Clean Energy Initiative

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Gives Major Energy Address at Georgetown University

Last Thursday, October 18, Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, gave a major policy address on global energy policy at Georgetown University which was a broad outline of what needs to happen with global energy. 

Secretary Clinton noted that energy is important to America's foreign policy for three reasons.   First energy is an issue of wealth and power which means it can be a source of both conflict and cooperation.  Second, energy is essential to how we will power our economic structure and manage our environment in the 21st century, citing our interest in promoting new technologies and sources of energy - especially renewables.  Third, energy is key to economic development and political stability.  The more citizens can access power, the better their changes of bettering the quality of their lives.  Because corruption is often a factor in energy poverty and political instability, Secretary Clinton says the U.S. has an interest in supporting leaders who invest their nation's energy wealth back into their economies instead of for themselves.

Secretary Clinton pointed out the gains that the United STates has made with regard to energy by saying that our use of renewable wind and solar has doubled in the past four years.  Oil and natural gas are "surging".  The new auto standards will double how far we drive on a gallon of gas by 2025.  All these improvements mean that we are less reliant on imported energy and stronger geopolitically.   

The important thing to keep in mind, according to Secretary Clinton, is that the United States cannot be an island when it comes to energy markets.  America has to provide leadership on global energy matters.  The Department of State created the Bureau of Energy Resoueces whose mission is to lead the State Departments diplomatic efforts on energy.  What is unique here is that the State Department employs a team of experts dedicated to solving the challenges and opportunities of a global market.  This is headed by Ambassador Carlos Pascual, Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs.  

The Secretary discussed three pillars of global energy strategy.  The first is Energy Diplomacy which seeks to develop a code of conduct to manage resource conflicts, promote competition and prevent monopolies, provide security and manage resources that cross national boundries.  Energy Transformation is the next area of engagement - to help promote new energy solutions - including renewable technologies, promoting energy efficiency, diversifications of the global energy supply and climate change.  She spoke of the challenge of private investment in energy technology - saying that the world is going to need up to $15 trillion in investment to generate and transmit electriicity -which is a challenge and an opportunity.  

President Obama Clearly Demonstrates Command of Energy Policy in Debate Against Governor Romney

Finally - a substantive discussion of energy at the Presidential debate.  Substantive, but neither candidate laid out a clear blue print of what their energy plan would mean to the American public.   At the same time, this debate did not discuss the biggest energy issue down the road -- climate change.  Debate moderator Candy Crowley later said that although there were questions on climate change, the economy was the dominant theme of most submissions.   By and large, both President Obama and Governor Romney stuck to their energy talking points.  

Not surprisingly, the price of gasoline at the pump was a part of the debate discussion.  A questioner asked President Obama about Department of Energy Secretary Chu's statement that it was not 'policy of his department to help lower gas prices'.  Neither Obama nor Romney accurately answered this question - which is that the price of gasoline at the pump is a global commodity, and its price is set by, and subject to the whims of, a global energy market over which an American president has little control.  I really wish this wasn't part of the presidential debate because neither candidate explains this.   The price of gas is often a big part of the American family budget and it is not fair to the American people to pretend that somehow the President or the Administration cabinet agencies can affect this policy.  

The President strongly defended his 'All of the Above' energy policy.  The President touted his fuel efficiency standards which will double the fuel efficiency of cars by 2015, something that Romney strongly opposes.   Obama pointed out that oil and gas production are at an all time high and there are increases in coal production and coal jobs. But he also said it was important to think ahead for energy policy which is why his Administration has made such a big investment in clean energy technologies such as wind and solar saying: "Because China, Germany, they're making these investments. And I'm not going to cede those jobs of the future to those countries. I expect those new energy sources to be built right here in the United States.".

Governor Romney, in turn, touted his plan to use federal lands to develop more oil and gas resources at the same time saying that the President is wrong in saying there was increase in gas and oil production.  Romney made clear his strong support of the Keystone XL Pipeline.  He said "I'll get American and North America energy independent.  I'll do it by more drilling, more permits and licenses."  

A testy exchange, one that dominated the character content of the debate, occurred between President Obama and Governor Romney on fossil fuel production and federal lands.  Romney stated that Obama has impeded fossil fuel production in the U.S. In fact, this charge is wrong; more oil was produced from public lands - 241 barrels the first three years of Obama's presidency than were produced during the last three years of the Bush administration. It is true that permitting on federal lands has dropped under Obama's watch, according to the Bureau of Land Management, which oversees oil and gas leasing.  Natural gas production has gone up since Obama has been in office, but that is due to production of natural gas in North Dakota and Wyoming.  

Obama clearly demonstrates a passion and an affinity for energy issues while it seems to me that Romney just plods through the Fossil Fuel Industry talking points.  

Democrats Investment in Clean Energy Draws Fire from Fossil Fuel Faction

Washington Post editorial writer Charles Lane had a stinging piece today on clean energy.  His bottom line is that clean energy is a product of Democratic elitists with vested interests in green technology and who care more about their investments in spite of the negative repercussions on working men and women of America.  He uses Al Gore as his example - citing the fact he is fifty times richer since he left the Vice Presidency due in large part to his cozy financial relationship with the green high tech industry in California.  Al Gore - the perfect whipping boy of the fossil fuel interests.  I surely hope that Al Gore has profited since he left the Vice Presidency, and frankly I am glad that he has been able to become financially successful doing something that he is passionate about.    Didn't Vice President Dick Cheney make a fortune at Halliburton whose business is considerably reliant on the fossil fuel business?

According to Lane,  Green energy is not cost competitive and won't work without subsidies which ultimately result in higher prices for fossil fuels - the financial brunt born by Americans of modest means.  Lane uses net metering in California as an example.  People who can afford to purchase (or lease) solar panels to power their home benefit from net metering, a process whereby their utility is required to purchase excess power produced from solar panels from the homeowner.  The utilities usually pass this extra expense on to the consumers - those less affluent for whom the electric bill can be a great hardship.  Meanwhile wealthier folks are making money off their solar panels.  Although the utilities can well afford to absorb that cost, Lane does have a point.  Truth be told, renewable technologies are for the well to do.  Solar Energy, wind energy, heat pumps, battery storage, hybrid cars are not middle class expenditures.  

Lane maintains that green energy does not create jobs,  but just "switch them around" - i.e. you get some technical green jobs thru green energy but you lose other jobs.  Smart meters, a 3.9 million dollar investment from the Stimulus bill, did provide new jobs in the technical arena, but also put a lot of meter readers out of work.  Our country has been formed by new technology - the cold fact is that just as railroads put the wagon train business asunder, airplanes did the same to the railroads.   

Charles Lane's arguments on the travails of clean energy are specious and fail to account for the huge costs of using fossil fuels for our future energy use.  It is true that Democrats are notoriously clumsy when it comes to explaining the benefits of renewable technologies to the totality of America.  They are tone deaf to the costs involved and often pious and pompus when explaining the need to develop clean technologies.  But take the messenger out - fossil fuels are dirty, they create health hazards, and weaken our country in the global marketplace.


As Global Smart Meter Use Rises, U.S. Smart Meter Use Declines, Interior Approves Wind Energy on Federal Land in Wyoming,

Globally, smart meter shipments grew 33.6 percent in the second quarter of 2012 compared with the previous quarter and were up nearly 51.3 percent year over year, according to IDC Energy Insights.

By the end of 2012, worldwide annual smart meter shipments will surpass 130 million units.  This signifies a definite shift in technology and smart metering continues to replace analog and automatic meter reading technologies.  Interestingly, the rate differs according to geographical area.  The U.S. market has receded from the peak due to  the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the momentum in the smart metering market is shifting to Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.

In Europe, utilities are testing advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) technologies, and many EU member states have signaled their commitment to embrace smart metering in compliance with the European legislation that mandates smart meter deployment where economically feasible.  .

As large smart meter tenders are not expected in the EU before the second half of 2013, global meter vendors are exploring new market opportunities in other geographic regions. Potential markets in this area include Brazil, Russia, China and India due to their rapidly increasing energy consumption, outdated energy infrastructure and problems with energy loss and theft.  

The Department of Interior approved October 9 a wind energy project in Wyoming capable of generating 3,000 MW of power. The 1,000-turbine Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project, which will generate enough power for nearly a million homes, puts the administration over its goal of authorizing 10,000 MW of renewable power on public lands.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted additional time for electricity transmission owners and regional organizations to file compliance plans to Order 1000, a historic rulemaking aimed at building long-distance transmission lines and promoting renewable generation. The transmission planning and cost allocation rule would require more regional planning for building transmission; would require transmission owners to take into account public policy goals like renewable generation targets; would eliminate preferences for incumbent utilities; and would spread the costs of new transmission lines across more customers and states. Industry stakeholders have challenged the rule in federal court, contending that the commission has exceeded its authority under the Federal Power Act.

Romney's Falsehoods in First Debate Further Defined

Mitt Romney's assertion that the $90 billion which went to green energy projects under the Obama Administration has rankled those of us who care about advanced technology and next generation energy.  Romney's remark is worth repeating:

MR. ROMNEY: And -- and in one year, you provided $90 billion in breaks to the green energy world. Now, I like green energy as well, but that’s about 50 years’ worth of what oil and gas receives, and you say Exxon and Mobil -- actually, this $2.8 billion goes largely to small companies, to drilling operators and so forth.

But you know, if we get that tax rate from 35 percent down to 25 percent, why, that $2.8 billion is on the table. Of course it’s on the table. That’s probably not going to survive, you get that rate down to 25 percent.

But -- but don’t forget, you put $90 billion -- like 50 years worth of breaks -- into solar and wind, to -- to Solyndra and Fisker and Tesla and Ener1. I mean, I -- I had a friend who said, you don’t just pick the winners and losers; you pick the losers. All right? So -- so this is not -- this is not the kind of policy you want to have if you want to get America energy-secure.

These erroneous statements demonstrate how little Romney has kept up with the energy issue since he was Governor of Massachusetts - or closer to the truth - how beholden he is to his energy contributors who are all fossil fuel based.  

As part of the $800 billion 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the Obama administration provided about $90 billion in green energy programs which was subsequently put into a broad array of grants, loans and demonstration projects aimed at everything from updating our antiquated electric grid to carbon capture and storage projects needed to make coal “clean,” funding for energy efficiency projects; cleaning up old nuclear weapons sites; and research and development,. DOE has a breakdown here. 

 But where Romney was completely off the mark is when he asserted that “half” of the companies have gone out of business.  In fact, the DOE 1705 program has approved 33 loans worth about $16 billion. So far there have been three failures (Solyndra, Beacon, and Abound), which works out to a failure rate of approximately 9%. 

Michael Grunwald tweets that Romney's people later told him that "Mitt didn't mean to say half the stimulus-funded green firms failed."  Romney aides later said he meant to refer only to the Energy Department’s $40 billion loan guarantee program, but even here he was not even within hailing distance of the truth. The program has produced one notable casualty which Republicans cannot stop harping on — a solar panel company called Solyndra, and I know I am not the only one with Solyndra fatigue.

First Presidential Debate Focuses Less on Energy than on Tax Policy, Healthcare, and Role of Federal Government

 Nineteen Seconds is the time President Obama spent  addressing our nation’s energy issues.  Republican  Presidential nominee, Mitt Romney spoke for about a minute  and a half.  Scant attention to a topic that plays such a    significant role in our nation’s economy and the future of our  country.  Instead, the focus of the first of three presidential    debates held at the University of Denver was on tax policy,    health care and the role of government.  

 Energy did come up early in the debate when President  Obama said that he favored increasing domestic oil and gas production and he was proud that oil and gas production had happened during his presidency.  


Romney fired back saying that this happened only on private land and that more exploration and production needs to happen on federal lands (which is a part of the Romney energy platform).  However, Romney’s assertion is essentially not true.  In fact, in terms of federal lands, there have been only a 42% decrease in leases and a 37% decrease in permits.  The aftermath of the epic BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill had a lot to do with the federal government cutting back on offshore drilling leases.  


Obama brought up the elimination of tax breaks for the oil industry saying:


 President Obama:  “The oil industry gets $4 billion a year in corporate welfare. Basically, they get deductions that those small businesses that Governor Romney refers to, they don't get.

Now, does anybody think that ExxonMobil needs some extra money, when they're making money every time you go to the pump? Why wouldn't we want to eliminate that? Why wouldn't we eliminate tax breaks for corporate jets? My attitude is, if you got a corporate jet, you can probably afford to pay full freight, not get a special break for it”

Romney responded saying the 2.8 million of tax breaks for oil companies has been in place for over 100 years. But he went on assert  that in one year the Obama Administration provided $90 billion in breaks to the green energy world.  

Romney:  “90 billion, like 50 years' worth of breaks, into -- into solar and wind, to Solyndra and Fisker and Tester and Ener1. I mean, I had a friend who said you don't just pick the winners and losers, you pick the losers, all right? So this -- this is not -- this is not the kind of policy you want to have if you want to get America energy secure”  "These businesses, many of them have gone out of business -- I think about half of them -- of the ones that have been invested in have gone out of business.”


Romney is clearly wrong on this assertion.  In fact, not all that money has been spent, and not even half of it is being directed to upstart green businesses.  Most of the large projects that benefited from the Department of Energy loan program remain in operation  Of the 26 winners of Department of Energy loan guarantees under the stimulus, a total of three have gone belly up: Solyndra, Abound Solar and Beacon Power.  Other projects have been hugely successful such as an ethanol plant in Kansas, a wind farm in Oregon, solar plants in Arizona, and money to Ford Motors for energy efficient automobiles.  Certainly Romney has a point when he mentions Solyndra, but I sincerely believe that the American public has had enough of the Solyndra saga.  

In spite of intense lobbying by environmental groups for climate to be a part of this debate, the subject never came up.  Moderator Jim Lehr never asked a question and neither the President nor Governor Romney came near the word “climate”.  

I expect that energy policy plays a large role in one of the next two debates.  Hydraulic fracturing,  Keystone XL Pipeline, next generation energy technologies such as wind, solar and geothermal, - all of these should be thoroughly discussed and debated.  Energy plays a huge role in the future of our nation, our national security, and our environment.   

Maryland Governor O'Malley Proposes Proactive Rate Structure for Utilities

Any one who lives in the Washington DC area knows the ominous feeling that an afternoon thunderstorm can lead to days withoug electricity.  Resolving this situation has been a conundrum for the city of Washington as well as the suburbs of Maryland and Virginia.  

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) on Wednesday will ask the state’s utility regulators to adopt a plan to allow electric companies to charge ratepayers in advance of serious maintenance upgrades.  In exchange, the utilities would have to meet a stricter standard of reliability.  According to Governor O'Malley,  “The bottom line is we all may pay another dollar or two a month on our utility bills, but it will accelerate the investments that will spare us from having to throw away 400 bucks’ worth of food whenever a big event comes in.”  Having this money in advance will allow Pepco and other utility companies to work on and  complete several years of planned tree trimming, line burial, and other improvements.  Maryland would tighten reliability standards for electric companies and break from industry trends by measuring companies’ performance during storms, not just when the weather is clear. The state would also tie rate-hike requests to records on reliability.  

Pepco, the dominant provider in Washington’s Maryland suburbs, has ranked near the bottom nationally among electric companies in its ability to keep the power on and restore it after outages. Anyone who has lived in the DC area for the past 15 years will attest to this fact.

While this has pushback from consumer groups, I believe it is wise policy.  I would rather pay in advance and have good service than to subject a utility such as PEPCO to asking for (and receiving) rate requests that seem insulting after a big storm.  Proactive instaed of reactive policy.

INVITE: Wed, October 31 - 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 Zoback, Professor of Earth Science, Stanford University, well known for his work in seismic imaging, Melanie Kenderdine, Executive Director of the MIT University Energy Initiative, Greg Staple, CEO of the American Clean Skies Foundation and Amy Mall, Senior Program Analyst, Land and Wildlife Programs for National Resources Defense Council.

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!

SEIA Poll Reveals Public Interest in Renewable Energy Funding, Members of Congress Go After EPA and Fracking Regulations

A recent poll conducted by Hart Reesarch for the Solar Energy Industriews Association found that a whopping 92% of voters say it is important to develop and use solar power, while  64% of voters say that solar should veceive federal support through subsidies and other incentives.  They also found that other renewable energy projects were popular with the voters as well - 57 percent backed subsides for wind, while 13 percent backed subsidies for oil, 8 percent favored help for coal and 20 percent prefered no incentives to any sources of energy.   I have seen a number of these polls dating back to the time I was a political appointee with the Clinton Administration and I have this to say.  The American public likes - perhaps even loves - the idea of renewable energy but I'm not always so sure that they like the idea of actually paying for the higher cost of renewable energy.

Interesting work done in the House of Representatives before recess.  Forty-seven House republicans, led by Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY) and Representatives Mike Pompeo (R-KS) and Joe Barton (R-TX), sent a letter September 21 to Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) urging him to let the wind energy production tax credit expire at the end of the year. House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has expressed support for extending the credit for at least one year.  Same in the Senate, Senators James Inhofe (R-OK), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), John Hoeven (R-ND), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), and Joe Manchin (D-WV), sent a September 27 letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson cautioning her that the agency is overstepping its jurisdiction in regards to the scale of its proposed guidance on fracking. The five senators also expressed concerns that the ambiguity of the proposed guidance could conflict with state regulation of fracking and the underground injection of waste fluids.

October 3 Presidential Debate and Energy, Governor Romney's Energy Agenda in Massachusetts

If I were a betting woman, I would look for energy to play a role in the October 3 debate between President Barak Obama and Governor Mitt Romney.  It has become almost impossible to consider the economy without also considering the role of energy.  This one area where the two presidential candidates are starkly different.  Romney's energy plan gives unwavering support for the coal industry and the oil and gas industry, in other words, fossil fuels.  President Obama has an "All of the Above" energy plan which addresses climate issues with energy efficiency, renewable energy technologies in addition to oil and gas development.   Environmentalists are pushing to get a climate question included in Wednesday's debate. My bet is the question will address natural gas, hydraulic fracturing and Keystone XL pipeline.

The New York Times did a piece in their Sunday edition on Governor Mitt Romney's wide ranging energy agenda while he was Governor of Massachusetts.  Today, as mentioned above, his focus is soley on fossil fuels, but that was not always the case.  Not surprisingly, given his father's role as CEO of American Motors, Romney was a fan of the electric vehicle and touted an building automobiles with low fuel mileage.  In fact, he invited an icon of the environmental movement, Amory Lovins, head of the Rocky Mountain Institute, to meet with him on energy efficient vehicles when he was Governor.  Another noted environmentalist, Gina McCarthy, famous today for as a political appointee for President Obama and enforcing EPA's regulations on mercury and other air toxins, served in a senior leadership position on then Governor Romeny's energy team.  Probably the most intersting part of Governor Romney's energy platform in Massachusetts was his stance on dirty coal plants.  Originally, Romney was said he believes that “climate change is occurring” and that “human activity is a contributing factor,” though he is not certain how much.  His administration produced the Climate Protection Plan, which started before he took office in 2003, but was completed during his administration .  This was a 53-page document, which laid out a blueprint for, among other things, reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2010 .  Mr. Romney argued that no matter what people believed about climate change, the measures would be good for the economy.  Subsequently, New York Governor Pataki wanted to put together a cap and trade program surrounding states.  Governor Romney was on record as being very supportive until after a huge pushback by industry and conservative groups, Governor Romney backed off.   

Syndicate content