WASHINGTON, D.C. - When it comes to a comprehensive federal approach to a national energy policy -- one that puts significant dollars into energy policies, programs, and budgets -- the United States is stuck in neutral, a pair of key Senators said Wednesday. U.S. Senators Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va, and Jim Jeffords, I-Vt., called a just-released report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) the most comprehensive examination of the nation’s current energy policy. The report shows a patchwork approach, filled with underfunded programs, holes in research, and a general lack of commitment to an advanced, robust energy strategy. "The GAO report shows that America’s energy plan is incremental, at best, and lacks clear benchmarks with measurable targets. We are treading water and not making significant progress toward energy independence," Byrd said. "We can -- and we must -- do better." "This report shows that our nation’s energy policies are not coordinated, not well funded and not designed to move our country toward a safer and sustainable energy future," said Senator Jeffords. "It is time for the Bush Administration to realize that we cannot simply drill our way to energy independence. We need a comprehensive approach that invests in newer and cleaner technologies to reduce our reliance on foreign oil. This report tells us we are spending billions of dollars on a directionless national energy policy that lacks commitment and does not work." The GAO identified the federal government’s current energy-related efforts, reviewed the status of efforts to implement the May 2001 National Energy Policy (NEP) report recommendations by the agencies, and determined the extent to which resources associated with federal energy-related efforts have changed since the release of the NEP report. During the two-year project, the GAO met with officials in 18 different federal agencies and examined 158 energy-related program activities. The report assessed a comprehensive range of programs and tax preferences that address eight major energy activity areas including: energy supply, energy’s impact on the environment and health, low-income energy consumer assistance, basic energy science research, energy delivery infrastructure, energy conservation, energy assurance and physical security, and energy market competition and education. "The GAO’s review of the government’s energy activities provides an honest, and, in many cases, alarming assessment of how far we are from having a comprehensive, forward-thinking national energy policy. The GAO signals the absence of a balanced national energy strategy that includes measurable goals to determine if the country is making progress," Byrd said. The GAO found that "it is difficult to independently assess the status of efforts made to implement [the NEP report] recommendations because of limited information and the open-ended nature of some of the recommendations themselves. . . . some of the recommendations are open-ended and lack a specific, measurable goal, which makes it difficult to assess progress. Without a specific measurable goal, it can be difficult to understand how and to what extent activities are helping to fulfill a recommendation." Byrd, Jeffords, and Senator Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., joined in requesting the GAO conduct the energy policy review. The U.S. Senate this week is beginning debate on energy legislation. Senator Byrd is urging the Senate to adopt not only specific measurable goals but also to invest the funds needed to help meet those goals. The full text of the GAO report on national energy policy can be found at http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d05379.pdf.