Our Views: Top job for Landrieu

For a senator from an energy state, there are few prizes in politics greater than that of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee of the U.S. Senate.

Congratulations to Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu, who was elected to chair the committee by her fellow Democrats. As the majority party, the Democrats select the chairmen of committees, but in this particular case, her elevation does not reflect a major change in direction for the panel: Landrieu is a friend of the ranking Republican, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, and both are oil-state moderates with similar views on many questions before the committee.

Landrieu won the post because of a game of musical chairs set off by the appointment of former Sen. Max Baucus, of Montana, as ambassador to mainland China. The former Energy Committee chairman moved up to the Finance Committee, and Landrieu was the beneficiary of the change.

She reclaims a seat held by her predecessor in the Senate, J. Bennett Johnston of Louisiana. He left the chamber in 1997, having had in the Energy chairmanship a profound and long-lasting influence on national energy policy.

“Oil and gas is No. 1 in Louisiana,” Johnston told The New York Times. “Being chairman of the committee that has jurisdiction is just fabulously important for the state.”

While Landrieu has been a member of the powerful Appropriations Committee, her influence in the chamber is enhanced by the chairmanship. Given the importance of energy policy to Louisiana’s economy, we hope that influence is of value in a time of dramatic changes in the nation’s energy profile, not just in oil and gas production but in the realms of renewable energy as well.