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Chamber: Old policies don't help modern energy industry

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To Karen Harbert, U.S. energy policy is stuck in the past and has not kept up with the times.

"We're sitting here in 2014 in an era of abundance, but our regulatory framework is from the '70s and an era of scarcity," said Harbert, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy.

Harbert was in West Virginia last week to attend the annual winter meeting of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia. During her visit, she talked about the need to update national energy policy and the need to bring more people on board with the effort.

"For us at the Institute and the Chamber, West Virginia represents all of the opportunities and all of the challenges in our energy landscape," Harbert said.

Yes, coal has its challenges, Harbert acknowledged.

But Harbert also said West Virginia should look at who's hiring now: the oil and gas industry and related industries. Energy is now a solution and not a problem, she said.

Oil and gas have tremendous economic potential, but the question of how to transport oil, gas and natural gas liquids to market remains. At the beginning of the boom, people didn't realize how much infrastructure would have to be built and how burdensome it is, she says.

"When you have redundant permitting processes, it makes it hard to do this stuff," she said.

The current regulatory environment squeezes out coal, inhibits offshore drilling, slows down permitting for new nuclear power plants and effectively prevents the construction of new electric transmission lines, Harbert said.

"We're very entrepreneurial here, but you've got to have a partner in government, and we don't," she said. "If the federal government decides to regulate fracking, you're going to have a big, big problem.

"We believe that if the business community is going to lead, it's got to have a plan we can put forward. It's clear the federal policy is out of step not only with the energy reality but also with the economic reality."

The institute wants local and state business leaders to push for regulations and policies that open things up, Harbert says.

"With the paralysis as it is in Washington, it's time for business to get out front," she said.

The institute is pushing what it says are nine planks for a sound U.S. energy policy:

 

  • Remove barriers to increased domestic oil and natural gas production and fuel manufacturing.
  • Maintain coal's role as a vital part of a diverse energy portfolio.
  • Expand nuclear energy use and commit to a nuclear waste solution.
  • Enhance the competitiveness of renewable sources of energy.
  • Promote 21st century energy efficiency and advanced technologies.
  • Modernize the permitting process for energy infrastructure.
  • Protect energy infrastructure from physical disruptions and cyber attacks.
  • Reform the regulatory process for balance, predictability and transparency.
  • Ensure a competitive energy workforce.