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Call for Comments: Proposed U.S. National Clean Energy Standard

The U.S. Senate Energy Committee has recently issued a white paper about a proposed Clean Energy Standard (CES). If enacted, the CES would profoundly affect the future of all energy matters in the U.S. The committee is having a short public comment period, which ends on Monday April 11th.

They are looking for inputs on six aspects of this proposed measure. Reading over the white paper (see Appendix below), I am encouraged that they are at least asking some good questions. As such I am hopeful that they get intelligent responses to balance out those that will inevitably come from rent-seekers.

Since I am advocating the Big Picture approach, my strategy is going to respond to the Executive Summary part only (and then elaborate a bit on an Additional document). To me the fundamental problem here is with methodology.

Below is the draft version of my proposed Executive Summary submission. For the latest version, plus several additional pages of elaboration, please see here. If you have suggestions for improvements, please let me know. In any case please submit your own ideas and comments.

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I’m sure that you will get hundreds of submissions, so I will cut to the chase and give you the entire answer you are looking for. To understand what is needed to be done though, we need to see things in an accurate perspective. Here it is:

We, as a country, have some serious environmental and energy issues.

Although we have the interest, ability and resources, we have done a poor job in solving these important matters in a timely, productive, economical fashion.

The number one reason for this ineffectiveness is that the methodology we have employed is fundamentally and fatally flawed.

Whenever a problem is identified, the overwhelming input heard by our representatives is from lobbyists. These lobbyists are paid to aggressively promote the interests of their clients — which is either to financially or politically profit from some possible “solution.”

Any benefits to the environment, taxpayers, ratepayers, or the general economy from legislating the lobbyists’ “solutions,” are entirely coincidental — yet our energy and environmental policies have continued to be lobbyist driven!

Until we fix this defective system, we will continue to delay meaningfully addressing important issues, waste hundreds of Billions in the process, and enable our competitors (e.g. China) to overtake us. Is this really in our national interest? A well-known recent campaign slogan “It’s the Economy, Stupid!” should now be modified to “It’s the System, Stupid!” or “The Process is the Problem!”. There is no more important matter that the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee can do than to write legislation to fix the process.

So that’s it in a nutshell: the entire answer to our energy and environmental issues. If the methodology is not changed, the whole effort here is an exercise in futility. For instance, the six questions posed are thoughtful, but unless the system is fundamentally modified, answering them is pointless.

On the other hand if the system IS fixed properly, accurate answers to them all will be shortly forthcoming. So, although I do have inputs on most of them, I will not be submitting responses to the six questions at this time. I am elaborating on what needs to be done to fix the system in this additional document.

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APPENDIX: WHITE PAPER ON A CLEAN ENERGY STANDARD”

Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Lisa Murkowski

Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. United States Senate

March 21, 2011

In his recent State of the Union address, President Obama proposed a Clean Energy Standard (CES) to require that 80 percent of the nation’s electricity come from clean energy technologies by 2035. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR).

Committee now faces a threshold question of what the general policy goals for the electric sector are and whether a CES would most effectively achieve them. Is the goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, lower electricity costs, spur utilization of particular assets, diversify supply, or some combination thereof? Depending on the goals, is a CES the right policy for the nation at this time? If so, is 80 percent by 2035 the right target?

If not, should alternatives to reach similar goals be considered?

The purpose of this document is to lay out some of the key questions and potential design elements of a CES, in order to solicit input from a broad range of interested parties, to facilitate discussion, and to ascertain whether or not consensus can be achieved ….

If the ENR Committee elects to develop a CES, there are a number of design questions that require careful consideration. The decisions made in the design of such a standard will necessarily favor certain priorities over others….

SIX QUESTIONS HERE

1 comment

1 Steve C. { 04.07.11 at 11:00 am }

Well, our government has mandated increased usage of ethanol. And done so in an energy bill signed by a Republican President. A Republican President who has experience in the energy supply business.
I can only propose one of two conclusions.
1. Politicians are cynics who exploit the popular belief that there is an energy free lunch (ie no trade offs necessary) at the expense of the public in return for political power.

OR

2. Politicians have no appreciation for the limits of technology and an appreciation for how markets actually function.

Regardless of which is true, consumers will pay the price for their inability to make decisions about energy that meet the needs of the public.

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