Issue Position: Energy
Our growing dependence on foreign oil for our nation's energy needs is one of the most pressing issues facing America. Congress in the past several years has made progress on energy, but still more needs to be done.
In 2005 Congress passed the Energy Policy Act that provides tax breaks and incentives for research and construction of many forms of renewable energy, funding to jump start new nuclear power plants, funding for research into hydrogen fuel cells provisions that remove roadblocks to some oil leasing, coal gasification, oil shale and gas hydrate research and development.
In 2007 Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act that concentrates on promoting energy efficiency and fuel conservation. The bill sets new energy efficiency standards for a host of major appliances and for light bulbs in the future. It raises the gas mileage that new vehicles will need to get, hiking mileage requirements by 10 miles per gallon by 2020 - a change that should save Americans $25 billion a year in fuel bills. The change, however, allows American automakers a lot of flexibility to achieve the standards so they can continue to make the types of vehicles Alaskans need to get around on snow and ice. The measure increases the amount of biofuels that America likely will produce, lessening our dependence on foreign oil. The bill also provides more aid to get geothermal, ocean, and in Alaska, small hydroelectric projects moving.
The 2007 bill includes two grant programs, the Renewable Energy Deployment Grant fund to provide federal aid for all forms of renewable energy development in Alaska. It also authorizes funds to help get geothermal power projects underway in high-cost areas. Getting the programs up and running and funded will be a major goal of mine in the future.
But besides pressing for alternative fuels and conservation, the bill tries to speed supplies of traditional fossil fuels to get to market. It includes technical fixes to help the Alaska Gas Pipeline Coordinator's Office get staffed and running more quickly so that it can help the state's effort to get a gas line built.
I intend to continue to press for the most significant step Congress can take to achieve a balanced energy plan. That would be to increase domestic energy production by allowing a tiny portion of the Arctic coastal plain in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to be opened for some type of oil exploration and development. Opening just a few thousand acres offers the nation the single best opportunity to find more oil improving our energy security. Opening ANWR will grow our economy by producing thousands of jobs across the country and through the use of new technology will protect our environment.
But Alaska has more than oil on our North Slope and in offshore waters. We lead the nation in coal reserves. I intend to continue to push for more research and development funding to help produce coal and then to capture and store the carbon emissions it releases and capture any pollution it can cause. I also will continue to fight for funding to install alternative energy that can cut the high cost of electricity based upon the current high fossil fuels that too many Alaskans pay.
Alaska has 35 trillion cubic feet of natural gas ready to go to market from the Prudhoe Bay fields, gas that may be worth well over $150 billion. It is also expected that another 150 to 200 trillion cubic feet of conventional gas can be found under the ground and oceans of northern Alaska, gas that could spur petrochemical development and meet Alaska's energy needs for decades into the future. Thus it is vital that Alaska redouble its efforts to get that gas to market as quickly as possible, before alternative technologies or liquefied natural gas from elsewhere in the world fills the niche for Alaska's gas in domestic markets.
In 2004 I helped win approval of an $18 billion federal loan guarantee (indexed to inflation) to help pay for the construction of a natural gas pipeline to move Alaska's gas to market, plus three quarters of a billion dollars of tax subsidies to help defray the cost of installing the actual pipeline on Alaskan soil and of building a North Slope gas conditioning plant. In addition to expedited permitting and court reviews, we also established a Pipeline Coordinator to oversee construction of a pipeline, whether it is an overland route through Canada or an LNG export facility at the end of an All-Alaska gas pipeline project.
In 2007 we provided the Office of Pipeline Coordinator with greater flexibility to hire staff more quickly and gain funds to pay for oversight of the pipeline.
With these incentives and streamlining in place, I encourage the State, Legislature and the North Slope gas owners to do all they can to quickly reach agreement on a feasible project to get Alaska's gas into the market as soon as possible. Given that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last year reported that there are more than 6,000 trillion cubic feet of gas available throughout the world ready for LNG conversion and sale, it is imperative that Alaska get our gas to market sooner rather than later, in order to compete against all those reserves worldwide.