2011 Environmental Law Institute — Miriam Hamilton Keare Policy Forum:
Toward a Rational Energy Policy
Energy policy is an important component of environmental policy, underlying many of the most important issues facing humanity, from climate change to foreign policy to international trade and economics. Practices ranging from wetlands preservation to oil shale mining have direct energy policy connections, as do air and water pollution and the generation and disposal of toxic substances. Events like the Deepwater Horizon blowout and last spring's agricultural runoff, to which the corn ethanol boom contributed, are polluting the Gulf of Mexico, a tragic testament to energy's effect on the environment. Yet no single law or regulation governs energy policy. Instead, notwithstanding the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and subsequent legislation, there is a patchwork quilt of laws on agriculture, mining, hazardous materials, air and water releases, and the like.
Energy policy affects the economy and the economy affects energy policy, as we have learned from the energy shocks of the past few decades. According to an ELI study in 2009 (Estimating U.S. Government Subsidies to Energy Sources: 2002-2008), fossil fuels received over seventy billion dollars in subsidies between FY 2002-08, while clean energy sources received less than a quarter as much support over the same time period. Market forces, in the absence of applied costs generated by energy use, favor polluting energy sources over renewable ones. Our reliance on foreign oil from unstable regimes has inspired repeated calls for energy independence, creating additional environmental and economic issues surrounding increasing domestic resource extraction. Is it possible to craft a rational energy policy amidst these competing forces?
In the afternoon preceding Dr. Steven Chu's keynote address at the 2011 ELI Award Dinner, this prestigious panel took up these issues in a multi-stakeholder debate that highlighted the policy issues raised by these developments and searched for middle ground upon which the debate might move forward.
Panelists: Jason Grumet, President, Bipartisan Policy Center (Moderator) Kateri Callahan, President, Alliance to Save Energy Suedeen Kelly, Partner, Patton Boggs John Rowe, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Exelon Corporation David Sandalow, Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs, U.S. Department of Energy