WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 31, 2009) — At a March 26, 2009 webinar on "Hot Energy Issues" sponsored by McDermott Will & Emery, energy industry and financial sector attendees learned that the Energy and Commerce Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives intends to report out by Memorial Day a bill to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through a cap-and-trade system and incentives to renewable energy technologies. Participants also learned that the Committee believes new technologies will enable natural gas to play a greater role in the nation's energy future. Those concerns emerged in a discussion with John W. Jimison, majority counsel to the Energy and Commerce Committee.
Although discussions in the webinar do not speak for the Committee or represent official Committee policy, they highlighted a number of significant emerging energy issues:
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the economic stimulus plan passed by Congress, funds for the first time some 90 renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives contained in energy legislation passed by Congress in 2005 and 2007. One of those initiatives, the construction of more than 3,000 miles of modernized transmission lines and deploying 40 million "smart meters" to reduce electric power usage in homes, will fundamentally change the provision of electric power in this country.
Chairman Waxman has set a goal for the Energy and Commerce Committee to report to the full house a bill that will position the United States as a global leader on climate change policy. The bill will likely include a "cap-and-trade" system for carbon dioxide emission credits, and incentives to encourage such renewable energy alternatives as municipal solid waste bioenergy and carbon sequestration.
Congress has a new and much higher level of confidence in unconventional natural gas sources such as shale, and in the technology that assures the environmental safety of offshore natural gas drilling. This will move natural gas more to the forefront of national energy policy.
Despite some legislative initiatives in Congress for greater federal control over electric transmission siting (similar to that exercised over natural gas pipelines), there appears to be no major desire by the states to give up siting control – especially since the ARRA authorizes $6 billion in loan guarantees through the states for siting of transmission lines from renewable energy installations.
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