* Energy plan would open parts of Atlantic coast to drilling
* Murkowski says plan is meant to kick off a dialogue
* Plan supports renewable energy research funding
* Conservation group says plan not serious on climate change
By Ayesha Rascoe
WASHINGTON, Feb 4 U.S. independence from OPEC
could be a reality if the U.S. government opens more lands for
oil and gas development, speeds permitting and approves the
Keystone XL pipeline, the top Republican on the Senate energy
committee said in a policy report on Monday.
Senator Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, laid out a wide-ranging
plan to take advantage of the United States' energy bounty.
"We no longer should view energy policy from a perspective
of scarcity, but rather, from a perspective of increasing
abundance," the 120-page report from Murkowski's office said.
"With the right policies, abundant and affordable energy is
Murkowski's vision called for the government to embrace the
nation's shale oil and gas boom and various other fuels, rein in
regulations, and eschew new mandates on the use of renewable
Many of the policies, such as opening parts of Atlantic
coast and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, are
perennial Republican objectives. These goals are likely to face
strong opposition in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Many
Democrats vehemently oppose expanded drilling.
Murkowski acknowledged that many of the ideas promoted in
her plan may not gain traction, but said her main goal was to
open a dialogue on what lawmakers could realistically tackle.
"I'm putting a lot of ideas on the table. Some of them may
take off like rockets, others may be total duds," Murkowski told
reporters. "What I'm trying to do is figure out how we get
moving on energy policy for this country."
Murkowski's home state of Alaska is the No. 3 U.S. crude
oil-producing state, according to the U.S. Department of
Energy's Energy Information Administration, and is home to
significant oil and gas reserves in National Petroleum Reserve,
the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve and elsewhere.
Ultimately, Murkowski said she hoped the Senate Committee on
Energy and Natural Resources would be able to pass smaller
chunks of legislation on a bipartisan basis, and that these
bills would eventually make it to votes by the full Senate.
By working with her counterparts in the House of
Representatives and with Senate leadership, Murkowski said she
hoped to avoid the fate of previous energy efforts that
languished once they were voted out of the committee.
Parts of the report where lawmakers might be able to find
common ground include funding for clean energy research and
energy efficiency, both issues that have garnered bipartisan
support in the past.
While Murkowski's plan does not support any new mandates
that would push the expansion of power from renewable resources,
it backs using revenue from increased oil and gas development to
fund clean energy research. The plan also calls for considering
extending energy-saving tax credits as a part of overall tax
The energy blueprint also addressed the nation's crude oil
stockpile, saying the government should develop criteria
clarifying that the Strategic Petroleum Reserve should not be
used to address price spikes.
Republicans have complained that the Obama administration's
2011 release from the reserve, in response to unrest in Libya,
did not address a significant supply disruption.
The shale oil and gas revolution has raised prospects of
significant U.S. liquified natural gas exports. Some lawmakers
and manufacturers have raised concerns that LNG exports could
harm U.S. industries and increase prices for consumers.
Murkowski's blueprint backs expediting gas exports to U.S.
allies without trade agreements that are facing fuel
emergencies, such as Japan in the wake of its nuclear disaster.
Although Murkowski said some of her proposals would help to
lower greenhouse gas emissions, she rejected "heavy-handed"
approaches such as a cap-and-trade regime or carbon tax.
The Wilderness Society, an environmental group, blasted
Murkowski's approach to climate change.
"Instead of building on the path the country is on towards
using precious energy more efficiently and competing for the
renewable energy jobs of tomorrow, this energy plan is a U-turn
on progress," said David Moulton, senior legislative director
for the conservation group.