(10 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
The Senate held a Bipartisan Energy Summit today with some of the nation’s top experts (from MIT, Google, CSIS, CERI, and Shell’s CEO). (Although, regrettably, the nation’s top energy expert, Sarah Palin, was unable to attend and bring her deep knowledge and wisdom to the table for conversation.) And, this hearing was reasonably (even very) well attended. Senators Dorgan, Bay, Landrieu, Domenici, Bingaman, Pryor, , Conrad, Dewine, Salazar, …. It is a very rare Hill hearing that has so many of the principals at the table. The room was, in addition, standing room only with literally hundreds of people in the room and several tables full of journalists (and bloggers). And, to be honest, people actually seemed to be paying attention to questions, to speakers, with Blackberries dominating the attention of just a few of members and not that many in the audience. An indication of the political (and, hopefully, substantive) interest and importance of the issues at hand.
One specific exchange, after the fold, merits attention.
There is, from a session like this, reams of material to discuss. Substantive, social, political, almost without end. While there will be more to come out on this event, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse provided perhaps the best moment.
His question and comment to the panel:
WHITEHOUSE: Gentlemen, we’re in the middle of a near total mortgage system meltdown in this country. We have a health care system that burns 16 percent of our GDP, in which the Medicare liability alone has been estimated at $34 trillion. We’re burning $10 billion a month in Iraq.
This administration has run up $7.7 trillion in national debt, by our calculation. And there is worsening evidence every day of global warming, with worsening environmental and national security ramifications. In light of those conditions, do any of you seriously contend that drilling for more oil is the number one issue facing the American people today?
[NINE-SECOND SILENCE … crickets in the room …]
WHITEHOUSE: No, it doesn’t seem so.
Whitehouse then went on to ask a very thoughtful question about where some of the best options might be for quick steps to change the game on our energy situation. Dan Reicher from Google.ORG emphasized (as he had at many times through the session) the importance of energy efficiency as the quickest, highest impact, highest payoff option before us (before the US) as we move forward on other fronts. In specific, he highlighted the importance of not failing to provide energy efficiency (and other) assistance to the less advantaged in the United States, calling for a ten-fold increase in the highly inadequate program for energy efficiency in low-income housing.
And, well, everyone of the experts agreed that energy efficiency is the #1 low-hanging fruit, the ripe fruit that is a renewable resource as new options and opportunities for energy efficiency continuously emerge.
But, did the Republicans really listen to the experts?
Perhaps not …
listen to the Republican leadership, which seems still fixated on a policy centered around drilling. “Conservation alone is clearly insufficient,” said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). “We still need more oil and gas.” … listen to Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM), ranking Republican member of the Senate energy committee. Domenici said he’s dismayed by the number of people who want to cut oil use in order to tackle global warming. “We will have to use crude oil for a long time – and lots of it,” he said. The country therefore has a choice, he added. Drill more and use more of our domestic oil, or don’t drill and use more oil from other countries.
The better choice, as the panel of experts said, is to move much more aggressively on efficiency and renewables, thus reducing the need for oil-ours or theirs.
Of course, this isn’t just a disagreement about policy-it’s also politics. The Republicans have discovered that a call for more drilling is one of their most potent weapons in the upcoming election. But energy experts say that at a time when Congress hasn’t even been able to extend the existing modest tax credits for wind and solar energy because of this partisan fight over energy, it would unfortunate if the politics of energy get in the way of progress on policy
Reality is that there was much consensus at the session ‘on the surface’ between the experts, all agreeing that an ‘all of the above’, comprehensive (and enduring) policy makes sense. The question, of course, is relative priorities, emphasis, and timing.
All (ALL, including the Shell executive) agreed that energy efficiency and conservation is the number one option that will help provide bridging space to future options (over which, actually, there was more disagreement.
In any event, it is