Published July 1979 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd Ahead of the Game The President, in his recent energy address, called for the nation to unite in the energy battle, and to cut our dependence on foreign oil in half by 1990. Congress is willing to give thorough and bipartisan cooperation to this effort in order to free us from bondage to the OPEC cartel. Indeed, many of the energy plans mentioned by the President are already moving through the legislative process in Congress. For example, there is the omnibus energy bill that would create an Energy Mobilization Board, fund a major program of synthetic fuel development and solar heat research, and open more Federal land to gas and oil leasing. The Energy Mobilization Board, loosely patterned on the War Mobilization Board of the 1940s, would be empowered to cut through governmental red tape that often delays for years construction of new energy projects. The goal of the synthetic fuel program would be to develop a new fuels industry, to liquefy and gasify coal, convert organic materials to methane and tap the oil in oil-shale deposits. The omnibus energy bill would fund 15 "synfuel" demonstration projects, including the Solvent-Refined Coal-II coal conversion plant proposed for Morgantown. The Senate Budget Committee has set up a task force to study energy proposals in the bill, including the President's plan to set up an Energy Security Corporation to direct the development of 2.5 million barrels daily of oil substitutes by 1990. In other energy-related developments, the Senate Finance Committee has been examining a windfall profits tax on profits the oil companies are expected to take in as the government removes controls and prices rise. Two years ago, Congress passed coal conversion legislation to encourage utilities to switch to coal. Congress may now consider an amendment to the Fuel Use Act that would mandate utilities to switch from oil to coal, in order to cut oil consumption by 50 percent in the next decade. It is important for the country to have a standby gas rationing plan ready, if needed, in the event of any major interruption in oil supplies. The Senate approved such a plan in May, but the House failed to act. The climate appears to be better now for full Congressional approval of the plan. Congress has taken a strong leadership role in the past in enacting a great deal of energy legislation. Congress is already well ahead of the game in marshaling the forces that will turn the country back toward national energy self-sufficiency.