I am pleased to see it passed by the Senate. This legislation strengthens several facets of America’s energy supply. However, in my view, the Senate should have gone even further and taken a more comprehensive approach.

I strongly support the use of renewable energy. In fact, I was the leading proponent of tax credits to support wind, solar, biomass and other clean technologies in the 2005 law. But I do not think that strengthening these areas alone will be enough to meet our needs.

Our nation’s reliance on foreign sources of oil affects not only gas prices, but also our national security. For that reason, I believe we must do everything we can to increase domestic production of energy in an environmentally responsible manner.
That includes allowing states to opt out of the moratorium on drilling in the outer continental shelf, increasing our refining capacity, and promoting coal-to-liquids technology. Measures related to all of these issues were defeated in the Senate, resulting in what I believe is an incomplete bill.

I look forward to working on this legislation in a conference committee with the House.

I also want to mention that with all the talk regarding climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, it is important to note that America has a major potential solution to this problem — nuclear energy.

Nuclear energy is clean, affordable and reliable. Any serious effort to reduce our carbon emissions over the coming years must include nuclear as a large part of the solution. There is no other large-scale clean energy technology that is available now and ready for deployment. As a nation, we should be more willing to embrace this clean energy source.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 provided loan guarantee authority, production tax credits, and insurance protection against licensing delays and litigation for nuclear power projects I’m pleased to say that as a result of this legislation, over 30 nuclear power plants are now in development. If all those plants are built, at least 38,000 megawatts of electricity will be generated —enough to power 28 million homes, while producing zero airborne emissions.

If our nation can gather up the will to pursue all of our available resources — from conservation and renewable fuels to domestic oil production and nuclear energy — I believe we can and will establish a secure energy future.

Domenici is the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

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