Congressional Testimony: We Must Continue to Invest in Energy Efficiency and Renewable Power

Senior Fellow Daniel J. Weiss testified before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources on Thursday:

Chairman Lamborn, Ranking Member Holt, and members of the subcommittee, thank you very much for the opportunity to testify today on “America’s Onshore Energy Resources: Creating Jobs, Securing America, and Lowering Prices.”

Wind, solar, geothermal, efficiency, and other forms of clean energy creates jobs—three times more per dollar of investment compared to oil and gas. These sources are secure—the wind and sun aren’t subject to human disruption. Energy efficiency saves families and businesses money. And renewable fuels are free and shielded from price spikes that occur when fossil-fuel prices rise.

Domestic oil and natural gas are valuable and important commodities. But their production creates fewer jobs compared to renewables. They heavily contribute to climate change, which Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III recently said will “cripple the security environment.” They are vulnerable to sudden price volatility, like the high oil and gasoline prices of this winter. And producing more oil won’t lower gasoline prices.

It is imperative that we continue to invest in energy efficiency and renewable power for jobs, security, and family budgets.

Renewable energy projects on public lands create jobs and improve public health

Clean energy is a critical part of the economy. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that “In 2010, 3.1 million jobs in the United States were … green goods and services.” The Christian Science Monitor also reported that “the clean-economy sector … includes 2.7 million jobs. The oil and gas industry … has 2.4 million jobs.” Wind and solar industries in particular employ nearly 200,000 people and are expected to grow to nearly 800,000 jobs by 2030.

There are also permits for projects with more than 11,000 megawatts of renewable electricity generation for public lands, enough to power at least 3.8 million homes.These projects will support 13,500 jobs. What’s more, a CAP analysis determined that appropriate public lands in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah could support 34,399 megawatts of wind, solar, and geothermal electricity, enough to power all the homes in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. These projects would create an estimated 34,399 jobs.

Expansion of domestic oil production in protected lands and waters will not lower gasoline prices

Domestic oil production has increased by 45 percent since 2008. More production here, however, will not lower oil and gasoline prices. Richard Newell, then-head of the Energy Information Administration, testified before Congress, saying, “We do not project additional volumes of oil that could flow from greater access to oil resources on Federal lands to have a large impact on prices given the globally integrated nature of the world oil market.”

In 2012 the Associated Press also tested whether more U.S. drilling would lower gasoline prices. After analyzing 36 years of data, AP found “No statistical correlation between how much oil comes out of U.S. wells and the price at the pump.”

Additionally, the claims about the decline of oil production from federal lands and waters under the Obama administration are incorrect. The Congressional Research Service reports oil production from federally owned places was higher in every one of the past four years compared to 2008.

In 2012 Adam Sieminski, head of the Energy Information Administration, testified before the House that the growth in oil-and-gas production from private lands is because shale basins are primarily outside federal lands.

Sequester cuts will slow the production of oil and gas from federal lands and waters

The Congressional Research Service found that the Department of the Interior’s approval time “application for drilling permits” for federal areas has been cut by 44 percent under the current administration. The budget sequester, however, will undo this progress. The Interior Department says sequester cuts will delay reviews of 550 offshore exploration plans and 300 onshore oil and gas leases. Those concerned about the pace of federal approval for drilling permits for federal lands and waters ought to oppose the sequester budget cuts.

Climate-related extreme weather will continue to hurt energy production

Finally, we cannot talk about fossil-fuel production without mentioning climate change. The severe drought, heat wave, and storms in 2011 and 2012 interfered with oil-and-gas production and electricity generation. As climate-related extreme weather increases in frequency or severity, damage or interference with energy production will only grow. We need to either act now to reduce carbon pollution that feeds climate change or prepare for worse disruptions.

Thank you.

Daniel J. Weiss is a Senior Fellow and the Director of Climate Strategy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Thanks to Mari Hernandez, Research Associate, and Jackie Weidman, Special Assistant, on the Energy Policy team of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. This is reprinted with permission.

7 Responses to Congressional Testimony: We Must Continue to Invest in Energy Efficiency and Renewable Power

  1. Mike Roddy says:

    Thorough, as usual, Dan, but you erred, by a lot, in your estimate of Southwest acreage that is suitable for renewable energy development.

    Good wind sites are certainly limited, and are best located in passes and on peaks, as in the Tehachapi and Palm Springs areas. The same is not true of solar.

    The Mojave Desert contains 16 million acres, almost all of which captures plenty of sunshine for utility scale solar plants. Most of it is public land. Your figure of 34,399 megawatts from land suitable for energy development is way off.

    If we calculate 5 acres per megawatt for a solar plant (some use four acres, but let’s be conservative), that’s 171,995 acres, or 1% of a region that is one of the emptiest and certainly the most barren in the United States.

    Have you been talking to Greens in the Southwest? They have filed endless lawsuits to stop solar, spooking investors and resulting in a small fraction of projects going forward. These organizations are lawyered up, and have done enormous damage to the future of our planet. There is no feasibility when you have a four year delay because of a rare lizard or plant, which many sites contain.

    An investigation is called for. I lived in the Mojave for seven years, and explored its remote corners. I never saw any members of those green groups hiking where I did. It smells fishy, and the winners are gas and coal power. Burning fossil fuels and goosing global warming will wreck the desert far more than disturbing 10% of the Mojave, which is what we need to do.

  2. Mike, while I agree with a lot that you say, I hope that you are more careful with capitalization as in Greens vs. “greens”. When capitalized, there might be confusion with the Green Party US or Green Party of California. As a past CoChair of the EcoAtion Committee, Green Party US, I can tell you that such opposition was never an official GPUS policy.

    I agree that some groups seek to block such development, specifically those whose main concern is habitat preservation in order to preserve species. What they are not considering that there can be no habitat preservation without climate change mitigation.

  3. Mike Roddy says:

    Sorry for the confusion, Wes, and the capital G was an error. I support the Green Party, which played no role in sabotaging solar in the desert.

  4. Daniel Coffey says:

    Naked conservation and efficiency are the slow-walk versions of rapidly deploying large-scale wind, solar PV and geothermal. It just sustains the status quo at a slightly lower intensity.

    Focus on the total answer, not the half-measures.

  5. Daniel Coffey says:

    The saddest part of the environmental movement is that much of the reward they seek is not habitat, but attorneys fees and consultation fees and other forms of payment in order to stop projects. The nasty history of lawsuits filed and settled for money is a shameful one.

    And those who do not follow this tragedy defend the perverse incentives of “attorney fees” “settlements” and “intervenor payments” that have created a cottage industry of obstructionist behavior and incentives. Who can tell who the “white hats” are anymore.

    I have seen this behavior too much to be comfortable with it anymore. When it was a nuisance, that was one thing; now its a danger with a life of its own.

  6. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    So, what is going on? Have ‘legitimate green’ groups sold out, or been suborned by fossil fuels? Have they been manipulated through their justifiable concern for endangered habitat, to become tools of the enemies of renewables? Are the fossil fuel genocidists cynically using this tactic to sow dissension amongst those who ought to be allies? Or are these ‘green’ opponents of renewable energy just phony, Astroturf groups, set up by the Right to sow confusion? We are dealing with infinitely morally debased opponents, as we all know, and they make Machiavelli look like a novice.

  7. Mark Shapiro says:

    So which groups are blocking renewable energy projects? What are their names? (I would like to make sure I don’t contribute to them . . . )