Nearly a year after President Obama convened a meeting of energy experts to solicit ideas on how his administration can make progress on clean energy through executive actions, the group has produced a report with 200 recommendations.
Prepared by the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University headed by former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter — the report focuses on five areas for action by the executive branch: doubling energy efficiency, renewable energy finance, measures to produce natural gas more responsibly and with less pollution, spurring development of alternative fuels and vehicles, and modernizing regulation of electric utilities in the face of advances in technology.
In an oblique rebuke to the Obama administration’s emphasis on an “all of the above” energy strategy, the report recommends that the executive should support “best of the above” energy sources, using an analysis that includes “counting the full costs of various energy choices, including pollution and health care costs that have been ‘externalized’ in the past.”
That suggestion comes on the heels of a group of environmental organizations publicly breaking with the administration on its “all of the above” energy policy. In a strongly worded letter to the president on January 16, leaders of 18 environmental groups urged Obama to apply a “climate impact lens” to decisions on new fossil fuel development. “We believe that continued reliance on an ‘all of the above’ energy strategy would be fundamentally at odds with your goal of cutting carbon pollution and would undermine our nation’s capacity to respond to the threat of climate disruption.”
In response, senior White House adviser John Podesta — who recently left his post as chairman of the Center For American Progress to serve as a presidential counselor — expressed “surprise” at the January 16 letter and defended the president’s climate action plan. “The President has been leading the transition, to low-carbon energy sources, and understands the need to consider a balanced approach to all forms of energy development, including oil and gas production,” Podesta wrote to the environmental leaders.
The release of the Center for the New Energy Economy report comes at an opportune time for the Obama administration, where Podesta has begun to focus on ways to ramp up the fight against climate change through executive actions that don’t require the approval of Congress.
The Center for the New Energy Economy report also recommends that the Bureau of Land Management, which oversees energy development on federal lands, take strong actions to ensure that natural gas production is done more responsibly. The report said the BLM must require that natural gas producers “use and demonstrate the best available technologies and practices on federal lands, including full disclosure of hydraulic fracturing agents, zero tolerance for methane leaks, sound water management and minimal land disturbance.” The executive branch should also work closely with states to develop a “nationwide methane reduction strategy,” the report urged.