Alaska Delegation Fears Proposed Budget Hurts Oil, Gas Industry

Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC

Despite sober warnings by President Obama that federal spending must be reigned in, he actually wants to boost funding for the Energy Department.

The new budget blueprint would give it more than $29 billion, nearly a 12 percent increase from current appropriation levels.

But it would eliminate subsidies to oil companies and dramatically cut the budget for fossil fuel energy by 45 percent.

That’s not sitting well with Alaska’s Congressional delegation, which fears it will hurt the oil and gas industry.

Wednesday, Energy Secretary Steven Chu testified before the Senate Energy Committee, where Lisa Murkowski is the top Republican.  Chu talked about the President’s goal of having 80 percent of America’s electricity coming from “clean energy” by 2035.  That includes natural gas and hydropower, good news for Alaska.  But Murkowski pointed out that other forms of energy are getting more financial support.

Secretary Chu responded that natural gas and hydropower are part of the Clean Energy Standard the White House wants to pursue, but he says fossil fuels are considered “mature” technologies, and received plenty of money in decades past.  He says the real need for funding is in renewables like solar and wind that are cutting edge.

The budget laid out by Secretary Chu is just a proposal, and will be hashed out by Congress in the coming weeks.

After Wednesday’s committee meeting, Senator Murkowski journeyed to the White House to talk with President Obama.  Her spokesman says the Senator asked to meet with the President on, quote “a range of Alaskan issues.”  He would not be more specific, and would not say what the Senator’s reaction was.

Murkowski is seen as a Senator the White House wants to court on energy issues.

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