By Libby Casey
Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski is complaining about what she calls a lack of progress by the Obama Administration on certain energy issues.
In a Senate floor speech Thursday Murkowski said the President’s budget does NOT do enough to support nuclear energy or fossil fuel development. She says that runs contrary to Obama’s pledge during his recent State of the Union speech to support nuclear and new oil and gas development.
This disconnect is both disappointing and perhaps a little difficult to explain. At the very least, it’s apparent that the vision that the President presented to Congress does not match up with what some of his agencies have in mind. And I don’t believe these are welcome shifts.
Murkowski’s criticism comes despite President Obama’s move to TRIPLE the loan guarantees available to the nuclear industry. He wants to boost it from 18 billion dollars to 54 billion dollars.
Murkowski admits she approves of that, but still chided Obama for scrapping the nuclear waste site at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, and for not helping finance a nuclear project in its first year in office. She says while the Administration is making what she called “some progress” on nuclear, she does not see it doing so on oil and gas development.
Instead of seeking to increase production, the budget request includes at least 21 new taxes and fees for the oil, natural gas, and coal industries. 21 new taxes and fees. Collectively, those increases would raise producers’ cost of business by an estimated $80 billion dollars.
The Obama Administration has asked Congress to suspend billions of dollars in tax breaks to oil and gas companies, saying the high-income industry does NOT need them, and that eliminating the subsidies would help fight climate change.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has defended the President’s position saying that the oil and gas industry are pulling in record profits. Salazar was scheduled to testify this week before the Senate Energy Committee, in which Murkowski is the top Republican, but it was postponed because of snow.
Murkowski wasn’t the only member of Alaska’s Congressional delegation to weigh-in on the White House’s approach to energy issues this week. Democratic Senator Mark Begich did so too. He sent a letter to President Obama on Tuesday urging him to reconsider repealing tax incentives for independent, American-owned oil and gas producers. Begich also asked the White House to stay focused on domestic oil and gas production, especially on a potential Alaska natural gas pipeline.
Both Senators are watching for an Interior Department announcement about offshore oil and gas leases. It’s expected to decide soon how to proceed with a five-year development plan.