ANCHORAGE -- A national energy plan should seek to lower harmful greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate warming, but not at the expense of people already paying high costs to keep their homes warm, according to a leading Republican senator.
Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the ranking minority member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, on Monday unveiled a "blueprint for discussion" of a national energy policy. It calls for more domestic drilling at locations that include the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, with a portion of revenue devoted to research on clean energy that cuts emissions.
"I am not one who falls into the category of what we need to do is simply increase the price of energy and therefore it will decrease consumption, and that is how we will deal with emissions that lead to climate change," Murkowski said in a conference call with Alaska reporters. "That's not a proposal that I can sign on to."
In Fairbanks last week, she said, temperatures approached 48 below zero. Villages off the road system contend with ridiculously high fuel prices along with the cold, she said. In Aniak, 317 miles west of Anchorage, the price of diesel fuel for heating homes last month was $6.99 per gallon.
"I am not going to be the senator that's going to come home to Alaskans, that's going to talk to the people in Aniak and say, 'We need to increase the price of your diesel from $6.99 to, let's say, $10.99 a gallon. And if you don't like that, you just have to use less,'" she said.
"Well, how do you keep warm when it's forty degrees below zero?"
A spokesman for the Natural Resource Defense Council said the proposal reads like a longtime wish list for the petroleum industry. It contains far fewer specifics for clean energy, said David Goldston, NRDC director of government affairs.
"It's full of what we think are bad ideas, things that would certainly have the effect of increasing fossil fuel development, while the steps that are in here for cleaner energy are unlikely to actually have the impact that the senator claims that she's after," Goldston said.
His group's top priority is standards for carbon pollution from power plants. The Murkowski proposal seemed to rule that out, he said. Research is necessary and should be funded, he said, but by itself will not move technologies into the marketplace.
"You need a reason to use them," Goldston said. "That won't happen if you're both eliminating the incentive to bring them in, which seems to be one of the things she's talking about, and not creating any requirement to bring them in."
Murkowski said the 115-page document was about a year in the making. It's in the national interest to make energy abundant, affordable, clean, diverse and secure, she said.
Among the 200 policy proposals are partnerships with Canada and Mexico to ensure their oil exports are brought to the United States, she said, which should begin with immediate approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Others are tied to Alaska. The proposal calls for revenue sharing from federal offshore leases for money that could be used for arctic infrastructure and a Department of Energy natural gas export license that would promote an Alaska natural gas pipeline.
Murkowski called for reform in permitting processes to reduce delay, uncertainty and excessive litigation, and for development of methane hydrates, the so-called frozen gas that binds with water molecules and releases when warmed or depressurized.
The proposal also calls for more hydropower, geothermal and tidal energy development.