August 18, 2003 | WebMemo on Energy and Environment
After paralyzing much of the Northeast and the Midwest, last week's largest ever electricity blackout demonstrates perfectly the need for a responsible long-term energy policy. It also highlights the vital role that energy plays in U.S. national and economic security.
Regrettably, many lawmakers are citing deregulation as the culprit of last week's blackout. Early reports indicate that serious problems in the nation's power grid caused the blackout and estimate the cost to update and modernize the grid reaching $50 billion.
Unlike generation, however, the transmission and distribution systems remain highly regulated. Placing the blame on deregulation is misplaced and serves only as a diversion from the real issue-enacting policies that encourage private investment in expanding and upgrading the nation's antiquated transmission system.
When Congress returns from its summer recess, it will begin conference committee meetings to reconcile separate versions of comprehensive energy legislation passed by the House and Senate. In the wake of the recent blackout, Congress should exercise leadership and rewrite the bill to responsibly enhance the nation's domestic energy supplies, modernize the nation's infrastructure to ensure reliable delivery of needed power, encourage private company investments in the nation's power grid, and reduce cumbersome regulations. .
In a nutshell, Congress should let the marketplace -- not political interference -- determine the nation's energy winners and losers.