February 25, 2013 11:08 pm

Chiefs call for US energy policy shake-up

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The US needs a comprehensive energy strategy to boost its economic competitiveness, a group of leading chief executives said on Monday, laying out a plan to become self-sufficient and boost growth.

The Business Roundtable, a lobbying group representing the US’s blue-chip corporations, said in its “Taking Action on Energy” report that uncertainty over energy policy was hampering investment in everything from wind power to oil drilling.

“Energy is critical to America’s economic vitality and getting energy policy right could mean faster income and job growth today, and improved living standards for future generations of Americans,” said David Cote, chief executive of Honeywell International and head of the BRT’s energy committee.

“It’s clear to us that North American energy self-sufficiency is within reach, but the US doesn’t have a strategy to leverage our advantages and create a more affordable, more secure and more sustainable energy future for all Americans,” Mr Cote told reporters on Monday.

John Watson, chief executive of Chevron, the oil group, said the country was “poised to regain its status as an energy superpower”.

“The dramatic rise in US oil and natural gas production is creating jobs and economic growth across America, but our ability to take full advantage of the historic opportunity in front of us depends upon the right policy framework,” he said.

The unexpected shale oil and gas boom is one of the few bright spots in the US economy. The International Energy Agency projects that the US will overtake Saudi Arabia and Russia to become the world’s largest global oil producer by 2020 and could be almost self-sufficient in energy by 2035.

As a result of the shale revolution, the Obama administration, after promoting renewable energy early in its first term, has now adopted an “all of the above” policy encompassing fossil fuels.

Energy companies are eagerly awaiting signs of how President Barack Obama will proceed in his second term. They are calling on him to approve the Keystone XL pipeline designed to carry oil from Canada’s tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico, and view this as a litmus test of the president’s willingness to be more supportive of traditional energy sources.

Environmentalists, who resolutely oppose Keystone, are pressing Mr Obama to apply tough new emissions standards to new, as well as existing, coal-fired power plants as a way to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

In its 76-page report, the Business Roundtable laid out a plan to foster innovation and increase energy efficiency, as well as improve access to energy resources by opening up onshore and offshore federal lands for coal, oil and gas production.

The report also said that the Environmental Protection Agency – the federal unit that has been the bane of energy companies’ existence – should base its regulations “on sound science” and “take into consideration the net cumulative impact these regulations have on energy costs, economic growth and job creation”.

Andrew Liveris, chief executive of Dow Chemical, said that “overly complex and costly regulations” had been a major impediment to growth and had taken “a particularly heavy toll on energy exploration and production”.

The chief executives urged an end to the policy uncertainty affecting everything from production tax credits for renewable energy projects – the result of the fiscal debates on Capitol Hill – to nuclear and coal plants awaiting regulatory rulings.

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