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Letter to the Harvesting Clean Energy Conference 
from Sen. Conrad Burns

October 11, 2001
Montana RC&D
Federal Building, Room 443
10 East Babcock Street
Bozeman, MT 59715

Dear Friends,

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 this letter.

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 conservation programs.

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 own hemisphere.

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.


Conrad Burns
United States Senator






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