Opinion

The Great Debate

D.C.’s clean-energy conundrum

Few issues are now as politically polarizing as the role of government in supporting clean-energy technologies. It pits those concerned about global warming against climate science skeptics; those who see government playing a role in shaping a new industry against those who support a free-market approach; and clean-technology funders and technologists against incumbent energy interests.

These debates only heated up during the presidential campaign, as promises of new clean-technology jobs faced off against reports of failed green technology companies. For some, “clean energy” is synonymous with “government overreach.”

Yet the need is great for domestic energy production that is reliable, safe and affordable. The United States needs innovative solutions that help Americans use energy more wisely.

The first critical step, particularly in today’s political climate, is to recognize that previous efforts, no matter how well intentioned, need to be updated. There are smarter ways to support important innovations without pushing us over the “fiscal cliff.” Clean technologies are likely to be the next great industry and economic success story. Whether that happens in the United States or not is up to us.

The question now is how to do this in a financially prudent way. There are no more blank checks, and no more patience for promises of green jobs. The Jan. 1 fiscal cliff deadline is just the first in a series of bracing negotiations over government spending and tax policies. Given this environment, there is little doubt that clean-technology funding and support will be put to the test.

Time for GOP to stop denying climate change

Society, throughout history, has embraced “truths” later revealed to be false: The Earth is flat, the Sun revolves around the Earth and, now, climate change is a hoax. Strong evidence – including the fact that the Arctic ice melt has reached the lowest point in history – shows that climate change is real. Yet Republican members of Congress still refuse to take meaningful steps to address what can be done to protect our planet from this growing threat.

The first eight months of 2012 were the hottest on record since record keeping began in 1895. June, July and August produced the third-hottest summer ever recorded. The nation as a whole is averaging 4 degrees Fahrenheit above the average temperature for the year– a full degree higher than in 2006, which, until now, had the hottest first eight months of any year.

We are experiencing the effects of these ever-more-extreme conditions daily. This summer, 40 out of 50 states had drought-designated counties with conditions severe enough to be eligible for federal aid. Almost two-thirds of the nation experienced moderate to severe drought conditions, a 30 percent increase from last year, when one-third of the country witnessed such conditions. Even more staggering, 80 percent of our agricultural land has been affected by drought, which means higher food prices at a time when Americans are already under financial strain.

Smart grid skepticism derails Baltimore plan

Maryland Public Service Commission highlighted the political resistance smart-metering advocates must overcome when it shot down proposals for compulsory smart metering submitted by Baltimore Gas and Electric Company (BGE).

Smart grids are essential for the Obama administration’s and power industry’s plan to meet rising electricity demand while integrating more renewable generation into the grid.

Creating flexibility on the demand side to match increased intermittency in supply is the only way to maintain reliability without having to build enormous amounts of expensive back-up gas-fired generating capacity and disfigure the landscape by installing thousands of miles of transmission lines.

Nuclear power: pros and cons

As part of the Reuters Summit on global climate and alternative energy, Reuters.com asked Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club and Ian Hore-Lacy, director of public communication for the World Nuclear Association to discuss the role of nuclear energy. Here are their responses.

(Carl Pope’s rebuttal was posted at 8:30 a.m. ET on September 10.)

from The Great Debate UK:

“Green growth” strategy viable for African economy

michael_keating -Michael Keating is director of the Africa Progress Panel. The opinions expressed are his own.-

After a decade of solid progress Africa is now facing the daunting task - at a time of economic crisis - of maintaining stability, economic growth and employment, addressing food security and combating climate change. No country on the continent is escaping the impact of volatile fuel and commodity prices, the drop in global demand and trade.

The global economic crisis, however, is serving as a wake-up call for both African leaders and their international partners. The Africa Progress Panel’s 2009 report, launched Wednesday in Cape Town by panel members Kofi Annan, Graca Machel and Linah Mohohlo, argues just this.

Clean energy investment needs greener light

– Paul Taylor is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

paul-taylorInvestors in clean energy are like motorists stuck at broken traffic lights. The public policy light is green but the price and credit lights are deep red.

Investment in wind, wave and solar power should be booming after the European Union last year adopted an ambitious goal to draw 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020 to help fight global warming, and U.S. President Barack Obama made green power a central plank of his government’s policy.

Obama’s investment horizon for clean energy

John Kemp Great Debate– John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

Like a Byzantine emperor, a U.S. president’s every public move is scripted to send signals about his priorities to Congress, the electorate, business, and the vast federal bureaucracy that will actually be responsible for formulating and implementing decisions in his name.

Presidential politics is a theatrical performance in which the president takes a small number of important decisions personally, but is responsible for setting the tone and direction for many smaller ones that will never reach his desk. If he can reach out to voters and businesses he can also reshape national priorities.

  •