Republican senator lays out path for U.S. independence from OPEC – by Ayesha Rascoe ( – February 4, 2013)

WASHINGTON, Feb 4 (Reuters) – U.S. independence from OPEC could be a reality if the U.S. government opens more lands for oil and gas development, speeds permitting and approves the Keystone XL pipeline, the top Republican on the Senate energy committee said in a policy report on Monday.

Senator Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, laid out a wide-ranging plan to take advantage of the United States’ energy bounty.

“We no longer should view energy policy from a perspective of scarcity, but rather, from a perspective of increasing abundance,” the 120-page report from Murkowski’s office said. “With the right policies, abundant and affordable energy is achievable.”

Murkowski’s vision called for the government to embrace the nation’s shale oil and gas boom and various other fuels, rein in regulations, and eschew new mandates on the use of renewable resources.

Many of the policies, such as opening parts of Atlantic coast and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, are perennial Republican objectives. These goals are likely to face strong opposition in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Many Democrats vehemently oppose expanded drilling.

Murkowski acknowledged that many of the ideas promoted in her plan may not gain traction, but said her main goal was to open a dialogue on what lawmakers could realistically tackle.

“I’m putting a lot of ideas on the table. Some of them may take off like rockets, others may be total duds,” Murkowski told reporters. “What I’m trying to do is figure out how we get moving on energy policy for this country.”

Murkowski’s home state of Alaska is the No. 3 U.S. crude oil-producing state, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration, and is home to significant oil and gas reserves in National Petroleum Reserve, the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve and elsewhere.

Ultimately, Murkowski said she hoped the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources would be able to pass smaller chunks of legislation on a bipartisan basis, and that these bills would eventually make it to votes by the full Senate.

By working with her counterparts in the House of Representatives and with Senate leadership, Murkowski said she hoped to avoid the fate of previous energy efforts that languished once they were voted out of the committee.

Parts of the report where lawmakers might be able to find common ground include funding for clean energy research and energy efficiency, both issues that have garnered bipartisan support in the past.

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