The national energy policy laid out by President Bush's task force seeks to boost domestic production but also promote conservation, and improve and expand what it says is an aging infrastructure of powerplants, transmission lines and pipelines. The report says 38,000 miles of new gas pipleines, 255,000 miles of distribution lines, and between 1,300 and 1,900 new powerplants are needed to meet projected demand.
According to an overview released by the White House late on May 16, the report says the country's main energy challenges are: "using energy more wisely"; fixing and expanding infrastructure, including refineries, pipelines and transmission lines; boosting energy supply while not harming the environment; and promoting U.S. energy security.
The plan also includes new tax credits, estimated to cost$6.3 billion over 10 years, aimed at boosting conservation or use of renewable fuels, a senior administration official says. The largest of those credits, estimated at $4 billion, would be for hybrid and fuel cell vehicles. The report also recommends another $3.7 billion in credits that Bush included in his fiscal 2002 budget proposal earlier this year.
Senior officials said President Bush would issue executive orders and other directives, including one instructing agencies to expedite permits for pipelines and other energy projects.
In a particularly controversial provision, the report recommends opening "a small fraction" of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas exploration. It also calls for studying the oil and gas potential on other federal lands.
The release of the report, expected May 17, kicks off what will be a lengthy legislative debate on energy policy. Continued high prices for gasoline and California's energy crisis will keep the issue near the top of the national agenda. The report's recommendations face an uncertain future on Capitol Hill, where congressional Democrats have urged stronger positions than Bush's on conservation and have strongly opposed opening ANWR.
Although the report carries the clout of the Presidency, its impact will be limited on such activities as siting powerplants and pipelines . Those decisions rest in the hands of local officials and with utility companies and their banks that would finance such projects.