At a Tuesday luncheon two blocks from the Capitol, a dozen energy sector officials, experts, and thought leaders offered a path forward for meeting America’s energy needs. If a single word described the two-hour session, it would be “diversity.”
Titled “Fueling America’s Future” and hosted by RealClearPolitics (which has spotlighted the topic this week), the event evoked a unified vision among those in the business of powering the nation’s cars, homes, buildings, and commercial enterprises — and the consensus is that fossil fuels, nuclear power, renewables and conservation all have a key role to play
“One thing we can all agree on is that all the economists and all the projections conclude that we’re going to need more energy in the future,” said Jack N. Gerard, president and CEO of American Petroleum Institute. Pointing to the panel representing the solar, wind, oil, natural gas, nuclear, and hydroelectric power industries, Gerard said that their presence is indicative of an “all-of-the-above energy strategy” necessary to meet the country’s needs. “It’s not a game of shutting one down or having one winner, it’s a game of how we all win together,” he added. “We need all the power sources we can get.”
Underscoring that point, BP representative Mark Finley volunteered that the oil industry’s market share was declining — even as the oil companies’ business continues to grow, in part because of foreign demand. Finley, the general manager for global energy markets for BP America, was bullish on the U.S. energy industry because of its proven innovative ability.
“It’s not below the ground that matters, but what’s above the ground,” he said. “The U.S. has the biggest rig fleet in the world. There’s a reason why shale and tight oil happened here. There’s a reason why deep-water production and arctic production and heavy oil developments all happened in North America. And the reason is competition. Competition drives innovation.”
This sentiment was echoed by Tom Kimbus, vice president of external affairs for the Solar Energy Industries Association. Noting that he was speaking at an event sponsored by API, Kimbus said, “Here’s a solar guy up here agreeing with Mr. Gerard.” Pointing to his fellow panelists, Kimbus added, “What you have before you — this is the future of America. This is the energy that is going to drive our economy. What you also see up here is incredible competition.”
The event was held at Union Station’s Columbus Club and was moderated by RealClearPolitics Washington editor Carl Cannon.
Other participants in the first panel, “Our Energy Mix,” included Rob Gramlich, interim chief executive officer, American Wind Energy Association; Marty Durbin, president and CEO, American Natural Gas Association; Linda Church Ciocci, executive director, National Hydropower Association; Luke Popovich, vice president for external communications, National Mining Association; and Alex Flint, senior vice president of governmental affairs, Nuclear Energy Institute.
The second session, “Energy Issues,” delved into the lawmaking challenges surrounding energy policy and featured Dan Kish, senior vice president for policy, Institute for Energy Research; Amit Ronen, director, George Washington University Solar Institute; Sean McGarvey, president, Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO; Robert Ivester, acting program director, Advanced Manufacturing Office, U.S. Department of Energy; and Daniel J. Weiss, senior fellow and director of climate strategy, Center for American Progress.
Kish, who favors streamlining government regulation of the energy industry, prefaced his presentation by quipping, “I think my job is to upset Dan Weiss.” But when it was his turn, Weiss was composed, if forceful, in making his case that climate change was the “smokestack in the room” — and that more, not less, government action is likely to be needed to address the issue.
Each panelist was given five minutes to make a presentation, aided by an automated PowerPoint that moved their slides along quickly. When it was her turn at the lectern, Linda Ciocci ad-libbed that she was a novice at speed dating, but would try to cram in as much as she could. Before she touted the virtues of hydro power, Ciocci also said, “I agree with the comments that this is our energy future. It really does take the full sweep of all our technologies.”