The Senate’s new Energy Chief is best friends with Big Oil

Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, a pro-gas and oil Democrat, is poised to take over the Energy Committee

Topics: Mary Landrieu, D-La., Lisa Murkowski, Oil and Gas, Keystone XL pipeline, U.S. Senate, Offshore drilling, ,

A long chain of events set off by Sen. Max Baucus’ appointment as the next American ambassador to China has left the way open for Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana to take over the Energy Committee, Foreign Policy reports. And Landrieu is a special kind of Democrat — the kind who advocates for the gas and oil industry.

The Keystone XL pipeline? Landrieu’s a huge fan. And she’s teamed up with ranking Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, in drafting a bill that would give states a greater share of royalties from offshore oil and gas production. As FP executive editor Noah Shachtman put it: “Environmentalists are about to have a collective heart attack.”

But where she Landrieu differs from her predecessor, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), is in her approach to energy exports. As Fuel Fix explains:

Wyden has been a vocal critic of selling too much of the fossil fuel to overseas customers, insisting that the government needs to work to find a “sweet spot” that encourages more domestic production without throttling a domestic manufacturing renaissance driven by cheap natural gas. Wyden also extracted a pledge from Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to examine new energy market data and prognostications as the Department of Energy considers LNG [liquified natural gas] export applications.

Landrieu, however, is a fan of selling more LNG overseas, and her home state of Louisiana is home to several likely export facilities. She could leverage an energy committee chairmanship to push for a speedier export approval process.

She and Murkowski also could team up to propel a debate over relaxing a three-decades-old ban on most crude exports. Murkowski is set to release a major policy paper on the issue in January, amid a growing oil and gas industry clamor for greater freedom to sell U.S. crude harvests overseas.

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Landrieu’s appointment, which seems likely, wouldn’t necessarily give free reign to the oil and gas industry. But she’s undoubtedly in its pocket: As Fuel Fix points out, her re-election campaign drew $393,500 in contributions from industry employees and PACS — making oil and gas interests her second-biggest industry supporter.

Lindsay Abrams
Lindsay Abrams is a staff writer at Salon, reporting on all things sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @readingirl, email labrams@salon.com.

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