Editorial: Tom Udall’s Energy Double-Talk
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U.S. Senator Tom Udall likes to say he supports more energy from all domestic sources. He’s been using that line since 2008 in his first run for Senate. He repeated it again this week in a speech to the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce.
The line polls well. Consumers as well as business leaders know America needs more energy from all domestic sources. We recognize that more and cheaper energy produced in this country not only will help our personal pocketbooks and the bottom lines of our businesses, it is also crucial to the nation’s ability to compete globally against economies that pay their workers a tiny fraction of what Americans consider a livable wage.
Repeating the phrase makes Udall seem like a smart, reasonable man. Who can argue with the the proposition that more energy from all sources within our borders is a good thing?
But it seems the person doing the most to pick an argument with Udall on this common sense proposition is Udall himself. The reasonable man we hear speaking here in New Mexico gets lost when Udall returns to Washington.
The Beltway Udall has a long and loud record of supporting federal subsidies, tax breaks and regulatory relaxations for what he considers “alternative” energy, such as solar and wind power, and biofuels. Those energy sources produce only a very small part of the nation’s power despite tens of billions of dollars of government giveaways under the Obama Administration, including the enormous gifts to fabulous failures like Solyndra and Abound Solar. While Udall’s “alternative” energy favorites have grown in output, their increase has been dwarfed by the explosive growth in energy from traditional fossil fuels due to new discoveries and technological breakthroughs.
We asked Udall’s office to demonstrate how he has lived up to his claim that he supports more energy from all domestic sources. The answer we received is reproduced in full at the bottom of this post. Rather than make the case that Udall is a man of his words, his answer does more to confirm the conclusion that a different Tom Udall prowls the Capitol than the man who stands before his constituents at home.
What has Udall done to promote the production of energy from domestic coal sources? Not a thing, according to his answer. Not by way of legislation. Nor in statements of support for the industry that produces half the nation’s electricity and which the U.S. Department of Energy tautologically describes as “the largest source of domestically-produced source of energy here in the U.S.”
Not stated in Udall’s answer is his record of supporting policies to reduce carbon emissions that would adversely impact the use of coal power in the nation. A compilation of his votes on energy issues has been compiled at the website “On the Issues.”
As a Representative, Udall called for implementation of the Kyoto Protocols. He has supported cap and trade legislation, that even U.S. Representative Martin Heinrich has called “not feasible.” When the coal industry has sought congressional assistance against an EPA acting out President Obama’s well-known hostility to coal, Udall voted against any effort to rein in an agency that is closing coal-fired plants across the country.
Oil and Gasoline
Let’s start with the Keystone Pipeline. We specifically asked how Udall’s claim that he supports “more energy from all sources” squares up with his record on proposals to bring Canadian oil across the border to U.S. refineries through a pipeline project known as Keystone XL. Canadian oil is not domestically produced oil, but it still comes from North America from a close friend and ally and would be refined in U.S. facilities.
Does Udall’s “more from all sources” claim apply to the Keystone pipeline? He could have answered with a simple “Yes. I call upon the President to move this thing forward.”
Instead we got a lot of verbiage that hides the fact Udall has not only not called on the President to do what it takes to get the pipeline built, he has sided with efforts to block or stall Keystone. In March of this year he voted against a proposal that would have circumvented the President’s opposition to the pipeline and allowed construction to begin immediately. Instead, he supported an alternative bill that imposed restrictions on customers of the refined oil and the material that could be used in the pipeline that have not been imposed on any of the thousands of other pipelines we have in the nation. Critics said the bill Udall favored was designed to give Keystone opponents political cover. It never stood a chance of being passed, and was crushed by his Senate colleagues.
Since that charade, “Get ‘er done, Mr. President,” has not been Udall’s sound bite when it comes to the Keystone pipeline.
Omitted from Udall’s answer to us is his long record of votes opposing expanded oil and gas exploration and production in the United States. He has consistently opposed opening any area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to any energy development, even areas not critical to wildlife. He voted to maintain the moratorium on drilling off our shores, even though environmentally sensitive nations like Norway have long demonstrated the safety of the technology. And Udall has opposed efforts to correct the sad history that no new refineries have been built in the U.S. since 1976. As a Representative in a Democratic dominated House, he twice participated in shooting down proposals to facilitate the construction of new refineries on American soil.
We have tremendous energy resources on federal property. But no press conferences calling for expanded energy production from public lands have been announced by Udall’s office.
Udall’s game plan is to appear to be the reasonable man, the guy with the almost Jimmy Stewart-like disarming demeanor. That script calls for him to deliver the most sensible sounding lines. So he keeps repeating his “more energy from all sources” dialogue for the home audience. But look at what Udall does and not what he says, and it’s clear his reasonable man routine is just an act.
What Has Tom Udall Done to Promote Expansion of Domestic Coal, Oil, and Gas Production? His answer to New Mexico Watchdog:
- In the 112th Congress, Senator Udall is a coauthor of S. 1294, the Oil Independence for a Stronger America Act of 2011, which allows a tax credit for qualified natural gas motor vehicles, and creates tax-exempt natural gas vehicle bonds. It allows an expensing deduction for manufacturing facilities producing vehicles fueled by compressed or liquefied natural gas and also directs the GSA Administrator to study means of increasing the number of light-, medium-, and heavy-duty natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas vehicles in the federal fleet to create increase demand for natural gas. http://www.tomudall.senate.
- Additionally in the 112th Congress, Senator Udall is a cosponsor of the Clean Energy Standard Act of 2012, which establishes minimum U.S. annual percentages of clean energy use, including nuclear power.
- In the 111th Congress, Senator Udall added key roles for clean burning natural gas in S. 1733, the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act. Natural gas has 50% less carbon emissions than coal and is abundant in New Mexico.
Support for Independent Oil and Gas Producers
- In the 111th Congress, Senator Bernie Sanders (VT) introduced amendment 4318 to the American Jobs and Closing Loopholes Act (H.R. 4213). Amendment 4318 aimed to repeal tax incentives for large oil and gas companies. This amendment would have negatively impacted the long standing tax provisions that apply to smaller, independent oil and gas producers in New Mexico, and not big oil as was intended. Therefore Senator Udall voted against it, and it was defeated by a vote of 61 – 35.
Support for 2005 Energy Bill:
- Sen. Udall voted in support of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, authored by Sens. Domenici and Bingaman, which included incentives for the nuclear industry and $2 billion for “risk insurance” for new nuclear plants. And nuclear utilities will be eligible for taxpayer-backed loan guarantees of as much as 80 percent the cost of their plants. The bill also streamlined the process for oil and gas leases on federal lands while preserving adequate environmental review.
- In the U.S., pipelines are approved by the executive branch based on laws passed by the Congress. In our history, Congress has never intervened to favor a specific private sector oil pipeline. Sen. Udall voted for supporting regular order, not special treatment in the case of Keystone.
- The President denied an initial permit for Keystone due to the State of Nebraska’s objections. Nebraska has since reached an agreement on the Keystone route and the project is once again under review. It’s worth noting that President Obama has already OK’d the Southern part of this project.
In March of 2012, Senator Udall voted in favor of an amendment offered by Senator Ron Wyden (OR) to S. 1813, the Surface Transportation Bill, which would have required that the existing reviews be expedited and a final decision be made within 90 days. Also, the amendment called for the metal materials used in the pipeline to be American made. Additionally, the amendment explicitly required that the oil transferred through the Keystone XL pipeline not be exported to other countries and only be used for domestic consumption. The Wyden amendment failed to achieve the 60 votes needed by a vote of 34-64.