Spirited Summer SMLS about Energy & Global Economy

Spirited Summer SMLS about Energy & Global Economy

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Kristin Simonetti
June 19, 2014

Two days after President Obama spotlighted climate change in a commencement address at the University of California, Irvine, the topic took center stage at the first TWC Simpson-Mineta Leaders Series event of the summer.


Bob Deans, the federal communications director for the National Resources Defense Council, and David Kreutzer, a research fellow in energy economics and climate change at the Heritage Foundation, debated recent proposals to combat carbon emissions and answered questions from TWC students about how the United States – and the world – can address climate change while meeting global energy needs. Ben Geman, an energy and environment correspondent for the National Journal, moderated the panel and opened the conversation with a discussion of the Environmental Protection Agency’s recently proposed carbon pollution standards, announced in early June.


Kreutzer began by citing studies showing that, although the planet is indisputably warmer, the rising temperatures aren’t leading to a trend of more violent weather as many climate change activists have suggested. Why?  Such a trend doesn’t exist, he said. “That isn’t from a denier-of-science group – that’s from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,” both nonpartisan entities, Kreutzer said.

Action must be taken to slow climate change, Kreutzer continued, but the EPA’s proposals won’t achieve much – changing the planet’s temperature a mere fraction of a degree by the year 2100. “If you’re worried about a warming of 10 degrees [Celsius], this [plan] isn’t going to help,” Kreutzer said.


Calling global climate change “the central environmental challenge of our time,” Deans gave a detailed description of the EPA’s proposals. Though they articulate national goals, each state has specific emissions targets that are tailored to their specific energy mix – and states can choose from a variety of options as to how to meet those goals. “It’s a fair way to do this; it puts states in control of their own energy destiny,” Deans said of the plan.


Will the EPA regulations create a drag on the economy? Deans suggested otherwise. “We hired a preeminent consulting firm, IFC International, and they estimated that 274,000 jobs will be created around the country for folks who are investing in energy to power the next generation of cars, homes and workplaces. It’ll reduce our energy bills by an average of $103 per year for the average family,” he said.


Geman turned the event over to the standing-room-only crowd of TWC students who eagerly lined up to ask questions. A few highlights:


Bonnie Taylor (Institution: John Carroll University, Cleveland, Ohio; Internship: Office of International Affairs, U.S. National Parks Service): “Job creation in Western Pennsylvania (where she is from) is a major issue, but most of the people in our town aren’t able to move. The local college has talked about investing in geothermal energy and creating a plant that would give people jobs. Is investigating that kind of energy, regardless of the cost, really such a crime?”


Kreutzer: “Why don’t you just give people money if you don’t care about the cost? If building and operating the geothermal plant costs more than the value of the energy it produces, there’s a better way of getting money to those people. We can make other investments, such as natural gas production.”


Deans: “The way you drive innovation is by investing in future possibilities. I don’t see anything wrong with that at all.”


Brendan Peltier (Institution: Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts; Internship:  Angerholzer Broz Consulting): “In industries such as coal, increased regulation has resulted in the cutting of a lot of jobs. Is there a way to fight that?”


Deans: “The United States has reduced its coal consumption 18 percent, and the industry itself is mechanizing. It’s using fewer workers per truckload of coal. Those two things are putting pressure on coal miners. What we need to do is what’s happening in West Virginia – to tell coal miners that they have skills, and we need those skills. All along the plateau of eastern West Virginia you can see wind turbines all over. Some of the best wind turbine maintenance programs in the country are in the West Virginia community college system. The Department of Energy and West Virginia University are working together on how to make the manufacturing industry more efficient in the future, and we need to connect communities with jobs that will give them futures.”


Kreutzer: “I’m not in favor of removing all regulations on coal – I don’t want what they have in China as a result of all the unscrubbed coal. I’m willing to pay for that. But when you see that the goal of this [the EPA’s] plan is to cut the temperature by less than two hundredths of a degree over a century, then you have a hard case to make that it’s worth throwing these people out of work.”


Gail Beech (Institution: The University of Iowa; Internship: National Association of Convenience Stores and Fuel Retailers): “What are your thoughts on the Renewable Fuel Standards debate? Should the standard be repealed, changed, or kept the way it is?”


Kreutzer: “I don’t support it, the combination of mandates and subsidies and so on. If ethanol is as great as the ethanol producers say it is, then it should be able to compete in the marketplace on its own. And the environmental benefits of ethanol, and its ability to help us become energy self-sufficient, are questionable. It also has a significant impact on the cost of corn in our food supply.”


Deans: “I don’t think the NRDC has a position on this. But what we support – in Iowa and elsewhere – is the use of alternative energy like wind turbines to help rural states. They’re now providing 20 percent of the electricity in Iowa, so we’re all in for that.”


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