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Gas Chamber

Recently, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released its prescription for U.S. energy policy.

“Facing Our Energy Realities:  A Plan to Fuel Our Recovery” is a more balanced document than what I might have expected.  Given the Chamber’s ardent undercutting of all efforts to deal with climate change in a thoughtful manner during the last Congress — see, for instance, this Washington Post article from late 2009 profiling how Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) decided to leave the Chamber due to its strident positions — I was prepared to title this post “Chamber of Horrors”, expecting the Chamber to call for continued status quo on energy, only perhaps a little better.

The outline of their recommendations is as follows:

I.  Maximize America’s Own Energy Resources:  Promote Energy Efficiency.  Produce More Domestic Energy.  Improve Access to Federal Lands.  Allow Development of New Resources.

II.  Make New and Clean Energy Technologies More Affordable:  Commit to Innovation.  Demonstrate New Technologies. 

III.  Eliminate Regulatory Barriers Derailing Energy Projects:  Create A Predictable Regulatory Environment.  Streamline, Not Weaken, Environmental Reviews.  Prioritize Siting and Permitting of Interstate Transmission.

IV.  Do Not Put America’s Existing Energy Sources Out of Business:  Ensure Adequate Supplies of Energy for a Smooth Transition. 

V.  Encourage Free and Fair Trade of Energy Technologies and Resources Globally:  Promote Free Trade.  Eliminate Trade Barriers.  End Discriminatory Content and Trade Policies. 

To be sure, the primary message of the Chamber in this pamphlet is “more”:  especially, more production of fossil fuel based energy from domestic sources.  And, to be sure, this stance is being greatly enabled by the recent promise of a surge in natural gas available by producing from heretofore uneconomic shale plays due to advancements in new drilling/extraction technologies.

I have nothing against producing more natural gas domestically, particularly if it can be economically used to displace more environmentally-damaging coal-based energy or strategically-damaging petroleum-based energy.  However, we can’t put all our eggs in the natural gas basket — if for no other reason than we’ll end up painted in a corner someday from over-reliance on gas, just as we’re painted in a corner now from over-reliance on coal and oil. 

I’m glad to see that the Chamber has made some room and recognition available for energy efficiency and renewables (e.g., by supporting the suggestion of a Clean Energy Bank) in its public platforms, but the Chamber is clearly full of gas.