The effort to craft a comprehensive national energy strategy got
a significant nudge this week. After two year's work, the
nonpartisan National Commission on Energy Policy, a panel funded by
several foundations, issued what's likely to be an influential
report addressing all aspects of energy policy: supply, national
security, environmental impact, and diplomacy.
Recommendations are laced with incentives as well as regulations
that in total are unlikely to completely please anyone - smokestack
apologist or solar-powered activist. Still, the commission's middle-
of-the-road approach could stimulate movement on the national energy
policy, which has stalled over things such as global warming and
drilling for oil in Alaska.
Among the major recommendations:
* "Significantly strengthening" vehicle fuel-economy standards
while providing $3 billion in consumer and manufacturing incentives
to build and buy hybrid and advanced diesel cars and trucks.
* Applying diplomatic pressure to encourage nations with
underdeveloped oil reserves to allow foreign investment while also
easing US economic sanctions that currently prevent such investment.
* Beginning in 2010, institute a mandatory "cap and trade"
program on greenhouse-gas emissions that would reduce such emissions
2.4 percent a year. This rate of reduction is 50 percent more than
the Bush administration proposes in its voluntary program.
* Build an Alaska natural gas pipeline.
* Invest $4 billion over the next 10 years in advanced coal
* Provide $2 billion over the next 10 years to research and
develop one or two advanced nuclear power plants.
* Increase federal support for renewable energy technology by
$360 million a year.
It's a plan designed to be both ambitious in scope and
politically realistic. Seated around the discussion table were
advocates for business, labor, consumers, and the environment.
The commission - prompted by 9/ 11, the California energy crisis,
and rising global energy expenditures - was formed early in 2002 by
independent foundations to address growing concerns about shared
resources. Among the 16 commission members are former EPA
administrator William Reilly, United Steel Workers president Leo
Gerard, Sharon Nelson of the Consumers Union, Ford Motor Company
vice president Martin Zimmerman, former CIA chief James Woolsey, and
Ralph Cavanaugh of the Natural Resources Defense Council. The
contrast with Vice President Dick Cheney's closed-door task force,
generally thought to be industry-heavy, was obvious.
While the overall energy package would cost some $36 billion over
10 years, it is designed to be revenue-neutral in that the money
would be raised by selling emission allowances for greenhouse gases. …