Clean Energy Initiative

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.

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.

Paul Ryan's Pick as Vice President Nominee Sparks Energy Debate

Mitt Romney's pick of Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his choice for a Vice Presidential running mate has big repercussions for the energy and environmental community.  Not surprisingly, opinions about Congressman Ryan in the energy community fall along predictable political lines.

During the 112th Congress, Mr. Ryan has been a loyal backer of the conservative Republicans' stand on energy and environment - which means he is opposed to regulatory action from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), opposed to any governmental spending on renewable energy initiatives such as Solyndra, and a loyal supporter of the oil and gas industry.  He has been embraced by the Climate Deniers.  

The conservative energy stance of Paul Ryan will definitely help Mitt Romney's appeal to traditional Republican strongholds in the energy community who have been skeptical of Romney's past stands on energy as the governor of Massachusetts.  As Governor, Romney introduced the Massachusetts Climate Protection Plan.  This document laid plans to cut state pollution and increase  energy efficiency.   To add salt to Republican wounds, as Massachusetts Governor, Mr. Romney elevated Gina McCarthy, the high profile Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation at EPA in the Obama Administration, to the position of Undersecretary for Policy at the Executive Office for Environmental Affairs. McCarthy, has been at the center of GOP conservative attacks on excessive government regulations on private industry.  Paul Ryan's conservative stands on energy policy will probably help to mitigate Romney's past environmental record.

A first test of this difference will be in Iowa this month.  The GOP leadership in the House of Representatives has been adamantly against extending the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for the wind industry and so far has been winning that battle in Congress.  Meanwhile, the Obama Administration has taken a leadership role in the battle to preserve this important tax incentive for the wind industry. A major focus of the President's message will be the economic benefits of extension of the PTC to the state of Iowa.  He will be campaigning the next two days in Iowa and he has made a point to say that wind energy has doubled since he has taken office.  

Romney Campaign Skeptical of Obama's Wind Energy Agenda

According to a great piece in the Denver Post, the campaign of Mitt Romney has gone after what they call the Obama Administration’s "unhealthy" obsession with "green jobs.".  Mitt Romney goes after the Administration’s investment in solar manufacturer Solyndra and questions Obama's vision of a boom in employment from green jobs citing a European study to argue that new solar or wind-energy positions would destroy jobs elsewhere.  Some Republicans, however, are concerned about Romney’s opposition to the Production Tax Credit, a tax break for wind energy producers which will expire at the end of the year. Many Republicans are from states with huge wind resources.  For example, Congressman Latham, R-Iowa made note that 7,000 Iowans work in the wind industry and said the Romney campaign had "a lack of full understanding of how important the wind energy tax credit is for Iowa and our nation".

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