NDN Blog

Former President Bill Clinton Praises Obama's Energy Policy, Japan Considers Going Zero Nuclear

No one should be surprised that former president Bill Clinton backed up President Obama's energy policies in his speech last night. In a Ringing endorsement last night, Clinton had  soaring praise for Obama's agreement with the auto industry to increase vehicle fuel efficiency standards to an average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 - which Clinton said will help Americans' wallets as well as the Earth's climate.

Bloomberg Business Week has a story about Japan turning zero nuclear.  With The Japanese public disinclined toward the use of nuclear energy, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda facing declining approval rating, the Prime Minister recently ordered his cabinet ministers to consider how to cope with challenges the country would face without nuclear energy.  The effects of this would be absolutely huge.  It is estimated that it would cost the country the equivalent of $622 billion to build a power grid around renewable energy.  Zero nuclear would be an enormous boost to renewable energy which would have to ramp up to providing the country 35% of electricity supply by 2030.  Not surprisingly, major business interests, especially the business lobby Keidanren, say this non nuclear plan is unrealistic and a threat to the manufacturing economy of Japan.  No doubt the nuclear meltdoen of Fukishima put nuclear energy in a new perspective, but whether zero nuclear becomes a reality is 50/50 in my book.

Secretary Ken Salazar Touts Obama Energy Accomplishments, Transcanada Announces New Route for Keystone Pipeline

Energy Policy took a front seat at the Democratic National Convention with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar as the big energy draw last night.  Salazar touted the Administrations energy achievements including reduced oil imports, record ntural gas production, maturation of the renewable energy industry and job creation in the energy sector.  The Secretary brought up the 2008 mantra of the Republican energy platform, Salazar asked the audience, "Where did the old 'drill baby drill' get us?  And now where would the same Romney/Ryan approach take us?".  Calling the Republican attitude on energy "reckless and backwards, he said they are "locked in an ideological embrace with failed policies of the past".  

As expected, the company building the Keystone XL Pipeline, TransCanada, has proposed a new route througout Nebraska for the pipeline which would avoid avoid the Sandhills, a region of prairie and sand dunes that is rich in plants and wildlife with thousands of ponds and lakes.  The President had delayed approval of the northern half of the project citing concerns about these environmentally  sensitive areas.  While this was largely viewed as a political nod to the environmenatl community, there were many citizens of Nebraska that felt the same concerns and this new route is based on extensive communications with citizens and state officials of Nebraska.  TransCanada has said it hopes to have U.S. State Department approval for the northern section early next year.  

Democrat Platform Touts Clean Energy Success while Republican Platform Emphasizes Fossil Fuels

The Democratic Platform released this week underscores the Administration's 'All of the Above' energy strategy.  Not surprisingly, the platform's energy agenda skews toward on clean energy pointing that President Obama has a goal of generating 80% of our energy from clean sources by 2035.  The agenda noted that Administration investments in clean energy doubled the electricity we get from wind and solar.   There was a shout out to Obama Administration's standards for emissions and fuel efficiency which has lowered our dependence on foreign oil with a side emphasis on clean energy jobs.  The energy platform ended with this:  "Building a clean energy future means that new exploration and production needs to be approached safely and responsibly. Democrats are committed to balancing environmental protection with development, and that means preserving sensitive public lands from exploration, like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Pacific West Coast, Gulf of Maine, and other irreplaceable national landscapes".

Mitt Romney's Acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention emphasized greater production of fossil fuels to create jobs and build our economy.  But he had one line about energy which has reverberated over the last few days, “President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family."  In that one line, Romney hinted at the President being out-of-touch on real issues such as a family budget.  Frankly, it was a good line.  Many families today are struggling with incomes substantially lower than what they earned previously and those are the lucky ones - other families are coping with the long term travails of unemployment.  The environment takes a back seat to a mortgage, children's school clothes, groceries and their children's extracurricular school and athletic fees.   It's the Maslow's hierarchy of needs pure and simple - basic needs come way before broader goals for the planet. Unfortunately, sometimes well educated and well intentioned folk in Washington, DC don't quite grasp the economic realities of mainstream America.  It is not fair to draw a line between environmental stewardship and a family budget as Mitt Romney did, yet I don't believe well-educated environmentalists fully appreciate our nation's economic hardship.  

INVITE: Tuesday, Wednesday, October 31st, Hydraulic Fracturing: Challenges and Opportunities

In recent years new advances in technology have changed our understanding of our nation’s energy future.  “Hydraulic Fracturing” is a perfect example and offers America tremendous opportunity to have greater control of our own energy destiny.  The potential is huge, but of course, like any new advance, there are risks.  On September 25, we will host a panel discussion to help us better understand both the opportunities and challenges of these new technological advances and the potential of natural gas and oil shale. Among the panelists joining our moderator Kyle Simpson, Senior Energy Advisor for Hogan Lovells, LLC will be Dr. Mark Zorback, Professor of Earth Science, Stanford University, well known for his work in seismic imaging.

Join us Wednesday, October 31st, for a lunchtime discussion at the NDN event space located at 729 15th Street on the first floor.  Lunch will be served at 12:Noon and the program begins at 12:15pm.  

Please RSVP today and feel free to invite others you think might be interested.

Romney's Energy Plan Plays to Decades Long Argument About States Management of Federal Lands

The New York Times has a good story on the impact of Romney's energy plan which gives states' control over federal lands within their state border.  “I’m going to change the regulatory and permitting process,” Mr. Romney said Thursday at a rally in Hobbs, N.M, where companies are eager to begin drilling on millions of acres of federal lands. “Sometimes I have the impression that the whole regulatory attitude of the administration is trying to stop oil and gas and coal — that they don’t want those sources, that instead they want to get those things so expensive and so rare that wind and solar become highly cost-effective and efficient.”  This rhetoric is good fodder for the establishment energy community of coal, oil and gas.  Historically, giving states control over their energy resources on federal lands has been a sticking point - especially in states with huge energy resources.  The policy dates back over a century to President Theodore Roosevelt who set aside federal lands to preserve wildlife.   Environmentalist are vehemently opposed to this proposal because of the premise that federal lands belong to the American public and the fragility of national wildlife.

Jay Carney  White House Press Secretary, was somewhat circumspect yesterday when he answered a question on the Keystone XL Pipeline.  "The Keystone pipeline is a - we haven't rejected anything," Carney said. "It's a process that's underway at the State Department that was delayed for two reasons: One, because of concern by folks in Nebraska, including a Republican governor, about the original proposed route, and then because of Congress's - the House Republicans' insistence on including it as part of the payroll tax cut extension."  Sounds like the Administration, who originally delayed Keystone in January 2012 is rethinking or retweaking their position.

Romney's Stale Energy Plan Offers Less Regulations and More Drilling

Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney unveiled his Energy Plan in Hobbs, New Mexico today. "I have a vision for an America that is an energy superpower, rapidly increasing our own production and partnering with our allies Canada and Mexico to achieve energy independence on this continent," Romney says.  Central to Romney’s plan is for state government, which currently controls energy resources within their state’s border, to also have control over the federal energy resources within their state.  Romney’s plan also includes an aggressive expansion of offshore drilling particularly off the Commonwealth of Virginia and North and South Carolina.  

This plan, similar to other GOP energy plans, buttresses their economic argument that job creation and economic opportunities come through exploration of domestic oil and gas resources, specifically the approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline.  Romney’s energy plan says that in addition to growing the economy, the trade deficit will shrink, the dollar will strengthen, and billions of dollars will flow to the US treasury which will benefit the middle class.

Not surprisingly, this plan, a nod to the oil and gas industry, tilts toward carbon based energy resources. Only two days ago, Romney raised almost $7 million dollars during a trip to Houston and Midland Texas and another $2 million at a Wednesday night fundraiser in Little Rock, Arkansas, making a total of $10 million from the oil industry.  Federico Pena, an Obama surrogate and former Secretary of Energy under President Clinton, said, "Gov. Romney is expected to lay out lofty energy goals, but how will he actually get us there? Only two days after a fundraiser hosted by the CEO of major oil companies, Romney is expected to defend billions in oil subsidies while opposing efforts to use oil more efficiently and develop homegrown alternative energy. We will never reach energy independence by turning our backs on homegrown renewable energy and better auto mileage."

The Romney Energy Plan suffers from a deficit of innovative solutions.  Instead, it is a stale recycle of other Republican energy plans and with no clear pathway for energy independence aside from less regulations and more investment in carbon based energy sources.   

The plan has little mention of the importance of renewable energy to our energy future. For example, Romney is opposed to the Production Tax Credit (PTC), an issue in the 2012 campaign, and which would greatly benefit the wind industry.  Oren Cass, Romney’s Domestic Policy Director, said in a briefing call last night with reporters that growth in the wind industry has slowed, that the industry has lost 10,000 jobs and that Romney is “focused on actually setting the wind industry up to be a competitive, innovative industry that can succeed on its own two feet, like so many other successful and profitable industries in the country”.

Even if Romney doesn’t recognize global climate change and consequently sees no need to address carbon through increased use of renewable energy resources, there can be no denying that this industry is extremely important to our fragile economy

While it is true that almost 2/3 of federal lands are prohibited from drilling for oil, but it simply is unclear that opening these lands up would make a big difference. Since Obama has taken office, our imports of oil and gas have dramatically declined.  As Ezra Klein pointed out today, advanced and highly technical drilling techniques have allowed for the production of large quantities of oil and gas. In their annual report released in June of this year, the Energy Information Agency states that:  "Domestic crude oil production has increased over the past few years, reversing a decline that began in 1986. U.S. crude oil production increased from 5.0 million barrels per day in 2008 to 5.5 million barrels per day in 2010. Over the next 10 years, continued development of tight oil, in combination with the ongoing development of offshore resources in the Gulf of Mexico, pushes domestic crude oil production higher"

Encouraging more drilling is not especially a financial panacea to bringing about more oil. According to the Congressional Budget Office’s report prepared at the request of Republican lawmakers earlier this year - opening nearly all federal land to oil and gas drilling would bring modest revenues to the U.S. budget over the next decade,   “If opened to drilling, the refuge and parts of the Atlantic, Pacific and Florida coasts together would yield $7 billion over the next decade, the CBO said. That's less than 5% of the $150 billion the federal budget already stands to get over that period from oil and gas leases on federal land already open to drilling.”  

In fact, the Obama Administration has been rather friendly to offshore drilling.  Obama opened up the Gulf of Mexico for offshore drilling.  Unfortunately, because of the massive BP oil spill, the Administration understandably put a one year moratorium on drilling in the Gulf to attend the environmental disaster that resulted.  Prior to the BP oil spill oil production in the Gulf was 1.75 million barrels a day, today oil production is roughly 1.5 million barrels a day, which is 700,000 barrels below what had been projected for 2012. Still, gulf production is rapidly ramping up again; with overall domestic oil production is up 10 percent this year in a continuation of a three-year trend.

The Romney Energy Plan does not address the critical energy issues of the United States energy future which include overwhelming scientific evidence of global climate change, the tricky conundrum of facilitating hydraulic fracturing while protecting our environment, proactively working to reduce energy use by our country and most especially our United States Military, providing clean energy resources, finding a workable solution to the Keystone Xl Pipeline and working with the oil and gas industry to facilitate more domestic resources.   

New York at Crossroads with Hydraulic Fracturing, Republican Platform Spurns Production Tax Credits for Wind

The state of New York has a substantial supply of natural gas located in the sprawling Marcellus Shale. Already, Ohio and Pennsylvania have begun mining natural gas using the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing. Governor Andrew Cuomo, the hugely popular center left Democrat is at the maelstrom of the decision of whether the state of New York should utilize the environmentally controversial technology of hydraulic fracturing to yield economic benefits to the state.  A recent poll of New Yorkers conducted by the Siena College Research Institute finds that 39% say they are for allowing hydraulic fracturing, yet 38% say they are opposed to hydraulic fracturing and 20% saying they don't have enough information, By party affiliation, 30% of Democrats, 50% of Republicans and 42% of Independents are pro hydraulic fracturing.  Governor Cuomo will have to decide how craft a position where he is both pro-business developments while finding a way to have concrete regulations to prevent the environmental hazards of Fracking.

Not surprisingly, the Republicans voted to keep the wind production tax credit and other renewable subsidies out of the GOP official platform. Senator John Hoeven, (ND), chair of the policy committee said the decision was to speak in generalities,.  No mention of evil subsidies, of which there are plenty, for coal, oil and gas, and nuclear. 

Wind Power Politics and Potential, GAO Report States Regulatory Need on Mercury and Air Toxins,

The Diane Rehm show featured an excellent show on the 'Politics and Potential of Wind Power' yesterday.  I've now listened to it twice.  The panel discusses the role of subsidies for wind energy which hasbecome a hot-button issue in the presidential campaign. Governor Romney opposes extending tax credits for the wind industry. President Obama has re-doubled his commitment to them. They also discussed the important and potentially controversial siting and transmission issues involved in wind energy as well as the environmental impact - both good and bad.  

The Government Accountability Office says in a newly issued report on EPA's Regulations and Electricity.  The GAO report concludes that "FERC, DOE, and EPA take additional steps to monitor industry’s progress in responding to the regulations".  

Cliff Sterns (FL-12) loses Primary Election, North Carolina Based Duke Energy Strongly Backs Democratic Convention

It is official, Cliff Sterns (FL-12), an influential member of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee, has lost his Republican primary to Ted Yoho, a tea party challenger.  Hugely outspent by Sterns who had a $1.2 campaign war chest, Yoho is a relative unknown and never before held public office.  During the primary, the Yoho campaign ran innovative online videos - one referring to incumbent congressmen as ‘pigs at the trough’.  These online ads apparently had some impact.  

Sterns is best known for his aggressive investigations as Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation.  Most notably, during the 112th Congress, he has been a virtual one note samba in his non stop and redundant investigations of Solyndra, a failed solar company who received a substantial amount of stimulus money from the Obama Administration TARP funds.  One, two, maybe three hearings on Solyndra might have made his point that Solyndra was a bad investment by the Federal government and, because of this example, lessons should be learned and more stringent regulations followed.  Instead, he held too many investigations for me to keep count.  Despite his puffery on Solyndra, Ted Yoho, in a February interview with POLITICO said that Stearns was partly responsible for the solar debacle because he didn’t do more to stop the underlying program from being created.  Unfortunately, for Sterns, his outlandish inquiries into Solyndra did not win him many fans in his district.  

The New York Times had an interesting piece about the intersection of Charlotte, North Carolina based Duke Energy’s support for the Democratic convention.  This support is  testing President Obama’s pledge to free the Democratic Party’s funding from business and lobbyist support.  During the last four years, the Obama campaign has tried to balance the president’s longtime pledge to reduce the influence of special interests in politics with the reality of raising the big bucks that modern campaigns require

Duke Energy has given the Democratic convention a sizable loan and provided free office space for the Democrats.  In 2010, Duke was awarded $204 million in stimulus money to modernize its power grids and in 2009 they were given a $22 million grant in 2009 to develop wind energy technologies.   Duke was one of the few utilities to get behind the “cap and trade” system that House Democrats unsuccessfully sought to enact early in Mr. Obama’s term. It was part of a coalition of like-minded corporate and environmental groups that helped develop the approach.  Mr. Rogers has said he expected to receive no favoritism in return for Duke’s contributions. 

Solar Firm to Locate in North Carolina and Department of Energy Releases Wind Energy Report

North Carolina will be the home to Shletter, Inc who is a designer and manufacturer of solar power mounting systems.  Sheletter, Inc will set up their headquarters in the town of Shelby, NC.   Gov. Beverly Perdue said that by 2016, this company will create 300 jobs and invest more than $27 million in the Shelby facility. Since 2008, Schletter was locating their manufacturing facilities for photovoltaic mounting systems in Arizona.

The Department of Energy released their report on the state of wind energy installations throughout the USA for 2011.  According to this report, there is good news for wind since 2010 when the effects of the recession were being felt in full.  In total, the U.S. added 6.8 gigawatts of wind power production capacity from 562 turbines in 2011, enough to power 1.7 million homes. That was a growth rate of 16 percent overall and 31 percent over 2010.  Presently, the United States has 47 gigawatts of wind energy generation capacity.

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