Third Way Perspectives

Subscribe via RSS

Posts Tagged ‘coal’

Energy Policy after 2012

October 23rd, 2012

by and

Summary points

  • Thanks to continued partisan gridlock, major congressional action on energy is unlikely after the 2012 elections. However, this could change if there is a deal to address the budget deficit or if one party makes significant gains in seats.
  • Domestic oil and natural gas production will continue to grow under either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney.
  • A second Obama administration would be likely to seek to accelerate the commercialization and deployment of clean energy through a mix of tax incentives, encouraging private financing, and regulation of conventional and climate pollutants.
  • A Romney administration would be likely to focus on increasing domestic conventional energy production by reducing environmental regulation, particularly on coal-burning power plants, and opening more public land to oil and natural gas development. Excluding basic research, government incentives for clean energy would most likely be eliminated.

Introduction

In 2008, the price of natural gas in the United States was roughly $8 per thousand cubic feet (tcf), coal was used to generate more than 47 per cent of all electricity, and there was a consensus among Democrats and Republicans that climate change was real, caused by humans, and needed to be addressed immediately. It seemed only a matter of time before the country adopted a cap-and-trade system similar to one backed by both parties’ presidential nominees.

Four years later, the energy landscape has changed dramatically. Cap-and-trade is on the ash heap of history, and climate change and clean energy have become enormously politicized. The price of natural gas has dropped as low as $2.25 per tcf thanks to the hydraulic fracturing drilling process (fracking) that has given the United States access to more than 500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and sent domestic coal use into a precipitous decline. That same fracking technology has led to a domestic oil boom, with imports dropping to 42 per cent of use, the lowest level in two decades. Clean energy, particularly wind and solar, also saw a boom in the early years of the Obama administration thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).

The growth in domestic shale oil and gas production seems inevitable. But the broader future of US energy faces much more uncertainty. There are enormous differences in how the two candidates would approach regulation of energy production and generation, climate change and America’s competition in the global clean energy race. Polling shows that these issues will have little impact on the decisions voters make. But they will have enormous implications for the price and source of the energy Americans consume, the success of America’s energy industries and the fate of international efforts to stem climate change.

Read the rest of this entry »

Drawing the Right Lessons from Fukushima

January 27th, 2012

by

This piece first appeared in The Huffington Post.

As we approach the March 11th anniversary of the T?hoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan, one focus in this country has been the impact of the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and its implications for nuclear energy facilities in the United States. Watching the coverage of the tsunami’s impact on the Fukushima plant was undeniably frightening, and some now have concluded that nuclear energy is just too risky for use in the United States. We believe that the opposite is true: that it is far too risky for the U.S. not to keep nuclear energy as a significant part of our electric power mix.

Read the rest of this entry »

Conservatives, Media Missing the Boat on Clean Energy

November 18th, 2011

by

This piece was originally posted on the Huffington Post.

Demand for energy resources in the rest of the world, and especially developing nations, is growing rapidly. Like Willie Sutton robbing banks because “that’s where the money is,” emerging economic powers like China and India are racing to secure the oil, coal, and natural gas they use because that’s where the economic growth is. But as this competition for limited fossil fuel resources heats up, the media and conservative politicians are increasingly questioning federal investments in clean energy. Using selective facts and a very narrow definition of national interest, they argue that public incentives for clean energy are a bad bet.

The criticisms of investing in clean energy ignore that our nation is on an unsustainable energy path and that for our economy, national security, public health and, yes, environmental interests, we must diversify our energy portfolio. Our nation’s energy infrastructure today is essentially reliant on coal, oil and natural gas — three natural resources that are in dramatically increasing demand around the world. This has nothing to do with peak oil. The world is racing headlong into a bidding war for energy. The only entity both able and empowered to halt the march is the federal government. Read the rest of this entry »