FACTBOX-Energy positions of new head of US House energy panel

WASHINGTON Thu Dec 9, 2010 3:44am IST

WASHINGTON Dec 8 (Reuters) - Representative Fred Upton was selected by Republican lawmakers to head the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee when the new Congress convenes in January.

Republicans, who will take majority control of the House of Representatives, have been critical of the Obama administration's energy policy for focusing too much on renewable energy sources like wind and solar power and not enough to promote traditional U.S. energy supplies like oil, nuclear and coal.

Here is where Upton stands on various energy issues.

OFFSHORE DRILLING PERMITS

* Upton is unhappy with the long time it takes the Interior Department to approve new offshore drilling permits following the BP oil spill and said safety regulations "must not be used as a delaying tactic" for drilling projects.

Upton has told the department he intends to look into offshore drilling policy when he becomes chairman of the energy and commerce panel.

EXPAND OFFSHORE DRILLING

* Upton slammed the Obama administration for reversing its earlier policy to expand drilling to areas off the Atlantic coast and the Florida shore in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. The White House changed its mind following the BP oil spill.

"They are cheering in the streets of Caracas and Tehran today over the administration's misguided offshore drilling moratorium," said Upton. "Let's stop punishing American workers -- pursuing American-made energy will not only ensure our energy security, it will ensure our job security."

DRILL IN ANWR

* To mark the 50th anniversary of designation of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, Upton called on President Barack Obama to allow energy companies to drill for the reserve's billions of barrels of oil. Democrats want to keep the reserve off limits to drilling.

"I urge you to put our nation's needs ahead of politics, and implore you not to make it impossible to ever explore for natural resources in ANWR," Upton wrote to Obama.

SLASH SUBSIDIES FOR SOLAR AND WIND

* To help balance the federal budget, Upton said it is now time to cut subsidies for renewable energy like wind and solar power. He said the free market should decide whether renewables fail or succeed.

"The subsidies were originally promoted as a way to get the renewables industry going, but they have become a crutch; the businesses are allowed to ignore the rules of survival in a competitive marketplace since they know that they will get their cash flow no matter what," Upton said. "Next year we must determine not whether to cut, but rather how much to cut."

ELECTRICITY GENERATION FROM RENEWABLES

* The Obama administration and environmental groups support legislation requiring U.S. utilities to generate a certain amount of their electricity from renewables, like wind, solar and geothermal.

Upton called this proposal a "European experience" that will lead to higher monthly utility bills and cause job losses. "This is like a subsidy in that it artificially props up the industry. The problem with this policy is that electricity prices rise as a result, killing economic productivity and putting the pinch on American households," he said.

MORE NUCLEAR POWER

* Upton supports building more U.S. nuclear power plants and introduced legislation this summer to create a quasi-government entity to more effectively deal with storing and reprocessing spent nuclear fuel.

"We are on the verge of a nuclear renaissance that will create millions of new jobs, but without the proper spent fuel management, we will never reach our goals."

CLEAN COAL IS THE FUTURE

* Upton believes in clean coal, co-sponsoring legislation to establish a $1 billion grant program to develop technologies that will capture and store greenhouse gas emissions emitted by coal-fired power plants.

"Our nation's vast coal reserves account for 50 percent of our electricity needs -- now is not the time to turn our back on coal," he said. (Reporting by Tom Doggett; editing by Jim Marshall)

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