Opinion

The Great Debate

Peak demand leaves refineries idle

– John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own –

U.S. refiners have emerged as the biggest losers from the previous surge in oil and push for cleaner energy. The industry’s brief golden age has swiftly given way to a prolonged dark period of adjustment and decline.

What went wrong? Like other sectors, refiners have been hit by the cyclical downturn, which has cut trade volumes and the related demand for transport fuels such as aviation fuel and marine diesel especially hard.

But cyclical factors are compounding a structural decline in consumption that began around 2007 and has continued through the recession, as high prices and legislative responses force greater conservation and a shift towards biofuels.

Even as the economy recovers, U.S. consumption of petroleum-derived gasoline and distillate fuels is unlikely to exceed the record set in 2007. The resulting “demand peak” has left up to 10 percent of total U.S. refining capacity (around 1.8 million barrels per day) surplus to requirements.

Weatherization heats up in 2010

OBAMA/

By John W. Edwards, Jr.

President Barack Obama certainly is walking the walk when it comes to weatherizing America’s homes.

Five billion dollars was included in the economic stimulus legislation for the Weatherization Assistance Program, the federal program started in 1976 to help low-income families.

And more recently the president has proposed a “cash for caulkers” incentive program for homeowners modeled on the successful “cash for clunkers” autos program earlier this year.

Energy realism and a green recovery

jay-pryor– Jay R. Pryor is vice president of business development for Chevron. The views expressed are his own. —

The concept of a “green recovery” is a compelling topic of discussion at the World Economic Forum this week in Dailan, China. It stems from the United Nations Environment Program calling for investment of 1% of global GDP (nearly $750 billion) to promote a sustainable economic recovery.

A “green recovery” speaks to two of the most important issues of our time –- the efficient use of energy and the realistic understanding of energy’s role in the global economy. It’s a role that can help lift millions of people out of poverty, while addressing a healthier environment.

Develop domestic oil reserves for energy independence

 Diana Furchtgott-Roth– Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. The views expressed are her own. —

President Obama is in favor of moving towards “energy independence,” but his new 2010 Budget specifically seeks to raise taxes on domestic oil exploration by $31 billion over 10 years, a larger tax increase than on any other industry. In addition, oil and gas producers would bear a disproportionately heavy share of other tax increases on business, more than $320 billion.

Surely a president who desires energy independence would leave oil companies alone so that America could develop greater domestic reserves.  But this is not the case.

First 100 days: Turn down the rhetoric on Russia

Peter SchechterPeter Schechter is an author and an international political and communications consultant. A founder of one of Washington’s strategic communications consulting firms, he has spent twenty years advising Presidents, writing advertising for political parties, ghost-writing columns for CEO’s, and counseling international organizations out of crises. “Pipeline” is his second novel. The views expressed are his own. –

After an eighteen year sabbatical, we fiction writers have recently put Russia back foursquare into its role as a novelist’s favorite fierce antagonist.  For decades, thrillers were dominated by the threatening Soviet imagery spun by John Le Carré, Tom Clancy and Frederick Forsythe.  Now, recent offerings like Daniel Silva’s “Moscow Rules”, Ted Bell’s “Tsar”, and my own “Pipeline” again reassign Russia its place of concern for political leaders, intelligence agencies and military planners.

That Russia provides good material is no surprise. The non-fiction Russia uses natural resources for coercion.  It militarily overwhelms a small neighbor. It crushes domestic dissension through physical or psychological intimidation. It suffers from near-obsessive mistrust of foreigners’ intentions.  Oligarchs and Kremlin bureaucrats are locked in a maze of corruption, mafia and violence.

A stimulating energy policy

rengle_alternate11

- Robert Engle is the Michael Armellino Professor of Finance at New York University Stern School of Business and a Nobel Laureate. His views are his own. -

We have faced energy crises before. The last energy crisis was about running out of oil. This one is about the fear that we might not. The future health of our planet is jeopardized by the greenhouse gases emitted by our industrial society. But can we afford an expensive energy policy in this time of economic distress?

The simplest and best solution to reducing emissions is thought by most economists to be a comprehensive tax on the emission of greenhouse gases. Only in this way will individuals and businesses that avoid the tax be doing what is socially desirable. Only in this way will it become profitable to find substitute energy sources; no longer would it be necessary to subsidize alternatives. The price of oil will rise naturally when we begin to run out, but in this proposal, the price would rise before we reach the bitter end. It is only a matter of timing.

Ukraine gas crisis spurs EU energy policy

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

The gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine that has left hundreds of thousands of Europeans shivering in the winter cold is bound to accelerate plodding European Union efforts to build a common energy policy.

The cut-off of Russian gas supplies to Europe via Ukraine highlighted how little progress the 27-nation EU has made in connecting national energy networks and diversifying supplies since the first such crisis three years ago.

Obama’s “number 1 priority”

– Peter Barnes is an entrepreneur and writer whose books include Who Owns The Sky? and Climate Solutions: A Citizen’s Guide. The views expressed are his own.

A few days before the election, Barack Obama told Time’s Joe Klein:

Finding the new driver of our economy is going to be critical. There’s no better driver that pervades all aspects of our economy than a new energy economy … That’s going to be my No. 1 priority when I get into office.

That’s exactly the right choice for numerous economic, geopolitical, and ecological reasons. By spawning “a new energy economy,” Obama can create millions of new jobs, decrease our dependence on foreign oil and avert catastrophic climate change. But the politics of launching that new energy economy — even with enlarged majorities in Congress — remains challenging.

  •