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Oil rig
Lisa Murkowski's new energy plan would boost fossil fuel extraction on public and Indian lands
and deregulation production while all but ignoring the impacts of climate change.
If there are extraterrestrials hovering just outside the Oort Cloud waiting for Earth to warm up enough for them to be comfortable living here, they must have broken out the interstellar bubbly with the Monday release of Sen. Lisa Murkowski's Energy20/20: A Vision for America's Energy Future. A nightmare vision. The Alaska Republican's proposal would boost production and exports of coal as well as oil from conventional sources and non-conventional, extra-dirty ones like tar sands, shale oil and oil shale. This, we are told, can free the United States from dependence on OPEC oil by 2020, the "energy independence" goal that was first vaulted into public discussion 40 years ago.

Deregulation is a big theme in the plan. This would include turning over more energy regulation to the states, accelerating the permitting of drilling and other fossil fuel extraction from taxpayer- and Indian-owned lands, opening a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and granting additional leases for drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf. And, of course, the senator urges immediate approval of the Keystone XL pipeline to transport tar sands oil across the heartland.

It is not until page 108 of the 115-page plan that "climate change" finally makes an appearance. And when it does, Murkowski talks about uncertainties and competing theories while complaining that unelected bureaucrats at the Environmental Protection Agency are overstepping their bounds by enforcing rules "with costs that vastly outweigh their potential benefit." Her colleague, Sen. Jim "Global warming is a hoax" Inhofe, must be dancing a jig.

Renewable resources, conservation and efficiency get extensive lip service. Murkowski is a fan of expanding hydropower, already the largest producer of renewable power, by adding small turbines to many of the thousands of unelectrified dams throughout the nation. That's a good idea which has been proposed, with limited success, since the 1970s. Her plan also pays attention to the need for battery research and other means of storage for electricity produced by solar and wind resources.

But the language in which her perspective on the promise of such resources is couched betrays her poor understanding of renewables.

(Read more about Murkowski's myopic energy proposal below the fold ...)

For instance:

Moreover, new technologies such as wind and solar have not enjoyed the market penetration many predicted. It is prudent to use public resources to support clean energy development, but only when our resources serve as a catalyst for nascent but potentially transformative technologies. Perpetual subsidies are simply impossible in today’s fiscal environment.
Nobody has called for "perpetual subsidies," just some leveling of the playing field that has provided gigantic subsidies for coal, oil and nuclear power over decades, well after these industries had matured and were making billions in annual profits. As for new technologies like wind not "enjoying the market penetration many predicted," Murkowski is all wet.

Perhaps she is still referencing her copy of the U.S. Energy Information Administration's Annual Energy Outlook for 2005. The EIA, which has been for three decades relentlessly underestimating the growth in renewable energy installations in its forecasts, stated in the 2005 report that by 2025 wind turbines with a production capacity of 63 gigawatts would be installed. In fact, by the end of last year, wind capacity installations reached 60 gigawatts, enough to provide electricity for about 15 million homes. The EIA has continued on its merry way, however. The Annual Energy Outlook for 2012 forecasts a ridiculously low 70 gigawatts of installed wind capacity by 2035.

Murkowski's plan operates under the assumption that fossil fuels, nuclear and renewable energy can already compete on equal ground despite the decades of tax breaks and subsidies provided to coal and oil that have helped made them so profitable. Yet, in her proposals for federally funded basic research and more advanced research and development, the goal is clearly for promotion of the established fuels and tinkering around the edges when it comes to renewables.

The plan makes no mention of "portfolio standards" that would require a percentage of electricity to be generated from renewable sources as more than 20 states have established. No plans for, say, 20,000 solar rooftops as the Kossack-created Energize America 2020 proposed eight years ago. But more taxpayer funding for R&D into hydraulic fracking of oil and gas, extracting methyl hydrates, developing oil shale resources, gasifying coal in subsurface deposits, once again with an emphasis on doing this on Indian land, despite a history of rip-offs and swindles in that realm for nearly a century.

But, good old bipartisanship has already reared its tattered head:

The Democrats control the Senate, and Murkowski will need to work with them to get her priorities into law. She said her "Energy 20/20" document is a starting point for conversation in the Senate energy committee.

The committee chairman, Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden, received a copy of the 115-page document Friday and said he had to take a closer look before weighing in on it.

"Senator Wyden is looking forward to working with Senator Murkowski on legislation when the time comes, and to taking her plan’s recommendations into account as much as possible," said Wyden spokesman, Keith Chu.

That ought to be as little as possible.

Murkowski's plan is not without its merits. It makes sense to consolidate duplicative programs, cut away regulations that produce more paper than protection and establish reasonable measures for how productive various sources of energy really are. But overall, her proposals lay out a path that would ensure continued ignoring of global warming and continued dominance of fossil fuels for many decades to come. And that is exactly the opposite of the direction we should, and must, be headed.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 11:22 AM PST.

Also republished by DK GreenRoots, Climate Hawks, Climate Change SOS, and Daily Kos.

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