Upton Unveils Energy Policy Vision with Pillars of the Architecture of Abundance

July 15, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC – House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) today addressed the Energy Information Administration 2014 Energy Conference to share his new vision for America’s energy policy – the Architecture of Abundance. Upton outlined the five pillars needed to construct this new architecture: modernizing infrastructure, maintaining diverse electricity generation, permitting a new manufacturing renaissance, harnessing energy efficiency and innovation, and unleashing energy diplomacy. He described a number of steps the House has already taken toward constructing a 21st century energy policy, and expressed optimism for the future in achieving bipartisan success. 

Remarks As Prepared

Thank you so much – happy to be here talking about one of the most exciting public policy issues in America: our energy abundance.

Let me begin by telling you a little bit about my M.O. as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee. I got my start working in the Reagan administration where I learned it does not matter who gets the credit, as long as the job gets done. That’s how I operate my committee – every good idea is welcome, and we do better when we work together.

We have plenty of bipartisan success to show for it. In the 112th Congress, 88 Energy and Commerce bills passed the House, and 40 of them were signed into law. In the 113th Congress, 62 Energy and Commerce bills passed the House, and 15 have been signed into law. And we’re heading into the homestretch. All but a few of these bills we’ve moved have had bipartisan support.

It’s no secret that I’ve been disappointed by the Senate’s failure to follow our lead and get many more bills signed into law – especially on energy. I’m going to keep on reaching out, welcoming new ideas, and working to get the job done – and today, we’re going to talk about how we can get that job done, particularly when it comes to energy.

I am often asked about America’s energy policy. Do we have one? Is it time to change?

I’d like to share my vision for what America’s energy policy is today, and what it ought to be tomorrow.

But first, let’s remember our energy past. Perhaps you remember hearing these words: “The oil and natural gas we rely on for 75 percent of our energy are running out. In spite of increased effort, domestic production has been dropping steadily at about six percent a year. Imports have doubled in the last five years. Our nation’s independence of economic and political action is becoming increasingly constrained.”

Those words were spoken by President Carter in 1977. He predicted that we could lose our nation’s economic independence. But earlier this month, as we celebrated America’s independence on the 4th of July, we welcomed the real prospect for energy independence with news that by some estimates, the U.S. is now the world’s biggest oil producer, surpassing Saudi Arabia and Russia.

In fact, we have more energy than any other nation and according to EIA, we produced enough energy in 2013 to meet 84 percent of the country’s demand – a remarkable turnaround from 2005, when we hit a low of just 65 percent.

You heard yesterday from Daniel Yergin about the vast potential for American energy production and the resulting economic investment and growth.

It’s a new era of energy abundance, and we need to usher in a new era for energy policy.

I call it the “Architecture of Abundance.” Here’s what I mean: we need to construct a whole range of tools to take full advantage of our energy abundance – we need to better connect these resources to the people who need them. And we need to do it in a safe and responsible way that protects the environment. It’s about building infrastructure, yes, but it’s about much more.

Our new energy vision can be understood as five distinct but clearly related policy concepts –the five “pillars” to construct this new architecture.

Pillar I: Modernizing Infrastructure

First, let’s look at energy transmission and distribution. It’s time to modernize and update our energy distribution infrastructure. This will allow us to keep up with burgeoning supplies and better connect new sources of energy with all American consumers.

We can do this with targeted changes to federal laws that provide certainty, predictability and fairness – in other words, we’ll take politics and obstruction out of siting new energy infrastructure and bring back accountability to pipeline permitting agencies.

We have already started – let me give you some examples. We’ve already passed H.R. 3, a bill that would finally approve the Keystone XL pipeline. We’ve also already passed H.R. 3301, a bill I wrote with Democratic Representative Gene Green from Texas to make sure energy projects with our North American neighbors are never again caught in Keystone-style gridlock. And we’ve also passed H.R. 1900, a bill to restore predictability to natural gas pipeline permitting by setting shot clocks and clear processes for project review and approval.

Building new energy infrastructure is essential, and there is much more work to be done.

Pillar II: Maintaining Diverse Electricity Generation

Our second pillar is diverse electricity generation. We all need and reliable power, and everyone – families, schools, businesses, hospitals, manufacturers – everyone benefits when it costs less to keep the lights on.

That’s why we’re so concerned about the administration’s aggressive approach to limit and undermine critical baseload sources of generation like coal and nuclear.

We’re going to continue to press for answers on how EPA and the states plan to implement the new climate rules. We can also support a diverse portfolio by enacting targeted changes to federal laws to make sure all sources of electricity generation can compete in the market.

We have begun offering ideas in this area as well – let me give you some examples.

We’ve already passed H.R. 3826, a bill to make sure EPA’s new power plant rules are achievable in the real world, and to put Congress back in the driver’s seat on the rule for existing plants. In the last Congress and again in this one, we’ve approved H.R. 2218, a bill to put a more sensible, state-based regulatory system in place for coal ash recycling and management, and we’re also going to keep pressing the administration to follow the law when it comes to nuclear waste.

Again, these bills are just the starting point when it comes to our electricity supply.

Pillar III: Permitting a Manufacturing Renaissance

Our third pillar has to do with permitting – not just for energy projects, but for manufacturing.

Manufacturers and other energy intensive industries need the confidence to make multi-billion dollar, long-term investments – including new foreign direct investment – in this country. To do that, we should make it easier to plan for new or changing regulatory requirements.

One example of a bill to improve the permitting process and welcome this new manufacturing renaissance is a bill that cleared our committee just last month. H.R. 4795, the Promoting New Manufacturing Act, is pretty simple – it would increase transparency and require timely rules and guidance for certain air permits. This is another area ripe for future action with new challenges from GHG permitting and ozone on the horizon.

Pillar IV: Harnessing Energy Efficiency and Innovation

Our fourth pillar is about energy innovation and efficiency. Energy efficiency is just common sense – it saves money and resources, and we know it can be done through private-sector led innovation and without having to limit consumer choices. That means prioritizing efficiency legislation that helps to save taxpayer dollars with no costs or mandates. It also means updating laws that haven’t adapted to today’s new energy realities, like the renewable fuel standard.

This is one area where we have already had quite a bit of success.

Back in March, the House approved H.R. 2126, the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act. That bill included four separate energy efficiency measures, including the Better Buildings Act to establish a Tenant Star program, which builds on the original Energy Star initiative to encourage commercial tenants and landlords to work together on highly efficient leased spaces.

We’ve passed other efficiency measures as well, including energy efficiency in schools, energy efficiency in federal buildings, and bills to promote hydropower. And there will definitely be more to come.

Pillar V: Unleashing Energy Diplomacy

Our fifth and final pillar is energy diplomacy. Let’s face it, energy is a global commodity, and those who have the energy have the power. We’re seeing this play out in real time with Russia, and we know how chaos in the Middle East affects us here at home.

We have an opportunity to use our energy as a diplomatic tool; we can take care of our domestic needs and have enough energy left to let our allies buy it from us, rather than being held hostage to unstable regions of the world.

That means making sure our current laws are not creating artificial barriers to the market and conducting oversight to ensure increased exports do no harm to American consumers.

Let me give you an example of how we can use energy as a diplomatic tool. We recently passed H.R. 6, a bill that will speed up the approval of natural gas export applications at the Department of Energy and improve the process going forward. More than two dozen export applications are pending at DOE, and some have been waiting for more than two years. Even DOE says we have enough natural gas to meet our needs here at home and support our allies around the world.

Our work will continue next year as we conduct oversight of oil, coal, nuclear and renewable technology exports as well.

A Resilient Foundation

Those five pillars make up the architecture, and they can be built on a foundation of modern tools to meet modern challenges. Let me give you a couple of examples: as we look at our energy infrastructure, we can make sure it is resilient to climate risks and that it can prevent and withstand emerging threats such as cyber and physical attacks.

The climate is an issue that often comes up when we talk about energy policy, and I agree that it ought to be part of our conversation. One thing we should all be able to agree on is that storms are becoming more destructive because more people and property stand in their way.

We do need energy infrastructure that is resilient to weather events; what we don’t need is a climate policy that will hamstring our economy and make energy more expensive, all without actually changing the climate.

So what are some specific steps we can take to accomplish this? We can work with state and local officials to enact a pro-infrastructure agenda. And we can build safer and more resilient pipelines and transmission lines to help respond to weather emergencies.

Potential Benefits

Those five pillars, that’s the energy vision – now let’s talk about why we need it.

America has a lot to gain if we put the right energy policies into place: jobs and economic growth, cheaper energy and products for the middle class and particularly for the most vulnerable, and a stronger position in the world.

So let’s conclude by returning to where this conversation began: American energy policy.

America’s energy policy today includes some good ideas, and some not so good ideas – but mostly, it reflects the sheer power of American ingenuity to overcome obstacles and develop new technologies that will allow us to make the most of our resources.

America’s energy policy in the future needs to do better. Ingenuity, innovation, and technology have unlocked these resources, but we need infrastructure, regulatory structure, and a global vision to take full advantage of them.

All of these elements, together, in a broad energy vision: it’s the Architecture of Abundance.

A Bright Future

Things looked different when I first came to D.C. – a different majority in Congress, and certainly very different ideas about energy policy. Think about it. Back then, our energy policy was based on an assumption of scarcity – a belief that we were literally running out of oil and gas. That belief turned out to be wrong. We now can talk about North American energy independence, not reliance on oil sheiks and petro dictators. We have a chance to bring real benefits and security to hard working Americans.

For as long as I have been here, I have believed that no matter which party was in charge, lawmakers from different backgrounds with different ideas could come together to get things done. I still believe that today.

I believe this is our moment. I believe we can work together to improve people’s lives. And I believe energy is a place where we can do it. We can and we will enact these policies to build the Architecture of Abundance.

Yes, we need willing partners in the Senate and the White House, and I believe that come next year, the time will be right to get these policies moving. The great economic news coming from energy-producing states is going to increase awareness of these issues, and I’m convinced the American people are going to expect us to act. If the pundits are right, then Republicans are going to have an opportunity, and we’re going to have to prove we can govern. I’m excited about the possibilities.

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