This article originally appeared in Politico. © 2011 Capitol News Company, LLC. Permalink>>
“Toward a Clean Energy Future”
By C. Boyden Gray
February 11, 2011 04:37 AM EST
A Republican House raises the odds that the rest of President Barack Obama’s term could be deadlocked. But one issue could develop into a bipartisan success: energy reform — which could be a victory for national security, public health and new job possibilities for all Americans.
Despite all the rhetoric in recent years, little has been done to address the nation’s energy problems. To get oil, we still send hundreds of billions of dollars of U.S. wealth annually to nations that are not friendly toward us.
The U.S. is also rapidly falling behind — if not dropping out of — the race to develop and deploy newer, cleaner and more efficient power plants. China is becoming the leader in cutting-edge, job-producing energy technologies.
The path to sustained energy security, economic prosperity and public health means shifting from outdated fossil-fuel-fired power plants to cleaner, more efficient energy sources that position the U.S. to compete in a global economy. For this, we need a bridge to a future where our nation’s energy needs are supplied by a mix of lower-emission resources, like cars and trucks powered by clean alternative fuels, including electrification. That affordable bridge is natural gas.
Natural gas, which already generates 23 percent of our electricity, is cleaner than energy sources like oil or coal, which generate deadly fine particle pollution. Natural gas emits nearly 50 percent less carbon dioxide, with almost no sulfur dioxide, particulates or mercury.
New, abundant supplies of natural gas have been found domestically, so it can be the first step toward a new era in which energy generation and use in transportation are homegrown, cheaper and safer.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed clean air rules, the next phase of the 40-year-old Clean Air Act, aimed primarily at particulate matter, allow natural gas to realize its significant air-quality benefits for reducing the cost of meeting the particulate matter standard — the most important of all EPA standards in terms of lives saved. The proposed Transport and Hazardous Air Pollutant rules will require power plants to significantly curb precursor emissions, including sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, mercury and other hazardous pollutants.
These rules are essential for two reasons: They provide lower cost-per-ton reductions than are available from local small business — thus relieving state and local regulators from having to jeopardize small-business job creation; they also enhance public health and energy security by encouraging more gas production for direct use in truck fleets and for generating clean power to fuel electric cars — again producing lower cost reductions than available to state and local regulators.
We have made major progress in improving air quality since the 1970 Clean Air Act. But more needs to be done. Some insist that the pending nationwide transport and hazardous rules will harm the economy and kill jobs. In fact, they will save jobs that otherwise would be lost from more costly local particulate matter regulation of small businesses.
This requires careful attention to achieving particulate reduction for the lowest possible cost per ton — by encouraging continuing innovation in energy use, including use of clean natural gas, now available in dramatically larger volumes, thanks to new technology.
Energy security is the most important issue of my generation. It holds future generations in the balance across so many levels. Now is the time to act — for the sake of national security, public health and economic prosperity. Let a new, cleaner energy economy allow America to become a leader in innovation yet again.
C. Boyden Gray served as White House counsel to President George H.W. Bush and as an adviser on energy policy. He teaches a seminar on energy security at the New York University School of Law. He is now a partner at Boyden Gray & Associates.
© 2011 Capitol News Company, LLC
BACK TO NEWS