December 03, 2009

Events from Around Town: A Double Feature

Michael McCarthy reports from the New America Foundation event on Minding the Gap: Where Will President Obama's Energy and Climate Policies Take Us in Four to Eight Years?

Yesterday I attended an event at the New America Foundation on Minding the Gap: Where Will President Obama's Energy and Climate Policies Take Us in Four to Eight Years? The format was a series of remarks by energy consultants and Department of Energy representatives, moderated by Lisa Margonelli, director of New America’s Energy Policy Initiative. A keynote speech from Representative Bob Inglis (R-SC) capped the event in which he advocated for his revenue-neutral alternative to the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade legislation. Here are a few highlights from yesterday’s event:

  • New America President Steve Coll introduced the panel by noting that in energy policy, the era of false starts and ad hoc solutions is likely coming to an end. Coll believes the current administration is dedicated to creating a top-down, cohesive energy policy before leaving office.
  • One energy firm consultant is happy to see an administration dedicated to doing something about climate change, but worries about the uncertainty over how to price carbon in the next four to eight years.
  • Another panel member noted that the test of the American leadership is not only how it reduces its own emissions, but also how it helps developing nations to reduce their emissions, since these countries will be responsible for most of the emissions growth in the future.
  • One panelist is helping the Department of Energy to distribute funds from the stimulus bill passed earlier this year. He noted that DOE’s new Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), modeled after the Defense Department’s DARPA, has received 3,700 concept papers from established companies, start-ups and universities. ARPA-E is selecting about one in 100 of these project proposals to fund.
  • Congressman Inglis believes in the dangers of climate change, but often sells his skeptical colleagues by reminding them that climate change legislation is good for America’s energy security as well. If U.S. energy interests were less beholden to price and availability fluctuations in volatile regions, he noted, “that’s national security.”

All in all there were some interesting ideas floating through the New America offices yesterday. While only one participant made the argument that climate change legislation is good for U.S. security, he was also the participant with the most direct political influence, and he is clearly concerned about the issue. In recent weeks we’ve seen explicit links between climate change and national security being discussed in the Senate, and it’s encouraging to see that similar ideas may be brewing in the House as well.

Amanda Hahnel reports from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) report launch of World Energy Outlook 2009

Yesterday I ventured over to CSIS to attend the launch of the World Energy Outlook 2009 report, an annual report put on by the International Energy Agency.  Dr. Fatih Barol, the chief economist on the project, briefed us on the key takeaways, some of which I’ve captured below:

  • Non-OECD countries account for all of the growth in emissions. In a reference scenario where limited action was taken to reduce carbon emissions, China would increase emissions by 6 gigatons of CO2 by 2030.
  • The current energy system is unsustainable, a revolution in how we use and supply fuel must be implemented.
  • With current global population, by 2030 we will not be able to afford cheap enough energy to sustain enough economic growth to provide a minimum level of employment in the world.
  • New supplies of oil will most likely be concentrated in OPEC countries. Dependence on these countries for oil will continue to challenge our energy security.
  • Energy efficiency is the area where everyone has the most to gain.
  • India was not listed among the emerging economies due to a lower per capita income. This, according to the report, means that sustaining growth for them is more critical than it is for China.
  • The report relies heavily on carbon capture and sequestration as well as nuclear energy for sustainable energy alternatives in a new low-carbon world. Paying attention to the breakdowns of this technology in different scenarios is important.

It was a great event that provided some of the best energy data analyses available. As Dr. Barol admitted, a lot of the information is updated from what we already know, but the continuation of information collection and study is important.  If you’re in need of a great collection of energy-related data, check out their report for more in-depth findings.