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What do President Obama's nominees for the Energy and Interior departments and the Environmental Protection Agency say about his second-term agenda on these issues?
All the top Cabinet aides overseeing Obama's energy and environmental policies are leaving, and the president has announced his choices to replace them: Sally Jewell, chief executive of the outdoor-gear retailer REI, for Interior secretary; EPA's current assistant administrator for air and radiation, Gina McCarthy, as the agency's administrator; and MIT professor Ernest Moniz as Energy secretary.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a confirmation hearing for Jewell last week, and hearings are expected soon for McCarthy at the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and Moniz at the Energy and Natural Resources panel.
With Congress gridlocked on energy and environmental policy, any major progress Obama hopes to make on these issues will likely be done within EPA and the Energy and Interior departments, in coordination with White House aides, including Obama's top energy and environment adviser, Heather Zichal.
What do Obama's picks say about how ambitious he hopes to be in the next four years? What agency will be the most active in forming policy? If these nominees are confirmed by the Senate, what advice would you give to Jewell, McCarthy, and Moniz as they prepare to accept Obama's key energy and environment Cabinet posts?
13 responses: Gene Karpinski, Christine McEntee, Jim Kerr, Tom Kimbis, Kateri Callahan, Marlo Lewis, Craig Rucker, Roger Platt, Bernard L. Weinstein, Kevin Knobloch, David Holt, William O'Keefe, David Conover
As the sequester's across-the-board cuts go into effect and Washington stares down a month's end deadline to pass legislation to keep the government running, what's at stake for energy and environment policy?
Before sequestration kicked in on March 1, the White House warned that the cuts would slow down the Interior Department's process to review oil and gas permits; media reports have said the Environmental Protection Agency's oversight of Superfund sites, oil spills and pollution laws could also be at risk.
Are these concerns overblown? Or have they not been mentioned enough? What other energy and environment programs could be at risk? How will Washington and local governments be able to document how much, if at all, sequestration has impacted their programs, including energy and environment policies?
Washington is familiar with this kind of fiscal fight, with each party adamant its position is more right than the other's. Each time, policymakers seem to come to some sort of last-ditch solution, but no such solution ever creates a sense of long-term policy certainty that the private sector has said it wants from Washington. What kind of impact do these continual fiscal showdowns have on energy and environment policies?
What does the controversial Keystone XL pipeline stand for? And what is at stake when President Obama decides its fate?
The 1,700-mile, tar-sands project has come to symbolize much more than a pipeline. Almost five years after the project's first step into the regulatory process, Washington is still fighting about its fate.
To some, the transcontinental project is an engine for economic growth and its approval would be a sign that Obama is serious about boosting the economy. To others, green-lighting the pipeline means game-over for combating global warming because the project would carry carbon-heavy tar sands.
The State Department is not expected to make the necessary national-interest determination on the pipeline until at least spring of this year. Obama is likely to make the final call on the project, a decision that could slip into the latter half of 2013.
What does the pipeline mean for both the U.S. economy and efforts to curb climate change? How could the decision affect America's relations with Canada, our northern neighbor where the pipeline originates?
What does the battle over this one pipeline mean for future efforts to build energy infrastructure?
18 responses: Amy Harder, Thomas Gibson, Brent Erickson, Dan Conover, Frances Beinecke, Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., Thomas J. Pyle, Carl Pope, Jack Gerard, Brigham McCown, David Holt, Michael Wu, William O'Keefe, Michael Canes, Scott Sklar, Bernard L. Weinstein, Bill Snape, Kevin Massy
Sizing Up Obama's State of the Union Address In his State of the Union address, President Obama challenged Congress to act on climate change - but declared that if lawmakers don't act, he will. He did not detail how, specifically, he'll use his executive authority, but his speech appears to set the stage for a series of cabinet actions, starting with Environmental Protection Agency regulations on both new and existing polluters. How much can Obama achieve on climate change without Congress? What will be the impacts - environmental, economic and political? What obstacles and challenges stand in the way?
Sizing Up Obama's State of the Union Address
In his State of the Union address, President Obama challenged Congress to act on climate change - but declared that if lawmakers don't act, he will.
He did not detail how, specifically, he'll use his executive authority, but his speech appears to set the stage for a series of cabinet actions, starting with Environmental Protection Agency regulations on both new and existing polluters.
How much can Obama achieve on climate change without Congress? What will be the impacts - environmental, economic and political? What obstacles and challenges stand in the way?
20 responses: Kateri Callahan, Brent Erickson, William O'Keefe, Bernard L. Weinstein, Rachael Jonassen, Jamie Rappaport Clark, Brigham McCown, Kevin Crapsey, Dave McCurdy, Charles Drevna, Bill Snape, Paul Sullivan, Manik Roy, Frances Beinecke, Carl Pope, William O'Keefe, Evan Tracey, Jack Rafuse, Bill Snape, Christine McEntee
[Editor's note: Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., is guest-moderating and providing the question this week.]
Increasing energy efficiency can be a powerful catalyst to turbo charge our economy and make us more competitive. Efficiency and productivity gains have a long track record of helping consumers and businesses reduce the amount of energy they are using. In fact, without efficiency the U.S. would need nearly 50% more energy than we use today, according to the Alliance to Save Energy. Until now, most of the attention has been paid to how we can save energy, rather than how we can get more out of the energy we use, and how increasing energy productivity can boost the economy. Understanding how to leverage efficiency gains to create a more productive energy economy is something that can yield huge benefits.
The Alliance Commission on National Energy Efficiency Policy has been studying various technologies and policy options to create a set of policies that would provide a blueprint to double energy productivity over the next 20 years. On February 7, I will join my fellow commissioners in unveiling recommendations on how to achieve this goal and "get more bang for our energy buck". This "Energy 2030" plan provides policy solutions through investments, modernization, and education and includes an in depth analysis that shows how these gains in energy productivity can increase U.S. GDP up to 2%, create annual savings of $327 billion, and save the average household $1,039.
Energy efficiency is also one area in energy policy which has a long history of bipartisan support. In the final days of the last Congress, lawmakers approved energy efficiency advancements and voted to extend energy efficiency tax relief through 2013. I hope that this Congress can work together in a bipartisan manner to produce a robust energy efficiency plan that will result in positive impacts across our economy.
18 responses: Kateri Callahan, Kateri Callahan, George Biltz, Craig Rucker, Phyllis Cuttino, Jackie Roberts, Dave McCurdy, Jonas Monast, Ned Helme, Kateri Callahan, Amy Harder, Kate Offringa, Paul Sullivan, Michael Canes, William O'Keefe, Rep. Michael Honda, D-Calif., David Holt, Scott Sklar
How, if at all, should President Obama and Congress address climate change?
"We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations," Obama told the nation in his Inaugural Address last week. That statement and subsequent ones expounding on the issue drew loud applauses from the thousands of people assembled on the National Mall to listen to Obama's speech. Since then, the administration has been coy about how, exactly, Obama intends to lead in responding to climate change. White House spokesman Jay Carney did say last week the administration intends to move forward on environmental rules controlling carbon emissions from power plants, but he didn't provide any details beyond that general statement.
What options does the administration have at its disposal to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions? Does Congress have the political and legislative appetite to pass any significant energy and climate legislation?
Despite all the talk of reducing U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions, they're actually already at a 20-year low thanks in large part to the newly discovered reserves of natural gas, which burns with fewer carbon emissions than coal or oil. Despite that domestic drop, global greenhouse-gas emissions are actually at an all-time high thanks in large part to the growing economics of China and India and their consumption of coal.
How can Washington address climate change knowing it's an inherently global problem? Can Obama lead by example on this issue? If so, how?
25 responses: Graciela Chichilnisky, Craig Rucker, Amy Harder, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., Marlo Lewis, Dirk Forrister, Rachael Jonassen, Marvin Fertel, Jennifer Holmgren, Amy Harder, Jacqueline Savitz, Kate Offringa, Keya Chatterjee, Frances Beinecke, Christine McEntee, Jennifer Morgan, Jamie Rappaport Clark, Eileen Claussen, William O'Keefe, Howard A. Learner, Kevin Crapsey, Michael Canes, Daniel J. Weiss, Bernard L. Weinstein, Scott Sklar
Should the United States think twice before allowing oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Ocean?
In response to Shell's drilling rig running aground in a storm there earlier this month, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced an internal 60-day review of the department's plans to allow drilling in the Arctic Ocean. "It's troubling that there was such a series of mishaps," Salazar said shortly after the incident, according to Bloomberg. "There is a troubling sense I have that so many things went wrong."
What more should the government and private oil companies--in this case, Shell--do to ensure that another "mishap" like the rig running aground doesn't happen again? What steps, if any, can Congress take to ensure that all safety precautions are being taken?
Is Shell's rig mishap a sign that the Obama administration should halt altogether Shell's plans to drill in the Arctic and not allow any energy development off Alaska's coast? Or, are the challenges Shell has faced surmountable?
How--if at all--should the United States take advantage of fossil-fuel exports?
President Obama has cited energy exports in two recent interviews. "The United States is going to be a net exporter of energy because of new technologies and what we're doing with natural gas and oil," Obama said in an interview with Time magazine last month. Exports of coal and refined petroleum products such as gasoline and diesel have reached record highs in the last couple of years; natural gas is poised to follow suit after an Energy Department report released late last year gave an implicit nod to more exports.
Unlike many policies, the ones governing energy exports will
face test after test this year as companies seek to export more fossil fuels.
Unlike many policies, the ones governing energy exports will face test after test this year as companies seek to export more fossil fuels.
That should be the Obama administration's policy on
fossil-fuel exports? And how, if at all, should Congress become involved? Laws
governing energy-export policies have been in place for decades. The Natural
Gas Act of 1938, for example, restricts exports of that fuel, and a de facto
ban also exists on exporting crude oil. Should Washington change any of these
or other policies?
That should be the Obama administration's policy on fossil-fuel exports? And how, if at all, should Congress become involved? Laws governing energy-export policies have been in place for decades. The Natural Gas Act of 1938, for example, restricts exports of that fuel, and a de facto ban also exists on exporting crude oil. Should Washington change any of these or other policies?
That environmental concerns should be considered in this
debate on fossil-fuel exports? What benefits do exports afford the U.S.
That environmental concerns should be considered in this debate on fossil-fuel exports? What benefits do exports afford the U.S. economy?
15 responses: Charles Drevna, Kateri Callahan, Phil Kerpen, Bill Cooper, Jack Gerard, Amy Harder, Kathleen Sgamma, Bernard L. Weinstein, Jack Rafuse, Evan Tracey, William O'Keefe, Margo Thorning, Hal Quinn, Michael Canes, Don Santa
What major energy and environment issues will Washington face in the new year?
President Obama said recently that after the fiscal cliff, energy is his third-ranking priority for his next four years, after immigration and economic growth. That order doesn't bode well for big congressional action on energy and environment policy. Issues will nonetheless demand attention from the White House and Capitol Hill, including fossil-fuel exports, new environmental regulations, and the administration's looming decision about the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline.
What opportunities do Obama and Congress have to work together on more-incremental energy and environment policies? Are there some sleeper issues that will come out of the woodwork to demand more of Washington's attention?
Do you foresee any political appetite to go big on energy and environment policy, such as a putting a price on carbon emissions or adopting a national clean-energy standard? If so, what components would a broad package deal include?
16 responses: Amy Harder, Christine Todd Whitman, Barry Russell, Armond Cohen, Dennis McGinn, Jack Rafuse, Jonas Monast, Bill Cooper, Kate Offringa, David Holt, Michael Canes, Rachael Jonassen, Bill Squadron, Bernard L. Weinstein, Rich Deming, William O'Keefe
[Editor's note: Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., is guest-moderating and providing the question this week. Alexander is a member of the committees on Appropriations and Environment and Public Works.]
Should Congress extend wind power's federal tax credit for six years at a cost of about $50 billion, or instead save the money for clean-energy research and to reduce the federal debt?
The wind production tax credit was created in 1992. It gives wind developers a subsidy that is often equal to or below the wholesale cost of electricity in some markets. This "temporary" subsidy, already extended seven times, expires this month. Wind developers have urged Congress to extend the credit at decreasing levels over the next six years. The one-year extension passed out of the Senate Finance Committee costs $12.1 billion, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. Some have estimated the industry's proposed six-year "phase out" would cost $50 billion--on top of $16 billion in federal wind subsidies from 2009 through 2013.
This subsidy should not be extended, first, because a government that borrows 42 cents of every dollar it spends can't afford it. Second, U.S. Energy Secretary Chu has testified that wind is a "mature" technology. Third, after 20 years and billions in subsidies, wind produces only 3 percent of our electricity. Fourth, such large subsidies distort the marketplace, making coal and nuclear uncompetitive. Replacing such baseload power with electricity that is produced only when the wind blows is the energy equivalent of going to war in sailboats when nuclear submarines are available. Finally, giant turbines and their power lines strung along scenic mountaintops destroy the environment in the name of saving the environment.
A better idea is to reduce the debt and increase research for solar, batteries, carbon capture from coal plants, more energy-efficient buildings, advanced biofuels, and the disposal of nuclear waste (the U.S. spends only $5 billion to $6 billion annually on energy research). Then let the marketplace decide which fuels can produce enough clean, cheap reliable energy for a country that uses 20 to 25 percent of the world's electricity.
Do you agree or disagree -- and why?
27 responses: William O'Keefe, William O'Keefe, Phyllis Cuttino, David C. Brown, Alex Trembath, Kate Offringa, Gene Karpinski, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., Rep. Michael Honda, D-Calif., Scott Sklar, Marlo Lewis, Kevin Knobloch, David Murphy, Amy Harder, Peter Lehner, Craig Rucker, Brent Erickson, Phil Kerpen, Rob Gramlich, Karl Gawell, Dennis McGinn, Benjamin Zycher, Thomas J. Pyle, James Valvo, Rich Deming, David Banks, Mindy Lubber