Federal Energy Regulatory Commission member Jon Wellinghoff was unanimously reconfirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve a full second term December 19. In July 2006, the former Nevada consumer advocate\u2019s initial nomination for a partial term was approved with virtually no opposition. Wellinghoff\u2019s current term expires next June and his consecutive FERC term runs to June 2013. The Senate also reconfirmed commission chair Joe Kelliher for a new term. During a December 18 U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources nomination hearing, Wellinghoff reiterated his commitment to protecting consumers from high energy costs. That includes easing the way for renewable supplies to increase competition and provide resource diversity. Other areas needed to achieve grid improvement are greater demand response and energy infrastructure and software efficiencies. \u201cIncorporating efficiency also has the added benefit of reducing energy use and thus reducing local and global emissions, including greenhouse gases.\u201d About 10 to 15 GWs alone could be \u201csqueezed out\u201d of natural pipeline operations via efficiencies, including waste heat recovery at compressor stations, according to Wellinghoff. Another $35 billion in savings is achievable over 20 years, he said, by curbing excessive energy use on roasting afternoons through more demand response programs. He is also pressing for negawatt providers to be paid on par with generators to bring power costs down. (Negawatts are the reverse of building plants to produce MWs or kWs. Instead (n)MWs are an accounting of energy units saved through efficiency measures and conservation.) While the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission now has a majority of commissioners from Western states, Wellinghoff stands out politically. He came from a Democratic nomination. Only one other, Suedeen Kelly, holds that political affiliation. Western representation and party affiliation became a major issue during California\u2019s 2000-01 energy crisis, when federal regulators were excoriated for not caring about the state\u2019s struggle because they all represented Eastern regions. At the time, three of the commissioners were Democrats. That partisanship was slanted soon after the state\u2019s energy crisis toward Republican nominations. Subsequently, California lawmakers accused the commission of partisan and regional politics when they did not refund the state its requested $9 billion from alleged market manipulation. A suggestion during Wellinghoff\u2019s hearing by Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho) to count so called \u201cclean coal\u201d as renewable power was rejected. Wellinghoff noted that wind, solar, geothermal and biomass were \u201cfundamentally different\u201d from coal power projects. The latter are large-scale systems, about 1,000 MW, and not location dependent, like renewable plants. \u201cI personally wouldn\u2019t include\u201d clean coal, said Wellinghoff, in a federal Renewables Portfolio Standard, a strategy he strongly supports. Wellinghoff responded to criticism that the commission is running roughshod over local communities opposed to liquefied natural gas by promising to increase the transparency of commission rulings. \u201cThere is bedlam out there,\u201d said Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR). \u201cOur citizens are running around to scores of meeting, saying they can\u2019t get good info.\u201d The commissioner said he would urge FERC to look at liquefied natural gas projects comprehensively and make \u201ckey judgments\u201d about which ones \u201cbest serve markets.\u201d However, he noted he did not support FERC choosing which plants will succeed, insisting that the market forces decide. Wellinghoff acknowledged public power agency concerns about high costs associated with independent system operators and regional transmission operators. \u201cWe do have to align incentives to make sure we aren\u2019t paying too much.\u201d However, he also urged municipal power agencies to offer concrete suggestions for improvements.