Letter to the Harvesting Clean Energy
from Sen. Conrad Burns
October 11, 2001
Federal Building, Room 443
10 East Babcock Street
Bozeman, MT 59715
Thank you for inviting me to participate
in the Alternative Energy Conference. Due to senatorial duties, I am unable to
join you today, but thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to you through
I wish to commend your foresight
in offering this comprehensive conference. Energy is the storm cloud that has
been forming over our economy for the past several years. Rising fuel prices cost
our economy at least a hundred billion dollars in 1999 alone. Since the tragic
events of September 11th, energy is no longer just an economic crisis, but a matter
of national defense. At no time, in our Nation's history, has it become more critical
that we wean our dependence on foreign energy supplies.
In the past decade, the price of
a barrel of oil has more than doubled from $15.99 in 1992 to over $30.00 today.
Natural gas prices have gone from $1.74 per thousand cubic feet at the wellhead,
to nearly $5.00 per thousand cubic feet. Gasoline prices, at the pump, were around
$0.93 per gallon compared to $1.50 today. We know that, in the next two decades,
our demand for oil will grow by a third. Yet we are producing 39% less oil today
than we did in 1970. During the Arab oil embargo, 36% percent of our oil came
from abroad. Today, 56% is imported. If current trends in supply are not reversed,
we will be receiving 64% of our energy supply from foreign sources. It has been
20 years since a large refinery has been built in the United States. According
to Vice-President Dick Cheney, just meeting the projected demand for power will
require between 1300 and 1900 new power plants. This is an average of 1 power
plant per week for the next 20 years.
Nine percent of the electricity
generated in America comes from hydroelectric power. Fifty percent of Montana's
electrical production comes from dams. Electricity costs, in the Northwest alone,
went from $20.00 per megawatt hour to a peak of nearly $300.00 per megawatt hour.
Electricity consumption has increased 24%, while generation has only increased
4%. The Electric Power Research Institute recently reported a predicted 20-25%
growth in electricity demand in the next decade, coupled with the same 4% increase
in generation and transmission. We simply do not have the necessary infrastructure
to move supply freely between markets. It is estimated that an additional 55,000
miles of line is needed to expand and complete our electrical transmission highway.
I think it is important to note here, that we were able to secure a $250,000 appropriation
in the Emergency Supplemental Energy Bill. This legislation requires the Western
Area Power Administration to study how best to upgrade their transmission system.
We also lead the fight to get $2 billion more in borrowing authority for the Bonneville
Power Administration to assist in upgrading their system, but there is much more
work to do.
Adding authority for sitting transmission lines and pipelines is a necessity.
Upgrades and new construction of transmission lines are essential. Loop lines
must be added to natural gas pipelines along with added compression in order to
pump more gas down the same path. Alternative forms of energy such as wind, solar,
biomass, geothermal, fuel cells, clean coal and nuclear power must be studied,
and research and development must be encouraged. An estimated 393 gigawatts of
new generating capacity is needed by the year 2020, to meet a predicted 52% increase
in energy consumption.
Rest assured, I have been busy working with the Bush Administration and the Senate,
on many of these potential energy solutions, through various pieces of legislation.
Senate Bill 60 will authorize the Department of Energy to develop and implement
an accelerated research and development program for advanced clean coal technologies
for use in coal-based electricity generating facilities. SB 389 will protect the
energy and security of the United States and decrease America's dependency on
foreign oil sources to 50% by the year 2011. SB 172 amends the Federal Power Act
to establish mandatory reliability standards for the bulk-power system. SB 1231
also amends the Federal Power Act, but its goal is to establish a system for market
participants, regulators and the public to have access to certain information
about the operation of electricity power markets and transmission systems. SB
188 and 249 amends the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to modify the tax credit
for electricity produced from certain renewable resources. SB 670 amends the Clean
Air Act to increase production and use of ethanol. SB 1255 is a bill to encourage
the use of carbon storage sequestration practices in the United States. These
are just examples of pending legislation that will help ensure America becomes
an energy independent nation.
I also support the President's Comprehensive Energy Plan consisting of 5 points:
1) Modernize and increase conservation.
This may be done by expanding conservation through increased funding in energy
efficient programs, encouraging the development of fuel-efficient vehicles, creating
tax credits to encourage consumer conservation, and expanding Department of Energy
2) Modernize and expand our energy infrastructure. We may accomplish this through
creating a new, high-tech energy delivery network by expediting permitting for
infrastructure improvements, expanding research on reliable energy transmission,
and tearing down regulator barriers that hurt consumers by preventing them from
having lower energy bills and more dependable energy.
3) Diversify energy supplies. By deploying the latest technologies, we may increase
environmentally-friendly exploration and production of domestic energy resources.
The plan invests in new energy technologies, expands the use of alternative and
renewable energy, such as wind, solar, biomass, geothermal and the safe expansion
of nuclear energy;
4) Improve and accelerate environmental protection. A balance may be achieved
by using new anti-pollution technologies to increase our energy production while
protecting our environment. The plan will cut harmful emissions from electric
power plants and increase funding for clean coal research.
5) Strengthen America's energy security. We must protect our energy market from
wild fluctuations in energy prices and supply. We must reduce our dependence on
foreign oil and build strong relationships with energy producing nations in our
America has been void of a domestic
energy policy for sometime. We no longer have the luxury of relying on foreign
supplies to warm, cool and light our homes and to power our transportation. However,
the horizon is bright with alternative energy sources. We have been blessed with
an abundance of natural resources, and the ingenuity and entrepreneurship to solve
this energy crisis. In the current foreign climate, we must not fail. Thank you
again for the invitation to speak to you today and God Bless.
United States Senator