Campaign surrogates debate energy at the BRT
Representing the Obama and Romney presidential campaigns, two former Department of Energy officials covered the full range of production, regulatory and environmental issues in a forum sponsored today by Business Roundtable. The exchanges produced clear policy distinctions between the campaigns,
Moderated by Wall Street Journal's Gerald Seib (pictured left), the panelists: Obama surrogate Dan Reicher, executive director of the Center for Energy Policy and Finance at Stanford University, who previously worked for Google on energy efficiency, had served on the Obama transition team, and was Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy in the Clinton Administration. For the Romney campaign, Linda Stuntz, a former top energy official in the George H.W. Bush administration and a founding partner of Stuntz, Davis & Staffier, P.C., where her practice includes energy and environmental regulation.
The basic thrust of the debate came as no surprise. Reicher contended the president's "all of the above" approach toward energy, which includes government regulations, spending and inducements to drive incentives, was helping the United States to develop a more competitive energy policy that offered a better economic future for the country. Romney's approach, he argued, was built around the idea of drilling more oil.
Stuntz argued that the Obama administration relied on picking winners and losers, an ill-advised strategy that has throttled energy development and economic growth, while squandering hundreds of millions of dollars for politically favored projects. On the first day of a Romney administration, the President would approve the Keystone XL pipeline, she said, and regulatory and permitting reforms would be priorities.
Questioning from Seib and the audience -- made up of nearly 100 representatives of BRT-member companies and 24 reporters -- returned several times to global warming, carbon controls, and environmental technology. Reicher repeatedly mentioned the Obama administration support for a global agreement to address CO2 and ministerial agreements on energy efficiency. Stuntz emphasized the global nature of the issue, saying the United States should not take unilateral action that would damage the economy, and promoting technology as an important response.
Ben Geman of The Hill covered the issues well in his report, "Romney surrogate: ‘He’s certainly not a denier' on climate." Geman also reported, "Romney surrogate says wind energy credit stance not set."
Both agreed on the value of exporting Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) -- a topic that drew a surprising amount of attention -- with Stuntz challenging the pace of the administration's action on permit applications for LNG terminals.
Their closing statements included pitches directed at the business representatives in the audience. (transcript) Excerpts:
[We ] are at a critical moment when it comes to the nation's energy future with many significant opportunities AND challenges before us. President Obama's "all of the above" approach, properly supported and well implemented, will help the nation seize these opportunities and address these challenges, and in the process build a more secure, healthy and economically competitive nation....
President Obama's "all of the above" approach is all about grabbing this opportunity head on and hard.
I urge you to give a serious look, and I'm confident the nation and your companies will be better off for it four years for now.
Does [energy] need to be managed from Washington so it produces the right portfolio of "all of the above" defined as President Obama would define it? Or, are you looking at something that says, we need take advantages of the resources that we have, we need to use the technology and ingenuity that we have, because in doing that we are making our environment better, we're becoming more efficient, we're reducing greenhouse gases? And we don't need people to say, well, you can only do it in a certain way, on a certain day, in a way we think makes sense.
That's really what's at stake here: Do you think that the private sector has got it right in energy technology, or does it need to be redirected in a way that's politically correct? And I think this election is going to be about that, not only in the energy sphere but in some other areas as well.
UPDATE: Here are audio files from the event...