Energy Roundup: Key Republican to push rare-element mining

Incoming House Natural Resources Committee chairman hopes for mining expansion

Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) — who will head the Natural Resources Committee when Republicans take control of the House next year — wants to lay the groundwork for U.S. mining of rare-earth elements.

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The elements are vital to a range of energy and defense technologies. The prospect that China — the world’s dominant supplier — will curtail exports is driving calls to re-start U.S. production.

“If we have the opportunity to utilize the resources we have on federal lands, we would go a long way to mitigating the fact that we don’t have access to rare earths,” Hastings told E2 Wednesday.

Hastings is bullish on prospects for U.S. development, citing a new U.S. Geological Survey report that concludes there are substantial domestic reserves (around 13 percent of the world’s total) spread across several states.

“This report proves that America has the resources to implement an all-of-the-above energy strategy, including the rare-earth elements that are vital to the development of alternative energy technologies like solar and wind. But our supply of domestic rare-earth minerals is meaningless if we don’t bring them into production,” he said in a prepared statement.

There is currently no U.S. mining of fresh rare-earth ores, although the company Molycorp Minerals hopes to re-open the Mountain Pass mine in California that shut down a decade ago.

Boucher has 'no regrets' on cap-and-trade despite election loss


Veteran Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) — whose loss was among the biggest surprises of the midterm elections — has no regrets about his role shaping last year’s House cap-and-trade bill, and does not believe his vote for it led to his defeat.

“I don’t think that it would have altered the final result at all,” Boucher told reporters Wednesday when asked if voting against the bill would have saved his job.
 
Some analysts on both sides of the cap-and-trade debate claim that Boucher’s work on the bill — and his vote for it — played a big role in his loss after 28 years on the job in a coal-rich western Virginia district.

Boucher has said he negotiated the best deal he could for a coal industry that had urged him to be their representative in shaping the bill. 
 
He acknowledges that cap-and-trade was “a little bit" of an issue in his reelection race. So was the Democratic healthcare bill, even though he opposed it, and the economic stimulus plan that he backed, Boucher said. “But none of that really predominated,” he said.
 
“I think there were lots of issues that affected my election,” Boucher said. “But the main thing was that it was just a wave and there was a ... kind of mentality on the part of voters to say ‘we don’t like the direction of the country; you’re the only messenger in sight we have for that and so we’re going to vote against you as a way to send that message.’ ”

'It wasn't personal'
 
Boucher added: “People voted against me who like me. People voted against me who are friends of mine; people I’ve done things with and for over the years, and it wasn’t personal. The election really had very little to do with me or anything I have done.”
 
It also “had virtually nothing to do” with Republican victor Morgan Griffith, “who really wasn’t well known even on Election Day.”
 
“So I’m rather philosophical about it and I have no regrets about anything that I did,” he said.
 
Boucher is not yet focusing on life after Congress.

“I’m just packing up the office and focusing on getting the work of this Congress completed, and after that’s done I’ll turn my attention to what comes next,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed my service here. I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed every minute of it but I’ve enjoyed every day of it.”

Lieberman eyes Republicans for energy deals


Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) is hopeful that bipartisan work on energy is in the cards next year, and already has a few Republicans in mind.

Lieberman and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) tried and failed to shepherd a sweeping mix of greenhouse gas caps and energy provisions through the Senate this year.

But with cap-and-trade politically dead for now, Lieberman believes GOP senators including Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Bob Corker (Tenn.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) could work with Democrats on an energy package.

Graham negotiated with Kerry and Lieberman for months on their big climate and energy bill, but walked away earlier this year.

“The problems of American energy dependence and global warming, climate change, get worse every day,” Lieberman told reporters in the Capitol Wednesday. “Because the problems are getting worse every day, we have got to start again and find some things that will pass. It will probably be less than we would have achieved if our legislation passed ... but less is better than nothing.”

Kerry, Lieberman and several other Senate Democrats met Tuesday to plot an energy agenda that could be assembled following the collapse of climate legislation. Others in the meeting included Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), and Tom Carper (Del.).

Offering an olive branch

“My own feeling is, some of us who met yesterday should sit down with a group of Republicans who are at all interested in energy independence legislation and start to say, ‘OK, last year we battled each other — now what can we agree on that will make for some progress here?’ ” Lieberman said.

One option, he said, is a “clean energy standard” that would require utilities to supply escalating percentages of power from low-emissions sources.

A renewable electricity standard has long been a pillar of Democratic energy plans. But Graham and other Republicans open to the concept say it must be a wider “clean” standard that credits energy from new nuclear power plants and coal plants if they capture carbon emissions.

Lieberman said that only the wider approach has legs. “I think if we are going to try to do something in a bipartisan way, it probably has to be a clean energy standard,” he said.

BP’s board to expand oversight

“BP’s board will tighten its oversight of the company’s day-to-day operations in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, its chairman has said in his first big interview since the accident,” the Financial Times reports.

“Carl-Henric Svanberg, appointed chairman in January, said he did not consider resigning following the oil spill in April, in spite of criticism from some investors for not taking a more public role at the height of the crisis.”

Philadelphia Eagles go green, underscoring sports trend


The Eagles aren’t just a heck of a lot better than the Washington Redskins — they’re greener too.

“On Thursday, the Philadelphia Eagles will announce perhaps the most ambitious green initiative yet: the installation of about 2,500 solar panels, 80 20-foot-high wind turbines and a generator that runs on natural gas and biodiesel so that Lincoln Financial Field, the Eagles’ home, will be the first stadium capable of generating all its own electricity,” The New York Times reports in a piece about pro franchises going green.

In case you missed E2 Wire yesterday

Check out these Wednesday posts:

Hastings seeks expanded energy role for Natural Resources panel

House Republican wants leaders to end 'painful to watch' Energy panel fight

Shimkus reaffirms his pursuit of E&C gavel

Grijalva signals he won’t challenge Markey for Natural Resources Committee perch

Murkowski wins reelection in Alaska Senate campaign

Landrieu keeps hold on Lew’s nomination intact

Barton claims significant support in chairman's race

Boxer: Republicans ‘dead-set against clean energy’

Barton: Boehner promises 'open and fair' energy panel race

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