Science/Environment

Finding Common Ground on Energy Policy

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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.