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On Daniel J. Weiss - The final act for clean energy in the 111th Congress

I'll be watching this very closely - it is an important test of whether the incoming Congress will be able to accomplish anything on energy policy.  Senator Menendez, who I worked for earlier this year, worked closely with Senator Hatch on the original NAT GAS Act, and many Senators from both side of the aisle had input into that bill and Senator Dorgan's Electric Vehicles Deployment bill.  These are bipartisan energy priorities and are sensible energy policy choices for the U.S.  The Deepwater Horizon spill reminded members of the Senate that it'd be a good idea to diversify our trasportation fuel choices, and reducing our use of imported oil in particular (assuming we want to keep deepwater drilling, which many Senators feel we do) is an ever-present energy policy priority on both sides of the aisle.  If the current Senate cannot move decisively on energy legislation with such broad, bipartisan support, we're in a lot of trouble going into the more politically polarized 112th Congress.  Across both the House and the Senate, we're looking at the most polarized Congress in the history of the U.S., with the Dems remaining in office more liberal, on average, than before the election, and the Republicans more conservative on average as well as larger in number and in control of the House.   Policy progress is going to be very very tough.  Even basic governance will be tough.  It would be great if the current Congress could move on these important priorities now.

November 19, 2010    View Comment    

On Climate blogs, cable news and some inconvenient truths

Hi Simon,  Thank you for the thoughtful post on a topic we think about a lot at The Energy Collective.  As our audience has grown, with a 600% increase in unique visitors over the past year or so, we review content submitted from a spectrum of blogger tones and styles and grapple with these questions daily in selecting posts to feature.

A major challenge for any blogger in this arena is the sheer number of climate (and energy) blogs of vastly varying quality.  Add to that an increasing number of important social media mediums to broadcast ideas and premium for the number of Twitter, Facebook, etc. followers.  As the market for ideas floods with competition for attention, there is a natural tendency, as you point out, to get louder and perhaps more critical of other bloggers, with the impersonal computer screen medium probably exacerbating the trend.  I think this is particularly acute towards the tails of the distribution of very strong political and/or technology preferences.

What is the impact of all of the noise?  On a positive note, it makes even-handed bloggers who are thorough, including our Advisory board members, even more valuable and trusted to readers.  The value of their analysis increases and a small number of trusted blogs are amplified, appropriately and to good end.

But it is critical to ask who these bloggers are reaching and whether, as you say, it is an "inside baseball" game or one that welcomes interested readers from outside the core.  Does more noise make it easier or harder for the best thinking to rise to the top in the competition for bandwidth? 

I'm not sure if you met him when we overlaped at Princeton, but a Politics professor here, Marcus Prior, wrote an execellent book "Post-Broadcast Democracy," focused on TV broadcasting, which analyzes the same issues.  More extreme political polarization in the U.S. has tracked with increasingly specialized consumption of news and information, with those who disagree with each other rarely operating in the same arenas.

Valuable food for thought.  

I hope all is well with you at UBC!   Best, Rebecca

 

November 9, 2010    View Comment    

On Is Tackling Climate Change a Third Rail for Republicans?

Osha - Congrats on your new blog over at Forbes!  Although we try to limit re-posting partial blogs, I wanted to give TEC members and other readers a heads up about this new outlet.  I'll be following the blog myself, in addition to continuing to enjoy your posts here at The Energy Collective.  Best, Rebecca

November 5, 2010    View Comment    

On Beware of Poll Predictions Based on Poorly Representative Samples

Rod - I extended your publisher priviledge to The Energy Collective and chose to re-post this insightful post.  Although not explicitly about energy and environment policy, the outcome of races in the upcoming midterm election will have a signifcant impact on the future of energy and climate policy in the U.S., perhaps a larger impact than the 2008 election. 

October 24, 2010    View Comment    

On The Future of Fossil Power Generation: An interview with Michael Suess, CEO of Fossil Power Generation at Siemens

Hi Rod,

Thank you for your frank comments and for your recent post on Shale Gas, which I linked to in the Donadio article to provide readers an alternative perspective. The links and additional perspectives your provided are helpful and exactly the type of back-and-forth we're trying to encourage more of on the site.

In reponse and semi-defense of my intentions in chosing these topics to write about - yes, I most definitely recognize the business interests of my WEC interviewees and made sure I was very upfront about who they are, who they work for, and what those interests are.  My business consulting background (Katzenbach Parterns, now part of Booz, and GreenOrder) gives me a good sense of why and how company affiliations are important and why bloggers should disclose details about the positions of their sources. 

Michael Suess and Marcela Donadio's professional positions are why I wanted to share their valuable perspectives here at The Energy Collective. Their professional positions demand very good working knowledge of natural gas (generataion and markets, respectively).  To echo your sentiment, they have a lot at stake, and this means they cannot be casual observers of how this all may play out.  

I also attempted to bring in outside knowledge from my work in Congress and increasingly close following of energy markets and power generation.  I'll have more to add on this front going forward, drawing on my dissertation research and working with Professor Rob Socolow to help teach his graduate course on low-carbon technologies and policy. I expect to write much more about natural gas over the coming year.

Based on what I know so far on the busines and technology front and my close reading of Congressional politics, I strongly believe that natural gas will play a more important role in the U.S. energy mix (as well as the global mix) over the next couple of decades than any of us would have imagined.  Business interests will be the most important driver.  As a more extreme example than Siemens or Ernst & Young - Donadio and I briefly discussed a company called Cheniere Energy Inc. that is gearing up to try and export liquified natural gas from the U.S. to Latin America and elsewhere, reversing their previous business interests as an importer.  This would have been unimaginable until very recently. 

Rebecca

September 22, 2010    View Comment    

On The Future of Fossil Power Generation: An interview with Michael Suess, CEO of Fossil Power Generation at Siemens

Hi Ed -

There are great points about natural gas, thank you for weighing in.  I'll be posting more about natural gas markets - resource availability and investment determinants -- this Sunday or Monday, based on a discussion with Marcela Donandio, American Director of Oil & Gas for Ernst & Young at the Congress.  She made similar points to the ones you have written in about above.

On the goal front, the international community has set a goal of keeping temperature rise below 2oC and negotiations recognize that particular goal.  Whether it is sufficient to avoid catestrophic impacts is difficult to guage, because of the challenges accounting accurately for low-probability, high-risk outcomes at the tails of the probability distribution for climate impacts for a given warming scenario. 

Given how very difficult the politics are (I just spent 4 months in the U.S. Senate), I certainly have my fingers crossed that we have some headroom - we're going to need it.

September 17, 2010    View Comment    

On A new phase in my nuclear career

Rod - Congratulations on your new role at B & W's Generation mPowerTM!  Here's to hoping you will still have time to blog as well and share insights from inside the world of small modular reactor technology.

September 14, 2010    View Comment    

On Here We Go Again: A Closer Look at the Kerry-Lieberman Cap-and-Trade Proposal

Professor Stavins,  Thank you for posting to clarify the issues related to allowance allocations in the Senate American Power Act and in general, which is a complicated and poorly understood topic.  Debate over distribution of allowances will continue to be a focal point of contention in negotiations for this bill and any future climate and energy legislation, should it fail to pass (likely, as you note).  The relative, though not complete, decoupling of economic efficiency from politically-motivated distribution make allowances handy for eventually passing legislation.  I find that allocations provide an usually clear "read out" of the outcome of political negotiations and how well various stakeholders and interests groups have done.  In the House Waxman-Markey allocations, for instance, the ~37% in free allowances to LDCs in early years reflected careful negotiations and consensus pressure by the utilities, acting though the Edison Electric Institute and USCAP, as well as independently.  Oil & gas interests were less well-organized during House negotiations, and this was reflected in their small slice of the pie, though their ability to pass-through costs also played a significant role.

- Rebecca Lutzy, Content and Community Manager and Ph.D. student at Princeton University (my research is focused on Congressional Politics and US climate and energy policy) 

 



May 18, 2010    View Comment    

On Minerals Management Service and the Oil & Gas Industry: The wisdom of Solomon

John, Thanks for posting this and highlighting this issue at The Energy Collective.  This is a welcome change to the Minerals Management Service and is long overdue.  The situation is a textbook case of "regulatory capture" of an agency.  The conflict-of-interest was perhaps most visible through the "Sex-for-Oil" scandal of 2008 (CBS/AP News - Sex for Oil Scandal), but the more serious impact has been lax regulation and oversight of oil drilling practices. 

BP is not alone among oil companies in not having invested sufficiently in back-up systems for activating blow out preventers - nor were they required to have such systems, common in Europe, despite serious safety warnings by MMS in 2000 and awareness of the problem. 

Although I don't have much sympathy for BP, which lobbied alongside other oil companies to keep regulations lax and must be held accountable for the spill, it may well be that this accident could have happened on any number of offshore rigs in the US (motivating BP CEO Tony Hayward's "why me?").  We unfortunately can't expect the oil industry to regulate itself and pony up to pay for necessary safety precautions that aren't required - that is what regulatory agencies are for, and we need to make sure they can do their job and not be literally and figuratively in bed with the oil companies.  Breaking up the MMS into two agencies is a good start.

As reported in E&E and Greenwire articles (subs req) since this spill (note: The New York Times and Wall Street Journal have also been covering this well):  

A Wall Street Journal investigation found that the Minerals Management Service, which is tasked with overseeing offshore drilling, did not implement most safety regulations, instead leaving the task up to oil companies. The agency, which is under scrutiny following the oil rig explosion and spill in the Gulf of Mexico, wrote broad performance goals, then left oil producers and drillers to decide how to meet them.

According to industry executives and former regulators, MMS often did not follow up on safety problems. As a result, the safety record of American drilling companies paled in comparison to those in other countries. Over the past five years, an offshore oil worker in the United States was at least four times more likely to be killed than a worker in Europe and 23 percent more likely to be injured...

...Some observers say MMS has an inherent conflict of interest. While it is supposed to be a watchdog, it is also meant to promote energy independence and increase revenue. Of MMS's $342 million budget in 2010, nearly half comes from the oil industry through fees and rental receipts. Critics have previously attacked MMS for giving the industry too much freedom on royalty payments...

 - Rebecca, Content and Community Manager, The Energy Collective

May 11, 2010    View Comment    

On Bubbling and Crude: Gulf Coast Spill Reflects Devotion to Wealth, Power, and Oil

Keith - Welcome to The Energy Collective! We're excited to have you join the discussion here, and look forward to your insights and getting updates from USCAN going forward. 

Best regards, Rebecca - Content and Community Manager, The Energy Collective

May 6, 2010    View Comment    

On Duke’s Jim Rogers leaves Chamber of Commerce Board

Hi Ed, I respect your approach and critique, but nevertheless stand by "anti-science" and "anti-clean energy" as accurate descriptions of the Chamber of Commerce's policy and public stances to date.  I'd love to see their approach change, and am heartened, as Mark is, by the leadership Siemens and Duke Energy are showing by not accepting the current approach of the Chamber.
April 20, 2010    View Comment    

On Duke’s Jim Rogers leaves Chamber of Commerce Board

Interesting timing, with the Obama Administration Courting the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to Support Kerry-Graham-Lieberman later today, with Carol Browner meeting with President Tom Donahue.  I wonder whether the Administration is wasting their time if company leaders from Duke and Siemens, who are in the know about the Chambers behind-the-scenes discussions, are leaving the board.  I trust that Jim Rogers and Siemens USA thought carefully about the decision to leave the board.  Especially without key influencers that support climate action on the board, reversal of the Chamber's anti-science, anti-clean energy stances seems very unlikely.
April 20, 2010    View Comment