New Report Calls for Clean Energy, But Fails to Address Climate, Fossil Fuel Impacts

The Bipartisan Policy Center issued a report today called “America’s Energy Resurgence: Sustaining Success, Confronting Challenges.” The report offers a strong plan for increasing energy efficiency and renewable energy, acknowledging the enormous benefit clean energy provides. And it specifically advocates for extending the renewable energy production tax credit. However, the report also misses the mark in a number of significant ways.  It fails to address the urgent need for policies to combat climate change and proposes a significant expansion of fossil fuel extraction in the United States.

The report was produced by  BPC’s Energy Board, which includes NRDC’s Ralph Cavanagh.  Board members serve in their personal capacity, not as representatives of their companies or organizations. And as noted in the report’s introduction, signing the report does not indicate agreement with all of the report’s recommendations.

Both Cavanagh and NRDC disagree with the report’s conclusions and recommendations on dirty energy development.

The report is off-base in its embrace of vastly expanded oil and gas production. This would promote the use of fossil fuels, increase global warming pollution, and threaten sensitive lands and oceans.

The report essentially ignores climate change, the foremost environmental threat of our time.  Last year our nation suffered the hottest year on record, the worst drought in 50 years, Superstorm Sandy, and 11 extreme events that left $1 billion in losses each. In a time when our country urgently needs climate leadership, this report offers none.

The report fails to discuss the toll oil and gas development takes on our shared public lands. As a result, it gives short shrift to the value of improving the safety and environmental record of drilling activities and conserving and safeguarding sensitive public lands from inappropriate energy development.

The report takes a similar skewed approach to offshore drilling. It calls for opening up new areas for offshore drilling, even though Congress has yet to enact a single change in the law since the Deepwater Horizon disaster, as was recommended by the President’s Oil Spill Commission. Because of the proven risks that drilling poses to valuable coastal and ocean resources and economies, we think the current legislative moratorium on Eastern Gulf leasing and the Interior Department’s decision not to include a lease sale in the Atlantic in its recently adopted 5-Year Offshore Oil and Gas Leasing Program are the smarter, safer approach.

The report also says that implementing the seismic exploration mitigation measures analyzed in the Interior Department’s environmental review of Atlantic drilling are too expensive and potentially impossible to conduct. We strongly disagree.  And if seismic exploration in the Atlantic were allowed to proceed, then we would need much more effective mitigation measures that go well beyond those the Interior Department has proposed so far to satisfy the Marine Mammal Protection Act and other requirements that protect marine wildlife.

But the report does provide a strong plan for how to expand America’s cleanest and safest energy resources: efficiency and renewables. It calls for treating efficiency as an energy resource fully capable of meeting America’s growing energy needs. Indeed, the report underscores the fact that efficiency has contributed more to our nation’s energy demand over the past 40 years than all other energy resources combined—and has cost less and cut more pollution in the process.

As a result, the report advocates taking a number of efficiency measures we’ve supported for decades, including setting Energy Efficiency Resource Standards and performance-based efficiency standards for appliances, lighting, equipment, and buildings.  It also calls on Congress to significantly increase federal investments in R&D for energy innovation.

And perhaps most interesting, given recent political fights, the report also calls for extending the renewable energy production tax credit (now set to expire in 2013) through the end of 2016, while calling for a phase-out of all federal tax subsidies for mature energy technologies (including longtime fossil fuel beneficiaries). That’s an important twin policy goal that will advance our growing clean energy sector.

So while NRDC does not consider this report, as a whole, to be a blueprint for how our nation can curb carbon emissions and build a stronger, more sustainable energy future, we welcome the strides made in reaching a bipartisan consensus on efficiency, renewables, and other innovations. It’s those clean energy proposals that we can and will support.

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