GAO ‘key issues’ identifies number of energy topics - WTRF 7 News Sports Weather - Wheeling Steubenville

GAO ‘key issues’ identifies number of energy topics

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The Government Accountability Office released a new resource designed to "provide incoming members of Congress and the American people with quick and easy access" to information on key issues.

The website identifies key issues across a broad range of policy topics.

"Following each election cycle, GAO provides information resources for the incoming Congress," said Gene L. Dodaro, comptroller general of the United States and head of GAO. "This new section of our website is intended to provide members and their staff, as well as the public, with a good overview of key policy issues across government. Our intent is to help make the transition to the 113th Congress as informed and smooth as possible."

Among the categories identified is energy, one of the most controversial topics in high energy production states such as West Virginia. The state is predominantly supported by the coal industry and a wave of shale gas development is planting its feet in the Mountain state.

The 10 energy issues the GAO selected to focus upon may be a cause for concern for some West Virginia energy producers, particularly fossil fuels. The issue of climate change and the corresponding issue of carbon dioxide emission reduction, is the direct focus of four of the issues — climate change response, climate change funding and management, understanding climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Coal is one of the biggest producers of carbon dioxide. Burning natural gas, emits less carbon dioxide, but a leakage of the more potent greenhouse gas, methane, has many concerned about whether increased natural gas utilization would do anything to mitigate emission of greenhouse gases.

President Barack Obama has hinted that addressing climate change would be a larger priority in his second term as president.

Aside from climate change, other GAO-identified issues "of critical importance to the nation" affect West Virginia energy development. Air quality, water quality and the use of water in energy production and use of toxic chemicals are all included.

Other energy issues include issues regarding nuclear energy and the federal regulation of electricity and infrastructure are included as well.

"Production of electricity can lead to environmental concerns including air and water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and waste associated with the burning of coal or from spent nuclear fuel," the GAO website states. "The national electricity system, which was built up over decades, faces a number of challenges, including reliability and security concerns."

The GAO is known as  the "investigative arm of Congress," and is designed to provide non-ideological data to Congress. The "key issues" website is available at: http://www.gao.gov/key_issues