More on Monday’s “Meeting the Energy Challenge” Panel.

by Little Miss Attila on May 6, 2009

McQ has dug out his notes, and Jim Hoeft (“Virginia Jim,” to distinguish him from Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit) has also published a summary.

Gateway Pundit is blogging his heart out. He covered the panel discussion here, but keep scrolling his main page for more on the conference and a host of other topics. I don’t think the guys need as much sleep as I do.

Nick Loris also has an extremely thoughtful post up on the panel over at the Foundry. He points out that the industry sees some sort of cap-and-trade scheme/carbon tax as inevitable, and is focused now on making it as predictable and manageable as possible.

There was a great deal of discussion about how to “communicate” with consumers, which many of the new media people found a bit irritating. Personally, I thought it was a bit condescending—especially from a few of the panelists who knew less than I did, but wanted to figure out how to let the common person know what they thought we should think in a way that might not cause our teeny-tiny brains to explode.

The statists seemed to think that a little learning might be a dangerous thing. I certainly agreed with that.

Governor Graves, who ran Kansas for a while, was the smartest person on the panel (though of course, the guy who sent me there, API’s Jack Gerard, was a close second). The panel was moderated in a level-headed way by Paul Bledsoe, who of course used to work with Pat Moynihan. Roger Ballentine of PPI was also on-board, as were David Holt, Jim May, Shell’s Marvin Odom, and Jason Grumet of the Nationl Commission on Enegy policy. The whip-smart Sheila Jackson-Lee sat in on the panel for a while, and Senator Murkowski of Alaska appeared via a video clip to give us a sort of introduction.

Senator Murkowski pointed out that the Federal government and the states might want to stop using the oil and gas industries “as an ATM” and that increasing production will help us to stop losing so many jobs to other nations. For her, the main culprit remains a “scarcity of will,” because this country uses 20% of the world’s energy. (I will make explicit what she left implicit: we use more energy because we have greater responsibilities than do many of the the other industrialized nations.)

Governor Graves underscored the importance of moving carefully in a way that will not cripple the industries we rely upon to get things done.

Roger Ballentine brought up the elephant in the room, which is the issue of whether the current slump in the energy industry is “structural, or cyclical.” He cited such variables as the pricing of carbon dioxide, the electrification of transportation, the increase in middle-class consumption, the changes in liquid fuels and the issue of coal use as factors that will ultimately determine which direction the industry goes in.

He also points out that the two sides are “talking past each other,” and wonder what a “productive debate” would actually “look like.”

Yes. We all do.

Ballentine also wants to make sure that all concerned—regulators, think-tank wonks, industry insiders, and those who depend on their recommendations/decisions (that would be all of us, by the way)—understand the costs of uncertainty and the costs of inaction.

Jim May of the Air Transport Association points out that industry-level consumers (such as, of course, the airlines) are in the forefront of conservation, since they are by definition “incentivized” to save fuel. He warns that there is a huge disconnect between promoting “green” concepts in a healthy way, versus those who use the potentials of climate change as a wedge issue, or as a source of income. (I certainly hope I don’t know anyone who might do that.) Jet fuel, he explains, is the “number one element in our costs.”

David Holt of the Consumer Energy Alliance asks the pivotal question: without energy, where are the new jobs going to come from? Ripple effects from energy setbacks, he explains, are “massive,” and affect every other sector of the economy.

API’s Jack Gerard had a Moynihan quote of his own, reminding us that we all have a right to our own opinions, but not our own facts. He did belie my notion that the masses might not be asses by citing a recent poll that showed 67% of the general public thinks we can solve our exisiting energy chaenges via conservation alone. He also pointed out, however, that the recent vote to allow drilling off the coast of Florida may show a turning point in public perception.

Governor Graves (“I’m here representing the real ATA”—a gentle shot at Jim May) hammered home a few important points, one of which was that everyone in the room—the panelists, the hundreds of people in the audience—were also consumers. Graves was able to find one of those facts that Jack feels are in short supply—the inconvenient, um, truth that the best way to get something over the Rocky Mountains remains the use of diesel fuel.

Jack points out that our need for energy is escalating rapidly, so even using renewables as much as we would all like to, we are going to have to increase production of traditional energy sources. “We must double energy around the world,” he told us, and warns that the implementation of nuclear energy will not occur at the (presumably rather relaxed) rate that some environmentalists might prefer. The good news? The debate is “evolving,” and some are slowing down in their efforts to “demonize the supply chain.”

Governor Graves reminded us that “legislators run for office so they can legislate,” and suggests that it would be very helpful for those who are trying to get things done if these legislators could slow their, um, efforts down.

Jason Grumet appears quite happy with the pace of legislation, and apparently sees government as the agent of production. He scared a few of us in the new media section, because he very smilingly insisted that legislation is . . . well, good. “Wouldn’t it be lovely,” he asked, “if we could deal with supply and demand at the same time?” At least several pairs of eyes got very large and round in the New Media section at that question. He also wanted to know how the words “energy” and “independence” got conflated in the public mind, and points out that we are part of a global economy. “Kumbaya,” I wrote in my notebook, and passed the note over to Bruce, who laughed rather mirthlessly.

Marvin Odom mused about how the President, for example, would go about “selling” an issue like increased drilling, though he might have been saying that for Jason’s benefit. Odom also pointed out that we are importing 60% of the energy we use.

Sheila Jackson-Lee discussed the notion of what she called a “seamless” energy policy, which scared me a bit. But not as much as when she declared that “there is an interest in . . . the Federal Government getting involved in energy production.” She’s smart enough to know when she’s using the passive voice. She didn’t strike me as a green extremist, but she certainly did come off as a statist.

Roger Ballentine pointed out that if you Google any given energy proposal, many of the “hits” you’ll get will relate to people who are opposed to that particular approach. It certainly is easier to gum up the works than it is to figure out how to get where we need to go.

Paul Bledsoe injected some common sense into the discussion by reminding us that the issue of economic revitalization is becoming increasingly important to people these days, to which Jack Gerard responded that the “jobs” consideration might serve as a foundation to “get us away from the either/or mentality.”

Governor Graves insisted that one of the most pivotal concerns of the day is to “improve our surface infrastructure,” and in a follow-up with McQuain and me after the panel he explained himself further: the temptation for Democrats right now, of course, is to ignore our need to keep pace with freight-transport needs, but there is a subtler—yet just as dangerous—corollary for the Republicans. That is, it continues to be sexy to cut taxes, but it is difficult to build roads (or rail lines) without some government involvement. Adds Paul Bledsoe: “the highway fund is underfunded.” Of course, most of us would love to get more resources to the highway fund, if we could only smuggle the chickens past the foxes that are guarding the henhouse.

The subject of our crumbling infrastructure is rather grim, given how much money we’ve been throwing around lately—and how much we plan on throwing around for the foreseeable future.

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