President Obama’s State Of The Energy Union
By James Conca
As we get ready for the President’s State of the Union Address, don’t expect anything dramatic on the energy sector. Although not generally acknowledged, oil, gas and renewables have benefited greatly under this Administration and will continue to do so in the next four years. Coal has declined and nuclear and hydro have remained essentially neutral.
The words and the tone of the Address, when discussing energy, will reflect these changes and set the stage for some modest energy initiatives on which the Administration will likely succeed. The President will:
1) address Climate Change through continued hammering on coal and power plant emissions through the EPA and rulemaking,
2) approve the Keystone Pipeline,
3) drive for even higher CAFE standards, and
4) push for efficiency and conservation through better standards for buildings and appliances with a revolving loan fund to improve manufacturing efficiency.
The last point is ideal for bipartisan agreement and is a major focus of Senator Murkowski (R-AK) in her recently published Energy Plan (Energy 20/20). This Plan bears close reading. Murkowski is the ranking Republican on the Senate energy committee and, although she calls her plan more of a vision for America’s energy future and not a detailed plan, it is a blueprint for starting serious discussions. Murkowski is also the most likely to catalyze a bipartisan plan that has some chance of passing into law.
One of the more important proposals made in the Plan, and which I hope the Administration supports, is to rewrite the definition of clean energy, which most people incorrectly think of as solar panels, wind turbines or geothermal plants, the renewable technologies that policymakers use in setting clean-energy policy (Ezra Klein Washington Post).
Arguing that this is too strict a definition, Murkowski wants to redefine clean energy to mean energy that is less intensive than its likeliest alternative in global life-cycle impacts on human health and the environment.
Under this sensible relativistic definition, nuclear counts as clean energy, as all of us have been saying for years, because its alternative is coal. Similarly for natural gas and hydroelectric, as their alternatives are also coal.
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