Oregon Senator Ron Wyden is poised to chair the Committee on Energy and Natural resources. He’ll take the gavel from New Mexico Democrat Jeff Bingaman, who is retiring at the end of the year.
Wyden says the U.S. in the middle of an abrupt shift: after years of importing natural gas and coal, companies are now rushing to export it. There’s no clear national policy on whether those exports should be encouraged or slowed down.
“I want to make sure that our consumers, you know homeowners and businesses and others, are right in the center of the debate,” Wyden says.
The senator hasn’t taken a position on specific proposals to build coal and natural gas export terminals in the Northwest, though he’s raised concerns that natural gas exports could drive up domestic prices.
He says as committee chairman, he’ll look closely at impact of fossil fuel exports on the environment and national security.
Guy Caruso is an energy analyst at the Center for International and Strategic Studies. He says Wyden is stepping into a leadership position on energy issues at a time when king coal is giving way to natural gas, thanks to hydraulic fracturing and other techniques that are leading to big upticks in supply.
“We’ve now got this abundance of shale gas, that looks to most analysts like they’ll be demand constrained on how much of that gas will be produced,” Caruso says.
Caruso says natural gas producers are eager to get their product to markets overseas where prices are higher than in the U.S.
And natural gas power plants are increasingly competitive with coal power plants, making it harder for coal companies to find customers here, and driving up interest in exports. He says stricter emissions regulations from the EPA are also leading coal companies to look for ways to transport coal to foreign markets.
“It wouldn’t be a bad time to have a rethink about the broader energy policy. And maybe senator Wyden will embrace that,” Caruso says.
Caruso says officials in the Obama administration recognize it’s time to take another look at energy policy. But they told him, not until after the election.
Congrats to David James for his winning submission, 'Annabella smelling the Balsam.'
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