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Sen. Murkowski Opening Statement at Clean Energy Standard Hearing

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today gave the following opening statement at a hearing on legislation to create a Clean Energy Standard (CES) before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee:

“One of the wonderful things about this committee is the quality of feedback we receive, and the role it plays in informing our decision-making.

“Some of the issues that we consider are quite complicated, and require considerable thought.  A ‘Clean Energy Standard’ – our subject this morning – is certainly one of them.

“After the President proposed a CES in his January 2011 State of the Union address, I joined the chairman in releasing a White Paper asking for feedback on it. I was impressed with the responses we received and how adept the stakeholders were at exploring the very specific challenges and opportunities associated with a pretty general proposal.

“From threshold questions of what resources should count as ‘clean,’ to who should be regulated under a CES, we received a great deal of information, and I want to thank the people who took time to provide it.

“A lot of inquiry, work, and patience were required for the chairman to get to this point – with a bill now written, introduced, and analyzed. But while some are fully convinced a federal CES is the way to go, quite a few others would disagree. To me, the biggest question – and one we should talk about this morning – is whether the American people really want a CES.

“We have to ask ourselves if there is a groundswell of support for it, and if it is appropriate in light of what the States are already doing. We also need to establish some context for its consideration.

“I ultimately decided not to cosponsor the chairman’s bill for a number of reasons.  To name a few, the responses to the white paper lacked sufficient consensus, and there is strong disagreement about whether this type of mandate is appropriate at the federal level.

“Other events have given me pause as well.

“First and foremost, we have been reminded of the importance of affordable energy.  Most of the focus is on gasoline, but electricity costs are also going up. Bringing energy prices down should be our objective – not driving them up today, or in the future, as some analyses have projected a CES would do.

“I recognize that affordability is not the only goal, and that most folks support cleaner energy. Federal mandates are just one of many tools at our disposal and, as it turns out, they can be fairly blunt instruments.  In the energy space in particular, federal mandates make it difficult to account for regional differences, consumer preferences, and international competitiveness. Hanging over all of this is our more recent experience in healthcare, which shows just how unpopular mandates are right now.

“What we should remember is that we’re not limited to one policy, or one option, for addressing our energy challenges. My preference would be to increase funding for energy innovation with the revenues we generate from increased domestic production of oil, gas, coal and other resources. If we plan ahead, we could develop a long-term policy that allows those resources to work themselves out of a job by paying for the commercialization of newer, cleaner alternatives – and we would protect families and businesses from added costs and burdens in the meantime.

“Finally, we cannot have an honest conversation about new energy policies without acknowledging, evaluating, and accounting for the slew of new, stringent regulations that are being imposed under existing statutes. We need to break the habit of piling one policy on top of another, and do the hard work of rationalizing the morass so that our priorities are clear and balance is restored.

“I’m happy to be here this morning, and I hope this conversation is merely a small part of a much larger one about our nation’s energy goals – and the most appropriate tools for achieving them.”

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