The Energy Security TrustApril 8, 2013
Michael Levi at the CFR’s Energy Policy blog takes a stab at explaining what he calls “irrational hatred” of governmental spending on green energy. Of course, not all such hatred is irrational – if, for example, you are motivated more by politics than by policy and think that such spending could give a political advantage to your opponent – then that hatred (for lack of a better term) is highly rational. But, Levi’s real point is to show how difficult it is to find compromise, let alone consensus, on the tension between energy security and climate security advocates. He uses President Obama’s recently announced Energy Security Trust Fund as a point of illustration. Obama proposed the program in his state of the union address – the idea is to use revenue generated by oil and gas leases on federal lands to fund research into alternative fuels.
There are several obvious points of compromise here, even if you are convinced that green and/or alternative energies are a waste of time and money. First, if the money only comes from new oil and gas producing leases, then fossil fuel proponents get increased US production. Next, you could insist that a coequal portion of the distributed funds goes to research on making internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles cleaner and more efficient. You could earmark a percentage of the research funding to CCS and CCU projects. You could spend some of the research money on CO2 to methanol conversion. Finally, you could tie all of this to presidential support for passage of the Open Fuel Standard. Each of these things would strengthen fossil fuels – a very good tradeoff for spending money on alternative energy technologies that may, in fact, pay off.
Levi’s post concludes that rigid positions on both sides make compromise impossible. I disagree – all it takes is a leader who is able to show his fellow partisans how compromise can sometimes actually be victory.