When the words, “no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy” rang out during the State of the Union address, I, for one, was energized.
Obama’s second major topic from his grand podium last night was climate change. This was a wonderful turn of events for those of us in America and around the globe who dedicate our careers to mitigating climate change through win-win solutions. Climate change is every bit as serious a challenge as the many others that face our world, such as the need for healthcare and unstable political regimes, in that it threatens lives, livelihoods and the prosperity of communities. However, the tool kit necessary to respond is specific, and is one the US has and should use to show leadership on the issue. Creating and implementing effective solutions to climate change requires technical innovation, enforceable and stable policies, and a well-informed long-term view. By using these tools, the US can create domestic benefits including jobs and manufacturing leadership. The US also has sufficient market power to catalyze changes in trade partners outside our borders, which supports a cause that ultimately must be solved globally. In short, we are well-prepared to provide leadership on climate change, it is a global win-win if we do, and thank you Obama for saying ‘climate change’ at minute 18.
However, his next stanza was onerous, and I hope we will muster the political will to re-direct it: “…If Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take now and in the future to reduce pollution….” Per my earlier post on EPA regulations impacting 6GW of generation in the Southwest, executive actions through the EPA are very costly, involve complex, lengthy, legal discussions between industry and regulators, and lack specificity and clarity towards the goal of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.
Effective policies to reduce GHG emissions will directly address their goal, be simple to implement for regulators, and be simple to follow for industry, both in letter and intent. These are characteristics of an honest, open, and trusting relationship between key stakeholders in our energy future. The result will be climate policies that create revenue for the government and market opportunities for the private sector, with minimal societal costs.
To take it one step further, a dialogue towards win-win solutions is what we need for a ‘fabulous energy industry’ (per my blog tagline), which is one that supplies cheap, reliable energy, and supports our societal goal of a stable and productive natural environment. Meanwhile, this fabulous sector will generate domestic industry and national energy security.
How could we move towards effective energy policies that create such a fabulous sector? Industry groups can inform their representatives that among the options for creating a clean energy industry, EPA regulations, such as through the Clean Air Act as they’ve recently been used, are some of the most expensive and painful ways to create change. Industry leaders can recognize and embrace the opportunity to create new business based on a known, simply enforced, climate-change-mitigating trajectory. In these and additional ways, we can restart a sensible, win-win conversation on a serious issue that the US can, and should, take leadership on. Per Obama’s message, this will make our government smarter and the state of our union stronger.