The Natural Gas Conference being convened today by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources is heavily weighed towards natural gas as well as coal, oil, and nuclear power interests rather than towards the energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies .

WASHINGTON DC -- The Natural Gas Conference being convened today by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources is heavily weighed towards natural gas as well as coal, oil, and nuclear power interests rather than towards the energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies that are able to offer far better options for addressing the nation's natural gas crisis.

The Sustainable Energy Coalition (SEC) agrees with the Senate Committee's general view that rising prices, expanding demand, and declining domestic production pose a range of serious economic, environmental, and national security challenges. Accordingly, the SEC applauds the initiative of Senator Domenici and the Members of the Committee to explore options for addressing this problem.

However, only one of the eight topics constituting the conference's planned areas of discussion will ultimately prove to offer a real solution -- namely:

"Topic #5 - Diversification and Conservation: To what extent and how can demand be reduced through conservation and efficiency measures and through diversification of energy sources used for electric generation, industrial and other applications?"

Since its founding in 1992, it has consistently been the position of the Sustainable Energy Coalition that improved energy efficiency and expanded use of renewable energy resources should be the foundation of the nation's energy policy.

While the SEC has acknowledged the importance of natural gas in the nation's energy mix, the coalition has also argued that it should be viewed primarily as a transition fuel - that is, a bridge connecting an economy traditionally based on fossil fuels and nuclear power to a new one based primarily on sustainable energy resources.

Accordingly, the SEC believes it to be a mistake to pursue policies that in the long run would actually expand the use of fossil fuels with their attendant public health and environmental - including climate change - impacts. Moreover, the coalition considers it detrimental to the nation's economic health and national security to expand reliance on fossil fuels through greater imports of natural gas (as well as oil).

Consequently, the preferred and primary strategy for addressing the current natural gas problem should constitute a mix of policies that simultaneously vastly improve the efficiency of end-use technologies powered, directly or indirectly, by natural gas electric generating plants as well as displace natural gas with renewable energy sources.

An aggressive program to fully tap the cost-effective potential of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies would not only displace the projected increases in demand for natural gas over the next 15 years, as noted by the Committee, but also substantially reduce overall demand for the cross-section of all polluting energy sources. In fact, an energy policy based on the complete fuel cycle, from extraction through utilization, would provide the most efficient use of natural gas and other energy resources overall.

The mix of policies needed to do this is well-known and includes, but is not limited to, the following:

1.) substantially improve efficiency standards for appliances, lighting, industrial processes, and buildings;

2.) expand the use of combined heat and power systems and district heating technologies as well as the most efficient natural gas end-use equipment;

3.) establish utility energy efficiency performance targets, which reflect efficient use of energy resources, coupled with public benefit funds;

4.) institute a national Renewable Portfolio Standard (e.g., 20% renewables by 2020);

5.) create uniform national interconnection and net metering standards to facilitate greater use of distributed renewable electric technologies;

6.) provide increased funding not only for research and development of sustainable energy technologies but also for deployment of those technologies now available;

7.) create incentives that are market- and output-based for reducing carbon emissions;

8.) approve a mix of tax incentives to encourage greater investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies including investment tax credits and a long-term production tax credit for the portfolio of renewable energy technologies;

9.) amend government procurement policies to drive investments in sustainable energy technologies including improved energy management of all federal facilities; and

10.) make full use of the bully pulpits available to the President, Members of Congress, and other decision-makers to educate the public and promote the use of sustainable energy technologies.

The real challenge is not designing specific energy policies and funding to address the natural gas issue. Rather, it is marshalling the political will to implement those renewable eenrgy and energy efficiency policies which have been thoroughly debated - and, in general, enjoy broad bi-partisan, public support - while offering the best promise to enhance energy self-sufficiency and energy security for the nation's long-term energy future.

The Sustainable Energy Coalition is a coalition of 85 national and state business, consumer, environmental, and energy policy organizations advocating increased support for energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.

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