Bottom Line Energy Issues - September 2001

Sept. 17, 2001
Congress Comes Back to Work - FERC Restructured - Bush Acts

As soon as he got back to DC after recess, Senate Energy Chair Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) signaled his intent to move energy legislation begun by the House. The plan floated by his staff would dramatically hike authority of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to oversee wholesale bulk power markets through more regulation of the nation's high voltage transmission system. But he faces the awkward prospect of having his committee approve drilling for oil in the Alaska wildlife preserve, which has attracted threats of a filibuster from his own party.

President Bush appointed his friend and energy advisor, Patrick Henry Wood III, to run the FERC and charged him with moving the nation's electricity system toward deregulation. In a press conference Wood said the President told him, "Pat, get us to a that's what I am about...competitive markets coast to coast."

Feeling the potential of federal intrusion, State governors adopted a policy at the closing session of their 93rd annual meeting that state and local authorities should have input into the nation's energy plans. Ensuring environmental quality comes second in the list of ten principles embodied in the governor's energy policy. Number one is "adequate, affordable energy supplies and services." Iowa Gov. Thomas Vilsack said, "Our goal should always be to assure American families and businesses their energy prices will be stable." (Editor: Sounds incompatible with deregulation to me.)

Pres. Bush issued an executive order to all Federal buyers of electronic equipment to specify only products that consume one watt or less when in standby mode, calling conventional equipment that draws 15-20 watts in standby "energy vampires." The idea caught on in Congress and Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) got similar language inserted in the House energy bill passed Aug. 2. The consumer electronics industry went ballistic. Most electronic appliances found throughout a house consume more than one watt in standby mode. Gary Shapiro, CEO of Consumer Electronics Association said, "To conform to such regulations, manufacturers would be forced to remove existing features (such as remote controls and portability) from products while simultaneously incurring huge costs." However, Pres. Bush said in a speech at the Department of Energy, "These vampires use about 4 percent of the electricity in the average home. If we multiplied the vampire devices' energy consumption across the country, we're talking about 52 billion kilowatt-hours over a year, or the equivalent of 26 average-size power plants."

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