NEW YORK, Dec. 2, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- Former Shell president and Citizens for Affordable Energy chief executive John Hofmeister called for a regulatory body analogous to the U.S. Federal Reserve to establish broad designs for energy policy. He made his comments in a keynote address before the fourth annual The Platts Global Energy Outlook Forum, entitled "Clean Energy: Fact or Fiction?" which was held at the McGraw-Hill headquarters in midtown Manhattan on Wednesday.
"We don't get effective solutions when politics drives energy," said Hofmeister. Hofmeister pointed to past and present energy policy, suggesting that the U.S. has taken a step backward, with the country importing 65 percent of its energy demand today -- in stark contrast to 30 percent in 1973.
Under his proposal, a regulatory body structured like the Federal Reserve, a monetary policy body made up of regional members and a policy-setting panel, could establish the broad designs of energy policy. Such a body could appoint governors to 14-year terms and "set politics on its side, where it belongs."
"Nobody lobbies the Fed. You can't lobby the Fed. Nobody sues the Fed," Hofmeister said, in explaining how his proposed regulatory body could stay above the fray of politics.
Past and present U.S. energy policy has proven to be an "unwinnable and hopeless way forward, Hofmeister told attendees at the all-day forum. "How much hydrocarbons should we be using in 2040? In 2060?" Hofmeister asked. "We have no idea what it could look like," Hofmeister said, adding that long-term energy policy is at the "will o' the wisp" and is held hostage to politics.
The former Shell president also noted that in 1973 the United States imported 30% of its energy demands, whereas today the country's energy imports account for 65% of demand. "Eight presidents (have been) taking us backwards in time," he said. "Energy has been non-strategic, tactical at best.... With politics driving energy, we don't get solutions."
Following are highlights from the day-long panel discussions which touched on numerous and wide-ranging aspects of the country's and world's energy supply:
--Jim Gordon, the founder and CEO of Cape Wind, said his offshore wind farm near Nantucket should be producing its first electrons by the latter half of 2012. Federal and state permitting has been completed, but there remain some legal battles over the controversial project.
--Mark Brownstein, the deputy director of the energy program at the Environmental Defense Fund, said the growing natural gas supplies in the United States have a significant role to play in the nation's energy future, but he warned that it's "turning into a more destructive force…it's hurting a lot of communities" through many of its practices. "I would argue that the gas industry right now has to look at how it acts before it starts pouring money into PR campaigns."
--Max Sandlin, a partner at lobbying firm Mercury, told the forum he was a "muscle car guy," but conceded that there may be a significant role for electric vehicles. Their strong reviews "scare me," Sandlin said. "I don't like it, but I think I have to listen to it."
--Inaction in the U.S. on climate change may eventually isolate the nation from other global powers such as Europe, China and India which seem to be more aggressively embarking on curbing anticipated climate change, according to several panelists. "I do see the world pulling in a different direction" from the U.S., said Malcolm Keay, a senior research fellow at the Oxford Institute. "Meanwhile the U.S. will be sitting on the sidelines. I think Europe will go ahead with climate measures, (and) stick with its (carbon emission reducing) targets." That isolation or distancing will, in turn, introduce new tensions between the U.S. and other countries, Keay cautioned.
The day's third and final panel discussion focused on energy outlook and at how the United States election has shifted global energy policies. Participants included panel moderator Bill Loveless of Platts, a leading global energy information provider; Malcolm Keay, an Oxford Institute fellow; Ajay Shankar a Woodrow Wilson Center scholar, and Phil Sharp, president of Resources for the Future. Discussion ranged from climate change initiatives to the "competitive chaos" that marks the American political system – to the sometimes-mistaken belief that natural gas opportunities would be on the decline.
Capgemini was principal sponsor of the Forum and was joined by co-sponsors Landis+Gyr, Oracle, Fortune and SolArc.
For more information about the Platts Global Energy Outlook Form, visit this website link: http://www.platts.com/ConferenceDetail/2010/globalenergy/index. The Forum is held in conjunction with the 12th annual Platts Global Energy Awards which take place tonight at the Cipriani Wall Street and which recognize exemplary leadership and innovation in 17 performance categories.
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