Published October 1979 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd Pressing Ahead On "Synfuels" With the ever-present threat of OPEC oil price increases and supply interruptions, it is clear that the nation has no time to waste in developing alternatives to imported oil. The Senate already has taken important steps in speeding development of a synthetic fuels industry. The Senate recently approved an amendment, which I introduced, to provide $20 billion for the early stages of "synfuel" plant design. Of the total sum, $2.2 billion would be available immediately for loans for site feasibility studies of potential plants. In further efforts to hasten "synfuel" development, the Senate has also passed a bill, which the House must approve, that would establish an Energy Mobilization Board to waive restrictions and eliminate crippling delays for selected, large projects such as synthetic fuel plants, pipelines, refineries, and coal conversion projects. The four-member board is intended to push forward projects that would otherwise be bottled up by thousands of federal and state regulations that now govern, and often delay or prevent, the building of such projects. The board would designate "priority" projects, and set strict deadlines for decisions made by federal, state or local agencies, such as whether to grant a zoning variance or an air pollution permit. Should an agency fail to meet a deadline, the board could obtain a court order forcing the agency to make a decision, or the board could make the decision itself. In related energy action, the Senate, acting on an amendment by Senator Javits, which I co-sponsored, recently approved $1.2 billion to help the poor and the elderly cope with home-heating oil prices. Three-quarters of the funds would be administered by the Community Services Administration, with the rest distributed by state governors. The Senate also approved an amendment, which I cosponsored, that would allocate an extra $10 million to the Economic Regulatory Administration in the Energy Department to provide sufficient funds to review the prospects of utility plant conversion to coal. There is no wiser national security program we can adopt than to move toward energy self-sufficiency. The longer the delay in developing a synthetic fuels industry, the more vulnerable the nation will become to the whims of the oil-exporting countries.