Senator Wyden Poised to Chair Energy, Natural Resources Committee

Nov 9, 2012

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden is poised to chair the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. He’ll take the gavel from New Mexico Democrat Jeff Bingaman, who is retiring at the end of the year. For EarthFix, Amelia Templeton reports.

Wyden says the U.S. in the middle of an abrupt shift. After years of importing natural gas and coal, companies are now rushing to export it. And there’s no clear national policy on whether those exports should be encouraged or slowed down.

Wyden: “I want to make sure that our consumers, you know homeowners and businesses and others, are right in the center of the debate.”

The senator hasn’t taken a position on specific proposals to build coal and natural gas export terminals in the northwest.

But he says as committee chairman, he’ll look closely at impact of fossil fuel exports on the environment and national security.

Guy Caruso is an energy analyst at the Center for international and strategic studies. He says Wyden is stepping into a leadership position on energy issues at a time when king coal is giving way to natural gas. You’ve probably heard of fracking.

Caruso: “We’ve now got this abundance of shale gas.”

Caruso says natural gas producers are eager to get their product overseas where prices are higher than in the U.S.

And natural gas power plants are increasingly competitive with coal power plants. That’s made it harder for coal companies to find customers here, which is driving their interest in exports.

Caruso: “It wouldn’t be a bad time to have a rethink about the broader energy policy. And maybe Senator Wyden will embrace that.”

Caruso says officials in the Obama administration recognize it’s time to take another look at energy policy. But they told him, not until after the election.

Copyright 2012 Northwest Public Radio