Bipartisan Center seeks national panel on energy

In another effort in the quest for a national energy policy, the Bipartisan Policy Center on Nov. 27 called for establishment of a National Energy Security Council (NESC) to provide “cross-agency coordination for all major energy-related decisions.”

One of the tasks assigned the new council will be development of a national energy review that would be published every four years. This mirrors the approach used to develop national security policy, in which the Executive Branch prepares a National Security Strategy subject to a Quadrennial Defense Review prepared by the Department of Defense.

Creation of this council, and various other energy recommendations for the executive branch, were unveiled in a Washington, D.C., press conference that featured former Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.), former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), General James L. Jones USMC (Ret.) and former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator William K. Reilly.

“The U.S. Department of Energy and the 20 other agencies involved in energy policy each play an important role in the development and implementation of our national energy policy. But with that many agencies involved in energy issues, coordination, implementation and oversight are often difficult,” said Dorgan.

Officials say don’t wait for the next energy crisis

During the event at the National Press Club, various officials said the time to start drafting a better coordinated energy policy is now – when the nation experiencing a relative boom in energy production.

“There is lots of good news in terms of energy. We should take action now to build on this good news, instead of waiting until we’re experiencing a crisis,” Lott said.

“With the beginning of a new presidential term we have a remarkable opportunity to institutionalize a process for creating strategic national energy policy,” said Jones. The retired general said the new architecture would stress energy goal setting, policy formulation and coordination.

Every U.S. president since Richard Nixon has produced a national-level energy plan or strategy, though plans have varied considerably in their vision, emphasis, form, durability and degree of implementation, the Bipartisan Center noted.

Such plans are complicated internationally “by a new set of geopolitical tensions driven by growing global competition for energy resources, addressing a range of environmental issues and mobilizing the resources for energy R&D at a time of unprecedented fiscal pressure on states and the federal government alike,” BPC said in its report.

There are also a slew of complications in the federal bureaucracy.

“Energy-related responsibilities fall under at least 20 distinct federal agencies and departments,” according to the BPC report. “As a result, no single entity is in a position to implement, coordinate and assess all of the federal government’s energy-related activities and initiatives. This has increased the potential for failure in coordination, incompatible agendas, duplication and inconsistency across the federal complex.”

This strategy must be paired with a coordinated implementation plan that can respond to often unpredictable economic, political and technological conditions, BPC said.

While the effort is geared toward the executive branch, the four-year reports will also be of great use to the Congress, Lott said. The former senator from Mississippi said the information will also help lawmakers carry out their oversight role.

The BPC Strategic Energy Policy Initiative draws input from a diverse group of key stakeholders, including high-level industry executives, scientists, economics, environmental representatives, labor leaders and former government and elected officials.

The Initiative will release a more comprehensive set of recommendations in early 2013.

The BPC was founded in 2007 by former Senate Majority Leaders Howard Baker, Tom Daschle, Bob Dole and George Mitchell. BPC seeks to combine politically-balanced policymaking with strong, proactive advocacy and outreach.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.