US House committee solicits industry advice on short-term energy fixes

The US House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources Tuesday sought industry advice on short-term solutions for increasing energy supply from federal lands. No administration official testified, although lawmakers heard from various industry representatives.


WASHINGTON, DC, May 22 --The US House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources Tuesday sought industry advice on short-term solutions for increasing energy supply from federal lands.

No administration official testified, although lawmakers heard from representatives from the American Petroleum Institute, Arch Coal, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, and the National Ocean Industries Association.

Witnesses were asked to make their testimony as specific as possible, with an eye toward actions that Congress could implement to "significantly" increase domestic supply within 5 years.

An emphasis on what can be done in the short-term to alleviate higher energy prices has been a favorite topic among Democrats, who argue that the White House's new energy blueprint focuses too heavily on long-term solutions.

Republicans on Capitol Hill and the White House maintain the president's plan offers a full range of proposals, which if implemented could show immediate benefits. With regard to boosting energy supplies however, the White House has cautioned that there are no "quick fixes."

API in its testimony agreed with the White House's assessment. It noted that "most of the significant supply developments on federal properties are the result of congressional and administrative actions in the mid-90s. As a consequence, we should be cautious that a focus on the next 5 years does not distract us from measures needed today with equally or more serious consequences for supply 10 or 15 years in the future."

Nevertheless, API testified that increased access to federal lands, in the West, offshore, and Alaska "is the single most important lever that the government holds to affect domestic oil and gas supply in the next 5 years and beyond."

The association stressed that increased access extends "beyond the mere act of leasing property"; it extends to removing overzealous environmental barriers that do not recognize new technological advances.

Citing a 1999 Department of Energy report, API said that "innovative E&P approaches are making a difference to the environment. With advanced technologies, the oil and gas industry can pinpoint resources more accurately, extract them more efficiently and with less surface disturbance, minimize associated wastes, and ultimately, restore sites to original or better condition."

IPAA also told the subcommittee that increased access to federal land and waters was important. Additionally, the association said, Congress should consider expanding tax breaks for marginal production to help independents attract capital, because "this industry will be competing against other industries offering higher returns for lower risks."

Another key point for policymakers is how to manage offshore areas. The National Ocean Industries Association noted that the Minerals Management Service should seriously consider expanding the areas available for leasing when the agency unveils its latest 5-year plan for the federal offshore this year.

MMS should also be commended for expanding efforts to streamline permitting via a stronger internet presence, NOIA said.

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