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Posts Tagged ‘Energy and Commerce Committee

Our Transportation Future is Linked to our Plans for Offshore Energy Development

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Senator Dorgan at the Energy Committee

Today’s Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing reviewed policies to reduce oil consumption through the promotion of accelerated deployment of electric-drive vehicles, as proposed in S. 3495, the Promoting Electric Vehicles Act of 2010. Senator Dorgan, pictured above, is the bill’s author.

Today’s Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing centered on the future of electric vehicles and Senator Dorgan’s bill S. 3495. The mood in the room indicated that we are definitely moving toward the electrification of our transportation system, and the questions centered around how to get there and how fast to move in that direction.

If this is indeed our future, there will be a need for electricity to power the coming fleet of vehicles, and those in the green energy sector have been saying for some time that offshore electricity production is an area ripe for exploitation.

But like the development of electric vehicles themselves, there is a delay in the development of offshore electricity generation systems, be they wind or hydrokinetic, based on the simple construction of these systems. But it isn’t the engineering constraints that have left the U.S. behind other countries thus far in offshore green energy development – it is the regulatory process. Yes, we are all celebrating the approval of the Cape Wind project in New England, but while we also congratulate ourselves for allowing that project to move forward we need to also be mindful to be critical of the time it took to get to this point.

Some have cited the necessity of slow, often times painfully slow, processes that need to occur when we cite green energy infrastructure, as it is the very slow building of consensus in communities that results in the best outcome of a public policy process. While I agree that some siting processes, particularly the locating of restricted use zones – a.k.a. marine protected areas, must proceed at a measured rate. Indeed, a wide public buy-in is crucial for several of the goals which are often included in marine protected area management plans.

However when looking at the catastrophic petroleum spills off of Louisiana, Australia and Mexico that occurred during the development of deep water oilfields, or at the seemingly endless series of climate change studies that indicate that older models have yet again underestimated just how bad climate change may affect the developed and undeveloped world, it becomes quickly clear that we do not have the luxury of time on our side.

To save our economy, to protect our national security and to save the very planet we rely on for our very existence, we need to move faster – even when faster will mean a more contentious process. We are at a time when we need to look at these issues not on a monthly basis when groups gather for meetings, or even weekly. The discussion needs to be a daily dialogue, bolstered by a bold national energy policy which would dovetail with a national ocean policy and a timeline containing milestones set for progress.

This video shows the Cape Wind project approval announcement by Secretary Salazar April 28, 2010

How fast we can react and how thoroughly we evaluate various proposals for various offshore energy generation projects from this point forward will be a key component of policies that will ultimately promote or push back on green energy development in the United States. The electrification of our transportation system could become a major driver for electricity generation in portions of the U.S.

The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy firm.

Congressman Stupak highlights Exxon’s oil spill response plan’s focus on how to handle the media during an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico

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While most of the oil majors’ response plans are virtually identical – that is to say they all are insufficient – today on Capitol Hill the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Energy and Commerce hearing Congressman Bart Stupak called Exxon Mobil out on its attention to address media concerns as a significant part of their 500 page response plan. Exxon Mobil’s plan has one difference from those of their competitors – Exxon’s plan has a 40-page focus on how to handle the media, including 13 pre-drafted press releases to address oil spill accidents. This is in contrast to only five pages addressing wildlife and nine pages on oil spill cleanup. Clearly Exxon’s experience in AK informed it about the importance of communications with the public. But with a focus on pre-built press releases that address a range of issues including dodging criminal culpability and calling a spill an “accident” even before any criminal investigation can begin, rather than a focus on transparency and an open flow of information, the public affairs section of the Exxon plan is sorely out of step with the open and transparent communications needs that arise during an oil spill. To put in another way, of you think the lack of early video footage from BP’s contractors’ ROVs was bad, imagine how it might have played out if the Exxon media plan was put into effect.

Written by Will Nuckols

June 15, 2010 at 8:39 am