Commission That Produced “Bipartisan” Energy Report Dominated by Industry Interests, Produced Wish List for Energy Companies

Dec. 8, 2004

Commission That Produced “Bipartisan” Energy Report Dominated by Industry Interests, Produced Wish List for Energy Companies

Statement by Wenonah Hauter, Director, Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program

Congress and the public should read the National Commission on Energy Policy’s report (released today) with a critical eye and should not be fooled by a false “bipartisan and independent” label. The reality is that this panel was dominated by energy industry interests.  It is no surprise that the policies embraced in today’s report represent a wish list for energy companies and coal in the stockings for America’s consumers and the environment.

The commission bows to the electricity industry’s interests by supporting an increase in coal‑fueled electric power while opposing a federal renewable energy standard – despite the fact that such a clean power standard has already been adopted by 18 states. 

The report readily admits that cost, safety, security, waste and proliferation risks are all “substantial” barriers to expanding nuclear power. Yet, with the energy giant Exelon’s chief executive as the co‑chair of the panel, the commission dismisses these issues as easily resolved and recommends throwing another $2 billion at the industry.

And the report is silent on the failure of energy deregulation to provide lower prices and a cleaner environment, as it fails to endorse strong new regulations of the energy industry that are necessary to protect consumers from continued market manipulation.

The energy industry’s influence on the commission also is apparent in the report’s recommendation that the law be changed to ensure that Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) – and not states – has exclusive jurisdiction over onshore liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities. This controversial recommendation is the subject of a lawsuit brought by the state of California against FERC asserting that states and local communities should have adequate say over the siting and permitting of these controversial projects. (Congress slipped language into the recent appropriations bill saying that FERC can pre-empt states on LNG facility siting, but lawmakers didn’t go so far as to change the law.)

And the report’s message on the critical need for improvements in fuel economy and reductions in harmful vehicle-related greenhouse gas emissions is mixed at best.  While the report says that meaningful increases in fuel economy standards of 10-20 miles per gallon are feasible, it fails to include a target number or time frame.

And while it concedes that the safety concerns related to fuel economy are properly viewed as a thing of the past because of new advances in technology and the advent of hybrids, it advocates a “credit trading” program (allowing automakers that exceed fuel economy standards to trade “credits” to those that do not) that is political pie-in-the-sky. The enormous advantage foreign manufacturers have over the domestics means that Detroit would likely resist any such program.

Overall, the results are not surprising. The commission was dominated by individuals with significant financial interests in major energy corporations, presenting clear conflicts of interest.  Among the commission members: John Rowe, president and CEO of Exelon, the largest nuclear power plant operator in the U.S.;  Linda Gillespie Stuntz, a corporate lobbyist for the energy industry; and Archie Dunham, chairman of ConocoPhillips, a company that has spent $5.7 million since 2001 lobbying the government on energy policy.

Despite touting themselves as a diverse group of interests, the 16-member commission includes only one person classified as a consumer advocate, who is also the former chair of a state utility commission, , while 10 of the members have direct, financial ties to energy corporations. This is certainly welcome and desperately needed, but a solo voice for consumer interests is insufficient.

For background information about each of the commission’s members, click here.

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