Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Chairman Jon Wellinghoff, known for pushing an advanced energy agenda during his tenure, has announced he will resign from the commission after his term expires on June 30. He is expected to remain in his position for several months as the Obama Administration seeks a replacement. There is only speculation so far as to whether the President will tap one of the sitting Democratic FERC commissioners - Cheryl LaFleur or John Norris - or appoint an outsider. Any new member of FERC will need to be confirmed by the Senate.
In a speech Wednesday at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Laboratory, Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican who has been a vocal critic of the Production Tax Credit, unveiled four guiding principles in “charting a competitive energy future” for America. These include prioritizing (1) cheaper energy, (2) clean, not just renewable, energy, (3) research and development in place of government mandates and (4) free market principles over government selection of winners and losers. The Senator, citing EIA estimates that US energy demand will increase more than 10 percent by 2040, said that “perhaps by focusing on these four grand principles, we can capitalize on the progress we’ve made and put ourselves firmly on the path toward cheap, clean, reliable energy.” A full transcript of his speech is available here.
After an appointment process that began in January, Ernest Moniz was sworn in May 21 as Secretary of the Department of Energy (DOE). In his speech following the ceremony, Moniz vowed to prioritize energy efficiency, saying that many years addressing climate and energy challenges have showed him how crucial it is to approach these issues from the demand side. He also mentioned already having met with senior leadership in both chambers of Congress regarding legislative measures on efficiency, calling the Shaheen-Portman Senate efficiency bill and its House counterpart particularly promising.
DOE has for the first time since 2011 approved construction of an export terminal for liquefied natural gas (LNG). Proponents of increased LNG exports say that making U.S. gas available to world markets could improve our trade imbalance and support growth of the domestic gas industry, creating jobs. Opponents say that increased exports will raise gas prices at home, undercutting growth in domestic manufacturing that has enjoyed cheap energy prices. The Freeport terminal in Texas previously had approval for exports only to nations where the U.S. has a free trade agreement; the recent DOE decision allows exports to certain nations without a free-trade relationship, such as Japan.