Up | December 08, 2012
>>> we're talking about the remarkable fossil fuel extraction boom happening in the united states leaving energy analysts to refer to stauddy america as the u.s. becomes the top producer of oil in the near future . it has the largest known proven coal reserves in the entire world and is tied with russia for the largest gas production. joining me at the table is westin solutions, inc a company doi doing. steve coll and president of the new american foundation and a staff writer at the new yorker magazine. francis bernanke and dan dicker is it still at the table. i'm really curious about how this boom is going to transform american politics . i'm particularly concerned about climate, right? it seems to me that we are basically in certain ways headed in exactly the wrong direction, but also at the same time headed in the right direction. here's what i mean by that. k carbon emissions are the lowest in the country since 1992 . that's largely because every btu of natural gas you substitute for coal, you get 50% of the emissions. at the same time we have this foss fill fuel boom, we have this decline in the carbon emissions . i wonder how should i feel from an environmental perspective about these two facts that seem to be in deep tension with each other?
>> i think the main thing, chris, is we have to get on a path way to reduce emissions over time . natural gas is better than coal, but it does not get you there. you have to have a clean energy plan that gets you to a cleaner solution with efficient and renewables. the cleanest burning fuels you can get. basically the natural gas boom is a temporary benefit from a climate standpoint but a long-term disaster because it prevents the transition from happening.
>> chris, right now we're in a position where because of the production of gas at such great levels it has caused the price of that gas to come down precipitously. that turns out not to be very good for the gas companies who aren't making the money that they were making. they're shuts in some wells, but it turns out not to be very good for renewables companies.
>> that have to compete with this.
>> exactly. it's darn hard to finance the renewable project when the price of gas brought the price of electricity down.
>> i'm worried about the political economy here, because to me this is a big issue, right? if you have a climate policy , you have to go through the fossil fuel companies, ands fossil fuel companies are big and mean and tough. they are some of the most profitable companies in the history of human civilization. you've written entire magnum opus about one of them. how is this going to shape the political relationship between the state and its ability to bring to heal these companies if we have this massive expansion in the extractive capacity of the nation?
>> well, the basic problem is that while it's true that climate and energy policy are the same thing our politics around integrated. we don't have a government or democracy to bring those two policy strands together. part is the political power of the fossil fuels industry. between 1998 and 2012 the combined spending disclosed lobbying spending of the oil and gas industry and electric utility industry 3.5 billion dollars. pretty much top of the chart. they have a blocking position in congress. even when you had a democratic house in 2006 and a democratic presidency in 2008 , we couldn't get a price on carbon enacted, even a he relatively modest one. we had a recession. there were extenuating circumstances, but people understand that the politics of putting a price on carbon-heavy fue fuels, which is the easiest way to integrate climate energy policy , is pretty much dead in the congress. even now you don't hear the president talking about it in the campaign where you had the opportunity to start to set the agenda.
>> of course, on that point the fact is that the president has the authority to reduce emissions under the clean air act . he can do it efficiently and cost-effectively, and i think that grassroots from all over the country are demanding that action from the president and from this administration.
>> in fact, the natural resources defense council put out a wonderful report, which i recommend to our readers. it will be on our facebook page and tumblr sketching out what it will look like. because the epa has found it can regulate it under --
>> the supreme court authorized the e pa to regulate it. our program promotes massive investments in efficiency to reduce emissions 26% from 2010 from the largest single source of emissions in this country. we have to get on a path to reducing our emissions. we have to use the authority we have. as steve says, congress doesn't have the appetite now. hopefully at some point they will. we can't wait for them. you have to give congress the appetite to make the -- to put the politics into the climate and into the energy equation, and this is the way you do it. i think this president has a tremendous opportunity, one no other president has because of the infancy nature of fracking of natural gas and shale oil and what's going on deep water in the gulf of mexico . we're at a moment of time where we're at the infancy of a great revolution where the president can say i have a consolidated energy policy , the first of ipts kind in the last 50 years where if you want $5 billion in subsidies for big oil , then you have to pay for that with $5 billion of getting us further aalong the way towards a renewable future. if you don't do this, you're not entitled to. this you have to integrate everything so you can use the hammer of money against the big oil companies to make that move forward in the renewables they won't do themselves. sometimes what