Months ago, when the Republicans still believed they had a chance of retaking the Senate, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) started to think about what she would do if she became chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
No need to worry about that. But Murkowski went ahead anyway and drew up a blueprint about how Congress might address energy issues. She unveiled the plan last week: “Energy 20/20: A Vision for America’s Energy Future.” The cover shows the nighttime satellite view of the United States, brightly lit almost everywhere except Alaska.
To prevent the booklet, which weighs in at 121 pages, from heading straight for the proverbial shelf, Murkowski has been talking to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the new committee chairman. They aren’t cooking up a comprehensive energy bill, but they are looking for more modest, doable things. “Singles and doubles,” is how one committee staffer put it.
For now, it’s hard to say what those might be. Murkowski’s plan includes support for nuclear energy, the Keystone XL pipeline and exports of coal and liquefied natural gas (LNG). She would put government money into energy storage research. She would make “clean energy” a relative term, defining it as “less intensive in global lifecycle impacts on human health and the environment than its likeliest alternative.” She would open up the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for oil and gas exploration. She would open up more federal offshore areas for oil and wind development, divert some of the royalties to the states and commit the rest to an Advanced Energy Trust Fund for clean-energy research and to pay down the national debt.