U.S. Energy Policy Needs Fundamental Change

Expert Panel to unveil action plan for a smarter energy future.

Published: 15-Mar-2002

WASHINGTON, March 14 The United States' energy security is endangered by a short-sighted approach that tolerates inefficient energy use and requires ever-greater oil imports from overseas, according to a new policy initiative unveiled today on Capitol Hill. The National Energy Policy Initiative - which stems from a broad consensus among diverse experts on national energy policy - found that integrating proven policy innovations could simultaneously make the nation more secure, more prosperous and more environmentally sound.

The initiative today released a set of policy recommendations that was reached by consensus at a recent conference of 22 independent energy policy experts. The report asserts that the United States would be more secure and more prosperous if the nation focused on energy efficiency, invested in less-polluting automobiles and electricity systems, and diversified its range of energy supplies.

"We need to be more strategic about our energy policy," said Reid Detchon, a spokesman for the NEP Initiative who served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy during the first Bush Administration. "A diversified, resilient and environmentally responsible energy strategy would make our country more secure and more prosperous. At a time when a stalemated Senate is bickering over energy policy, this initiative points the way toward a set of proposals that can win a broad public consensus."

"Promoting efficiency is the key to developing a truly comprehensive energy policy," said Sen. Jeff Bingaman, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Bingaman hosted a Capitol Hill briefing today on the NEP Initiative for Members of Congress, their staffs and the news media. "We would do well as a nation to heed the recommendations contained in the NEP Initiative - a far-sighted plan that can build a strong national consensus for a new energy future."

"For three decades, U.S. energy policy has been driven by battles between powerful but narrow constituencies promoting their favorite energy technologies," said Amory Lovins, CEO (Research) of Rocky Mountain Institute. "Largely absent is a clear sense of what nearly everyone agrees about, and how to fuse those consensus elements into a balanced portfolio that can deliver energy services in ways that are secure, reliable, healthful, affordable, fair, durable, and flexible."

The National Energy Policy Initiative is a non-governmental, nonpartisan, foundation-supported project. The policy document released today was written in February 2002 by 22 independent, senior-level energy policy experts from the private and public sectors who reached a consensus on an overarching vision to guide U.S. energy policy, and on issue-specific strategies to advance that vision.

The current energy system of the United States has inadvertently created serious threats to our security, prosperity, and environment, according to the NEP Initiative expert report. The expert group concluded that these threats can be greatly reduced by policy changes that better align the interests of energy producers, distributors and consumers with broader social goals.

The expert group pointed to the transportation sector as the most urgent area for policy changes. Substantially increasing the fuel-efficiency of all vehicles, from automobiles to aircraft, and stimulating the wider use of advanced technologies could significantly reduce dependence on foreign oil supplies, reduce pollution, and improve national competitiveness and security.

The group also advocated reforming the regulation of the nation's electricity system; adopting a market-based approach - like a carbon tax or a "cap and trade" system - to limit emissions that provoke global climate change; and ensuring that any new U.S. nuclear power plants must be significantly cleaner, safer, more secure and less vulnerable to those who would divert nuclear materials than those in operation today. The group also called for targeted federal research and development in new technologies, and advocated steps to removing barriers to the commercialization of existing and emerging energy technologies.

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