Former senators, administration officials propose centralized energy policy council

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Energy policy responsibilities are too spread out in the executive branch, so the president should establish a centralized energy strategy council, a group at the Bipartisan Policy Center says.

The center's Strategic Energy Policy Initiative, chaired by former senators and executive branch leaders, says in a report (.pdf) released Nov. 27 that at least 20 federal agencies and departments oversee energy in some capacity. But no entity oversees them.

A national council headed by the energy secretary should fill that role, the report says. The council would include the secretaries of agriculture, commerce, defense, interior, transportation, treasury and state, along with the Environmental Protection Agency administrator.

The council would complete a national energy strategy by July of the first year of a new administration. The strategy should be brief and outline broad goals, the report says.

It would also produce an annual report available to the public that tracks progress made toward those goals.

In the past, national energy policy has lacked long-term vision and been inconsistent, uncoordinated, oriented toward special interests and too ad hoc, the report says.

If the proposed council were to materialize, it would mean that "when the president wants to talk about energy strategy, that he's got a mechanism and a single point of contact that is responsible," said James Jones, one of the chairs of the initiative, at a Nov. 27 press conference. Jones is a former national security adviser

The current setup "is like an orchestra without a conductor," said former Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), another of the co-chairs. He added that because energy is relatively abundant now, it's a good time to develop a national policy, instead of waiting for a crisis to force the government to act.

Policies formed in crises risk focusing too much on short-term problems, the report also says.

For more:
- download the report, "The Executive Branch and National Energy Policy: Time for Renewal" (.pdf)
- watch the Nov. 27 press conference

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