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From today through mid-week, I’m in Houston attending the Offshore Technology Conference. I’m here on the sponsorship of the American Petroleum Institute which has brought in a cadre of bloggers, presumably to help generate coverage and discussion of petroleum issues. Since I believe energy and climate change policy will be some of the most important debates we have over the coming years, I wanted to take this opportunity to delve deeper into the issue.

This morning, I attended a panel focused on meeting our energy challenges. The panelists included an array of wonks, consumer groups, politicians and industry leaders. Going in, I was wary I might be subjected to a bunch of spin. But the group managed to present some very reasonable arguments, concerns and ideas about our nation’s energy policies.

Jason Grumet, who is the Executive Director of the National Commission on Energy Policy and who advised President Obama during the campaign, set the tone with his assertion that in order to move forward, we must first “move beyond the debate careening between ANWR and Kyoto.” Roger Ballentine of the Progressive Policy Institute also pushed this idea, stating that energy policy has become too politicized and we can’t afford to have two sides who talk past each other.

Needless to say, this kind of post-partisan rhetoric caught my attention. As did the statement by Marvin Odum, president of the Shell Oil Company, that he supports cap and trade. That came with the caveat that the policy be “done right,” (i.e. with safeguards to prevent shocking the economy), but in my naiveté, I assumed an oil company would be reflexively against measures such as CO2 cap and trade.

In fact, throughout the nearly three hour discussion, I heard wide agreement that we need to focus on both climate change AND energy policy — and separating the two and picking sides will only prevent anything from being achieved.

In the face of the current financial crisis, we easily forget that a year ago, we were all talking about $4 gasoline. While those costs have fallen dramatically, we’d be foolish to think our problems are resolved. We need a multi-pronged approach to addressing our future energy needs: conservation, alternative energy sources and, yes, more exploration.

Over the next few days I’ll be reporting on and discussing all of these. Check back in.

18 COMMENTS

  1. You said; “I heard wide agreement that we need to focus on both climate change AND energy policy — and separating the two and picking sides will only prevent anything from being achieved.”

    That is precisely what is needed; the problem has always been the extremist views from either side. A solution can only come when everyone comes together to methodically discuss all the pros and cons – whether it is climate change or energy policy.

  2. It is indeed impossible to ignore energy needs and just focus on renewable energy. The two go hand in hand and both have direct impact on climate change. In general the whole world needs a change of mindset, a paradigm shift. This not only involves the development of alternative energy sources, but also the way traditional energy sources have been used. Just by improving industrial processes and domestic habits energy consumption can be cut significantly. As far as alternative energy sources are concerned, wave (ocean) energy should get higher priority. 71% of the surface of the planet is covered by oceans, but energy from this source is virtually non-existent.
    On the bright side, things have changed substantially in the last 3 years and this augurs well going forward.

  3. Can’t we just raise the price of a gallon of gasoline to $7 for a few years, move all oil production back to the US, and in 5 years be at $.80 per gallon?
    What’s so bad about that?

  4. @RC Thompson:

    I believe that is an incredibly effective solution. The problem never lied in the logistics, though. It’s a matter of “the American Dream” and everyone who is pursuing it. In today’s America, the word “successful” means “has a large income and very expensive things.” People who are trained from a very early age to pursue this end goal will never elect someone who proposes this idea. Even if they show the numbers that it will only last a few years, and then we’ll all be better off; the problem is in our bent toward instant gratification and indulgence in greedy pursuit.

    That’s my humble opinion, anyway.

  5. In response to:

    Can’t we just raise the price of a gallon of gasoline to $7 for a few years, move all oil production back to the US, and in 5 years be at $.80 per gallon?
    What’s so bad about that?l

    I ask myself those same questions everyday. I assume that it would cause a major uproar in the U.S. to do so but I personally beleive that putting out a little money now will greatly enhance the future of our son’s and daughters. Since we got ourselves into this mess it is time to dig ourselves out and not to depend on future generations to take care of the problem.

  6. This is very important topic although many big corporations which has big influence, are against green energy, because that cost them a lot of money.
    There are many successful projects for getting “green” energy, and even there is invention which is going to be produced soon, which makes energy from the human steps on the street. This is really fascinating.

    Thank you,
    Catherine

  7. Regarding green energy, it would be nice to have an honest discussion about what really works, whether it’s going to work everywhere or just in limited areas, and how much we are really gaining in it’s implementation.

    I am tired of hearing about the latest solution to our energy problems, only to find out down the road that the tradeoffs outweigh gains.

    I’ve read about ethanol with enthusiasm, only to find it can’t be run in a pipeline, and needs to be trucked everywhere, creating more pollution, and then getting less bang for your energy buck because it delivers less actual energy than regular gasoline.

    Then there’s wind power, but windmills are an ugly blight on the land (or sea), and when use in the ocean, apparently create noise that disturbs whales (and who knows what else). All hardly “green” additions to our society’s arsenal of alternate energy.

    I’m open to alternate energy, but let’s have these ideas fleshed out BEFORE they’re presented as the next holy grail.

  8. @ Mark Reppen

    I agree that things need to be “fleshed out” before hand, but one of the problems is that we don’t know all the information before hand. As a result, we often can only evaluate some of this new technology AS its being deployed. It’s often impossible to predict how something will work until you actually start trying it out and investing time/money into it.

    With alternative energy we have no choice but to start working towards a cleaner energy system because of climate change. But it does require that initial monetary investment in order to kick things off.

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