Murkowski Report Offers 'Blueprint' for Future Energy Policymaking

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) unveiled a report Monday offering a blueprint for the conversation about where energy and natural resource policies should go over the next few years.

In the report, Energy 20/20, A Vision for America's Energy Future, Murkowski offers recommendations on how to align federal energy policy with what Murkowski sees as a consensus that the United States should make energy abundant, affordable, clean, diverse and secure. These recommendations not only include oil and gas, but renewable resources as well.

Among these recommendations is for the United States to establish a national goal to produce enough additional oil, biofuels and synthetic fuels to become independent by 2020 of imports from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

"The fulfillment of this commitment would support the creation of millions of well-paying jobs, increased federal revenues, reduction of U.S. budget and trade deficits, and help maintain affordable world energy prices," Murkowski noted.

The federal government can help achieve energy independence from OPEC by 2020 by:

  • Expediting federal permitting and reviewing decisions for energy
  • Natural resources and related infrastructure projects
  • Allowing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to move forward
  • Requiring the U.S. Department of the Interior outline plans for development of Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) resources to more accurately estimate available resources and set minimum production targets, taking into account necessary environmental requirements

"Although these targets would be set administratively, they should be achievable and binding," Murkowski commented in the report. "If and when actual production is projected to fall short of such targets, additional leasing, onshore or offshore, should be made available to compensate for the shortfall."

Murkowski also called for an expansion of OCS leasing to the eastern Gulf of Mexico and offshore Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. Additionally, legislation should be passed for a consolidated offshore regulator, with a reaffirmed and strengthened statutory authority to develop offshore resources expeditiously through a certain and fair permitting process, while incentivizing safety and best environmental practices.

Additional amendments Murkowski calls for in the report concerning future oil and gas development include directing a share of revenues to participating offshore energy producing states – including offshore wind, tidal and wave generation – and establishing permanent revenue sharing for offshore development from leasing, bonus bids, rents, and royalty receipts at 27.5 percent with provision for direct partial payments to affected coastal communities.

The senator also called for the administration and its departments and agencies to reform the methods and processes through which energy policy is implemented and administered. This includes identifying impediments to federal oil and gas leasing and production. Specifically, the U.S. Department of the Interior must establish a review program and an accelerated auction schedule for previously and consistently nominated lease parcels that have yet to be put up for sale.

The National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska also must be immediately placed into full availability for oil and gas leasing, consistent with statutory designation.

"The reserve must be thoughtfully developed with roads, bridges and pipeline facilities that promote broad onshore development of the diffuse resource base, while simultaneously accommodating the transportation of oil and gas from offshore fields in the Chukchi Sea to the TransAlaska Pipeline System," Murkowski noted.

Murkowski also said that the benefits of the U.S. shale boom, and the jobs, higher wages and increased federal, state and local government tax revenues, should not be put at risk under a new federal regime for hydraulic fracturing that only makes it harder or impossible to produce U.S. shale resources.

"Particularly given the federal deficit, agencies should focus on directing limited resources where they are most needed and warranted, not where states are already effectively regulating and policing their activities," Murkowski commented.

New Technology Unlocks U.S. Oil Resources

New technology and studies continue to indicate that North America has a vast hydrocarbon base, with potential to substantially affect supply in world markets. Last year, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported the United States to have 220.2 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil, or more than a century's worth of projected imports from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. This figure does not include vast unconventional oil resources that will become commercially viable in the future.

"Abundant energy is possible, and there are already many signs of it becoming a reality as technological breakthroughs have lowered the cost of producing previously uneconomic supplies," Murkowski noted, adding that affordable energy is vital to U.S.
economic well-being, and a prudent balancing of energy production with proper standards for environmental regulation is more pressing than ever.

While the trend for oil production on state and private lands are quite positive – with approximately 96 percent of domestic oil production growth due to growth on state and private land – oil production on federal lands remained largely flat from 2003 through 2011, and sales of natural gas from federal lands fell by 31 percent. Of equal concern, the number of permits issued for onshore and offshore production on federal lands – a key indicator of future production – has also dropped significantly since the preceding administration.

"Our nation is too often hamstrung by burdensome regulations, delayed permits, and overzealous litigation," Murkowski commented. "This can render projects uneconomic by attrition and prevent timely, efficient and urgently needed investments in energy supply and conservation."

Murkowski noted that President Obama and the new Congress should work together to renew energy and natural resource policies through "discrete bills" and targeted oversight that proceed from a shared understanding of the facts.

"The ongoing boom in American oil and gas production must be fundamental to our national energy policy," Murkowski commented. "We no longer should view energy policy from a perspective of scarcity, but rather, from a perspective of increasing abundance. With the right policies, abundant and affordable energy is achievable."


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