U.S. Energy Secretary Chu Seeks 'Common Ground' with Republicans: Platts Energy Week

Dec 13, 2010, 12:03 ET from Platts

Gives low odds of dramatically lower crude prices; no plans to leave Washington

WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Platts -- As the Obama administration faces increasing opposition from a soon-to-be Republican-controlled House and a more GOP-heavy Senate, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said Sunday that the administration would have to find "common ground" with the rival party on energy issues.  Chu made his comments in an exclusive interview with Platts Energy Week television (http://www.plattsenergyweektv.com/) an independent all-energy news and talk show.

The White House, its Democratic allies and Republicans need to "look for the things that the vast majority of Americans will say, 'This is good for me, this is good for America, this is good for my state,' and move forward on those issues," Chu told program host Bill Loveless. The interview, available at this link, airs in Houston tonight and was aired Sunday in Washington, D.C.

The House passed a comprehensive energy and climate-change bill last year that would have put a price on carbon emissions, but the measure died in the Senate. Nevertheless, Chu said there were other options for moving the U.S. towards a clean-energy future.

"Absent a price on carbon, what are the things you can do? Well, you can create a demand for this thing, whether it be wind or solar or any form of renewable energy [and] say, 'This is where we are heading,'" Chu said.  "These are many of the things that we as a country should wrestle with and think about."

A federal "renewable energy standard," or RES, that would require electric utilities to generate a certain percentage of their power from renewables has garnered some support in Congress, but still faces opposition.

Last week, Chu said Congress should consider including nuclear and carbon-capture and storage technologies in a broader "clean energy" standard.

In the interview with Platts, Chu struck a conciliatory note, saying it wasn't up to him to pick the policy -- such as a price on carbon or low-carbon energy-use mandates -- that would support renewable energy "or clean energy" projects.

"This is a discussion that has to be held with Congress, with the American people," Chu said. "What the country really wants, and what business really wants, are those long-term signals to say, 'This is where the country is heading.' "

He also said there would be other opportunities for common ground with Republicans in Congress, such as retrofitting buildings and homes to cut down on energy bills.

"We are working on ways to do this so it doesn't require massive public-sector investment, but it is private-sector investment because it is going to be saving money," Chu said. "I think that is a common ground."

Eventually, however, Chu said he was confident that there would be a price on carbon as the evidence of human-induced climate change becomes more convincing.

Several key House committees will be chaired next year by Republicans who do not believe that burning fossil fuels contributes to global climate change.

But Chu, in the interview, said evidence for the link is overwhelming.

"The climate is changing," he said. "There is overwhelming evidence ... that it is caused by humans predominantly. What should be open to debate is, how's the best way to proceed?"

Chu also pointed out that "virtually all of the developing countries" around the world are taking action to curb their green house gas (GHG) emissions.

Chu shrugged off reports that he may be leaving Obama's Cabinet, reiterating that he is committed to remaining as energy secretary for as long as Obama wants him.

"I came here to do a number of things. I came here because I believe in what the president believes in, in terms of energy and the environment, and I think that as long as I think I am doing good things, as long as I see progress, [I will stay]."

For an update of the latest energy news highlights, click here.

To hear more on the Secretary's discussion of the greatest challenges he's faced and his views on recent global climate talks, click here.  For more on the discussion about cap and trade solutions and budget cuts, access this link.

To hear the Energy Secretary's outlook on shale gas, the full discussion may be viewed here.

Platts Energy Week airs weekly at 8 a.m. Eastern time on Sunday mornings on W*USA TV 9 in greater Washington, D.C. and at 7:30 p.m. Central time on Mondays on KHOU 11.2 (Comcast 310) in Houston. The program is also available online at http://www.plattsenergyweektv.com beginning 9:00 a.m. ET on Sundays.

The program follows an interview format featuring guests from the Obama administration, Congress, government agencies, think tanks, the investment community and the energy industry. Host Bill Loveless is the long-time chief editor of Platts' Inside Energy and brings nearly three decades of energy journalism experience to the anchor chair.

Platts Energy Week is produced by Platts, the world's leading source of information and intelligence on energy and related commodities and a division of The McGraw-Hill Companies [NYSE: MHP], and W*USA-TV, the Washington, D.C., CBS affiliate and flagship television station of Gannett Company. [NYSE: GCI]. While the program is U.S. focused and produced in Washington, it reflects the global vantage point of Platts, whose correspondents are stationed in such major capitals as London, Dubai, Singapore, Tokyo and Moscow.

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