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Topic: Energy Management
BUHRMASTER'S PLAN TO MEET THE ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGE
The decisions we make today on energy policy will have lasting affects
on our economy and our national security. Indeed, how we deal with energy
and our environment will defme our time.
For decades we have known that our energy needs would grow; greenhouse
gas emissions endanger our environment; and that our massive dependence
on foreign oil threatens the safety of every American. Yet when compared
to the advancements we have made in other areas over the last forty
years, our energy program is in the Dark Ages.
This has happened not because of a lack of ideas or creativity. It happened
largely because of politicians in Washington, D.C. who don't want to
make tough decisions. Just like many other critical issues, energy is
a victim of partisan gridlock. It is also worth noting that we as citizens
haven't been sufficiently motivated by this issue to demand that real
solutions be found.
It is important to recognize that the price of a barrel of oil is
greatly influenced by a variety of factors including:
-New demand from emerging economies, particularly China and India;
-Political instability in regions of the world besides the Middle East,
like Nigeria and Venezuela;
-And, the steady erosion of the dollar.
This last cause deserves far more attention that it has been given.
As the Federal Reserve has steadily lowered interest rates to deal with
economic issues here at home, these policies have contributed significantly
to an increase in commodity prices, especially for oil. In fact, had
the dollar maintained its value relative to the euro since 2002, that
$130 barrel of oil would instead be in the range of $75 to $80. We all
need to recognize that the Federal Reserve is in charge of monetary
policy, and hopefully their policies will take cognizance of the impact
a weak dollar is having on energy costs.
From a public policy standpoint, there is still much more for us
to do. In the simplest of terms:
-Republicans need to get on board with the development of alternative
-Democrats need to accept the fact that we must increase domestic oil
exploration and production;
-And all Americans need to do more to conserve energy.
Alternative energies are going to playa major role in our efforts on
energy independence and protecting the environment. Currently, however,
an emergency situation has arisen, and due to technical and cost barriers,
many alternatives are still years away from practical use. Regardless
of our opinions of oil and other fossil fuels, we will remain reliant
on them until we can make a cost-effective transition to better, cleaner
For right now, to ensure adequate supply at a price consumers can
afford, we must:
-Provide meaningful oversight to the commodity futures trading market
and require commodities traders to have more financial skin in the game.
Speculators are driving energy prices up, putting profits ahead of economic
-Review the unreasonable restrictions against refinery construction
Obtaining a permit to construct a modem-day refinery that is more efficient,
and impacts the environment far less than older facilities, is so difficult
and costly that no new refmeries have been built in this country since
-Allow for drilling on federal lands and offshore on the Atlantic Coast.
We should also provide states with a process for lifting the federal
moratorium on drilling.
-Repeal the one year moratorium on funding leases and sales for shale
exploration in western states.
-Reduce costs to consumers by gradually eliminating over a three-year
period the 51 cent per gallon subsidy on ethanol.
also eliminate the 54 cent per gallon tariff on imported ethanol.
Lastly, as a state, New York's average retail price of electricity is
third in the nation, just behind Hawaii and Connecticut. But in addition
to concerns over the prices we're paying, there is also a very real
concern over supply. In the next decade, we will need the equivalent
of five new 500megawatt generating plants to keep up with demand.
Unfortunately, only one new large-scale generating plant has been proposed
in the entire state since 2003, when the state's Article X Power Plant
Siting Law was allowed to expire. The Article X law was widely viewed
as a success and the state Assembly's refusal to simply extend that
law has greatly damaged the state's economy. State legislators and the
governor need to work together to renew this law which allowed for a
streamlined process to construct new power plants.
Employing Greenhouse Gas Reduction Technologies
Continuing to rely on fossil fuels brings with it a responsibility to
cut back on Carbon Dioxide emissions to mitigate global warming. While
the U.S. must take the lead, this is a global issue that will require
international cooperation. Any meaningful agreements or treaties on
global warming must address increasing emissions from developing nations
like India and China.
While many advocate discontinuing the use of coal altogether, from an
international perspective, that is not realistic, nor is it possible.
Coal remains abundant in supply here in the US, and currently generates
forty percent of the world's electricity.
we need to make advancements in technologies that minimize emissions.
These would include:
-Clean coal and carbon capture technology. Currently, there are plans
underway to construct the world's first coal powered power plant with
near zero-emissions. We must work beyond a prototype and construct these
plants in multiple locations, particularly here in New York where electricity
costs are so high.
-Coal to liquid technology has been in use since the 1920s and has been
determined to be cost-effective as the price of oil is above $40 per
-Development of anew, fourth generation of nuclear reactors that create
more energy, are non-proliferation-proof, and produce less waste. Arguments
from some to abandon nuclear power ignore the fact that New York State
already produces approximately 25% of its electric generation from nuclear;
and the entire nation of France is able to generate over 75% of their
electricity needs from nuclear energy.
To properly develop and employ alternative fuels, we must pinpoint those
with the most potential for consumers. We have to make prudent, thoughtful
investments in viable technologies that will have a meaningful place
in addressing our energy needs.
Unfortunately, to the detriment of energy consumers and taxpayers across
the country, Washington's policy has been to reward the producers that
have the most political clout, not technologies that present the greatest
potential. The result has been a wasteful squander on lavish subsidies
for unreliable, unproven and uneconomical technologies.
One only has to look to the push for ethanol- which has obviously not
reduced gas prices, but clearly resulted in dramatic increases in food
prices - to find an example of Washington's lack of foresight on energy.
It is possible, however, to simultaneously move forward with the development
of alternatives and eliminate billions of dollars that are spent on
credits and other incentives for the development and use of new energy
technologies that are, or have the potential to be cheap, clean, reliable,
Priority status should be given to technologies that have the greatest
opportunity to meet consumer needs based on scientific, economic and
environmental guidelines that determine feasibility - not politics.
-Repeal taxes and regulations that impede the development of many new
The market can decide the feasibility of new energies, but only if they
are not hampered by government meddling.
-Insure that revenues to federal and state governments generated by
any cap and trade or emissions allowance system are used to reduce taxes
paid by individuals and businesses. Otherwise these levies will become
a massive drag on the economy, undermining job growth.
-Recognize that the Capital Region has a great economic stake in this
question with Schenectady being headquarters for GE's wind turbine division
and other companies exploring innovative technology in alternative energy
and power transmission modernization.
Using these principles, every idea should be given consideration: solar,
wind, hydropower, waste~to~energy, and tidal energy to name a few. Every
possibility should be considered until it is found to be inefficient,
unsafe, or too costly.
While the subsidies and shortcomings of corn~based ethanol should be
of great concern to us all, biofuels have a place in our energy portfolio.
Using non~food crops like switch grass instead of com, we can create
a reliable alternative without raising the price of food.
Lastly, it is time for us to embark on a serious course towards making
hydrogen a practical alternative to oil for transportation. Some say
it could be 20 years before hydrogen vehicles are in production, but
if we bring together the best and the brightest, we can encourage the
breakthrough technologies we need to make this happen earlier.
Efficiency and Conservation
Conservation and efficient use of energy is more than an act of virtue
and does not mean drastic lifestyle changes. From economic, national
security, and environmental viewpoints, conservation must be a critical
part of our efforts moving forward. This is an essential step in cutting
carbon emissions and reducing our reliance on traditional energy sources.
Conservation is a no~cost step to reducing our reliance on foreign oil.
The government needs to redouble efforts on education and public awareness
programs that encourage efficiency and conservation at all levels; at
home, in the office, and in vehicles. We need to:
telecommuting, flexible start times, and carpooling.
-Encourage the use of efficient appliances and heating and cooling systems
in new construction and remodeling.
-Employ innovative strategies such as recapture of industrial waste
heat emissions which use heat as a means of producing energy.
by J. Buhrmaster
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