Instead of a national energy policy from our government we are getting short-term thinking and partisan politics. Neither of which is a substitute for a long-range energy policy that is comprehensive, good for the environment and does not negatively impact the economy.
President Obama’s pick to head the EPA, Gina McCarthy, is interesting. She is a veteran regulator who, if nominated, will oversee the agency as it prepares controversial climate change rulemakings. McCarthy, a 58-year-old Boston native who has served as EPA’s top air regulator since early 2009, almost certainly will face a bumpy Senate confirmation battle from Republican lawmakers critical of Obama’s renewed focus on addressing climate change and her own role in EPA climate policy.
As EPA administrator, McCarthy would have final agency say on a separate rulemak¬ing, also required under the Clean Air Act, to regulate greenhouse emissions from existing power plants, a far trickier undertaking laden with political and technical landmines. This is not an energy policy; this just sets the stage for a political battle.
Similarly there is significant discontent with Secretary’s Chu decision to award just one cost-sharing contract to B&W’s small modular reactor, when the plan was to pick the two best technologies and fund them both. Apparently the Westinghouse SMR was the second pick by DOE staff until Secretary Chu decided the agency should be funding at least one non-conventional technology.
Natural gas has become the fuel of choice in recent years to generate electricity, not because that is a good long-term use of this valuable natural resource, but because of price and supply.
Affordable electricity is too important to our economy to not have a long-term national energy policy. But until there is a crisis – eight dollar gasoline, shortages of electricity or a climate catastrophe – I doubt we ever will muster the political will to get the job done.