How would President Obama handle the energy and climate challenges facing the United States in his second term if he is re-elected? During today's OnPoint, Joseph Aldy, surrogate for President Obama's campaign and the former special assistant to the President for energy and environment, discusses the future of fracking, natural gas, coal, and climate policy during a second Obama term. Aldy also explains what he believes are the biggest errors in GOP contender Mitt Romney's energy plan.
Monica Trauzzi: Joe, what do you believe the biggest energy error of the Romney energy plan is?
Joseph Aldy: Well, Monica, thank you for having me. I think that the biggest error is the fact that it is incredibly unbalanced. You look at the Romney plan, it focuses on fossil fuel production. It is dismissive of clean energy, and in fact would actually roll back support for wind and solar that will actually cost jobs in America.
It also is completely dismissive of energy efficiency. In fact, Governor Romney said he would like to roll back fuel economy standards that analysis actually shows are going to save the average American family $8,000.00 over the life of their vehicle in terms of fill-up costs, but also play an important role in improving our energy independence by making us less susceptible to any kind of shocks throughout the world in the global energy market.
Monica Trauzzi: Both candidates use the phrase "all of the above," but you seem to be using it differently. So how do you think the differences fall? What are the differences between your strategy versus Romney's?
Joseph Aldy: Well, I think an important difference is that we actually think you ought to focus on all energy technologies. The fact that they're silent on efficiency, the fact that they actually want to roll back efforts on wind and solar, the fact that Governor Romney wants to see the production tax credit for wind lapse, which will have an adverse impact on manufacturing, is clearly a different approach than what the president has.
It's surprising, because the president is actively supporting, and you see the kinds of policies out there, development of oil and gas. So it's a much broader policy. It's a much more balanced policy. I mean, it's shocking to me, when you actually look at the Romney plan, it is focused exclusively on resource extraction for the traditional fuels. It's less balanced than what we actually saw Vice President Cheney's Energy Task Force come out with in 2001. They at least would support efficiency and renewables. You don't even get that lip service out of the Romney proposal.
Monica Trauzzi: On coal, how do you possibly meet the US's energy demands without continuing to ramp up that production?
Joseph Aldy: Well, I think it's important to note, despite those who say this administration is opposed to coal, they are not, and in fact, we see employment in the coal mining sector at a 15-year high. I think it's important that as we move forward that we continue to support investments that can reduce the pollution intensity of coal. The president has put forward a program that would provide $5 billion of public monies for clean coal technology, and importantly, has leveraged $10 billion from the private sector. So you see a strong public-private partnership there to try to advance these technologies and make coal available to the marketplace without the kind of adverse environmental impacts.
Monica Trauzzi: Will President Obama push a carbon tax or cap-and-trade plan in his second term?
Joseph Aldy: You know, I think what's important when we look at where President Obama has been on climate policy, he supported cap and trade in 2008, he worked hard for two years to try to get it through the Congress, had no Republican support, even though you've had in the past Republicans in the Senate support cap-and-trade legislation.
He then came forward with the clean energy standard, a different way to tackle this, but a way in which you can actually promote innovation, create jobs and reduce our pollution. It's an idea that actually had Republican support in 2010 in the Senate, and then fell on deaf ears in the Congress.
So I think the president will be pragmatic about opportunities in the next Congress on how to try to tackle this issue, and if the other side is willing to work together on this, I think he's willing to consider something, especially if it helps us deal with large problems we have with our task and fiscal outlook.
Monica Trauzzi: So he'd be willing to consider something, carbon tax or cap and trade? Does it make any sense to go down the cap-and-trade road again?
Joseph Aldy: I think what makes sense is for the Republicans to actually come forward with an idea and see if we can actually meet halfway on this. The president's come forward with a couple of different ideas, and we don't see anything coming from the Republicans. So instead of sitting here and saying, well, the president's tried a couple of different ways, and it's basically silent treatment from the Republicans, say, you know, let's see if the Republicans can come forward with something that makes sense, and if it's something that can actually make a dent on this problem, I think the president will actually consider it.
Monica Trauzzi: Well, to talk about fracking, New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo recently took a step back on fracking in his state. Does that move sort of help more clearly define what the federal government's role should be in the fracking discussion versus what the state's role should be?
Joseph Aldy: You know, I think it's important, one, that we recognize that the president supports prudent development of this resource. We don't have to sacrifice public health to develop our resources. We have the ingenuity and we have the technologies to develop these resources in a safe manner.
When we look across energy and environmental contexts, it's not does the federal government do it or the states. You often see cooperation. You see in our system of federalism where the federal government provides some standards and there's some flexibility with the states on how they implement those standards. When you look at it in the context of fracking, the president has pushed forward for efforts to help reduce some of the air pollution that's associated with this that actually causes adverse health effects. Some of these are carcinogens. He wants to make sure that we don't imperil the public health as we develop this resource. And I think when you actually look at the kind of analyses that have been done, it's clear that we can develop the gas resource, that we continue fracking, without actually causing these kinds of adverse health effects.
Monica Trauzzi: All right, Joe. Thank you for your time.
Joseph Aldy: Thank you for having me, Monica.
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