In the current contentious Congress, with the budget ax looming over everyone’s sacred cows, the lawmakers considered most influential in energy are not from the most populous states, or even those most endowed with energy resources. The list doesn’t include anyone from Texas or Louisiana, for instance, home to the Gulf energy powerhouse. All but one are from states ranging from 35th to 47th in population.
The most influential lawmakers who emerged from conversations with Washington insiders are mostly from states with long histories of economic dependence on the federal government, including energy programs.
New Mexico’s desert blossomed as the home of the US atomic bomb program and then nuclear research. With federal lands and Native American reservations, the state nets back more per capita from the federal government than any other state.
Second in netback is Alaska, with its huge energy resources and far-flung populations. Idaho’s eastern desert flourished as the Idaho National Laboratory morphed from a World War I-era Naval gunnery range into an atomic research center.
Nevada houses the national underground nuclear testing site (and has long fought adding a national nuclear waste repository there). And Michigan is the historic center of the nation’s auto industry, which in recent years depended on the federal government for an infusion of new life.
While there are certainly other legislators influential in energy, the roles played by these five legislators stand out this Congress.