The Future of Energy Policy and Utility Infrastructure: Part 3
Recent administrations from both parties have wielded the power of executive orders to set priorities and advance their policies – with both energy and environmental initiatives always top priorities. For example, government policies hand executive branch decisions have played a major role in the debate surrounding the role of fossil fuels versus renewables.
Where’s the line between fast and decisive executive action versus more long-term legislative approaches, especially when dealing with long-term energy and infrastructure issues? In the final installment of our 3-part series (read part 1 and part 2), we look at the quickly changing landscape.
At last year’s AclaraConnect conference, Thomas J. Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research, and head of the Trump transition coordination with the Department of Energy, and Elgie Holstein, current senior director for the Environmental Defense Fund and a member of the Obama administration, offered both the pros and cons of applying Executive Orders for energy policy at a special regulatory panel.
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“I think it could be unfortunate if we spend the next four years undoing what the previous administration did, only to nave the next administration come along and undo that again. It’s the worst case for business planning and marketing … because we’re doing this whipsaw deal,” said Pyle.
“If I were a utility executive making investment decisions,” countered Holstein, “and I was faced with Tom’s argument about whipsawing, I’d still place my bet on the future of lower carbon emissions.”
Holstein and Pyle also took on the issue of the government’s role in balancing the use of fossil fuel with new renewable options. This central question brought out both agreement and disagreement on the role that fossil should play in today’s energy mix, as well as the impact of a potential reset to renewables in energy research and subsidies.
“This may be a battle of subsidies,” stated Holstein. “Renewables have reached a grid parody, arguable without subsidies, but subsidies help offset other incentives we’ve had for decades in the fossil fuel side of the market. Without subsidies renewable energy will continue to grow, but not quite as fast.”
Pyle, on the other hand, weighed in for a more hands-off approach.
“Given natural gas prices and with renewable energy very much in play, there will be a day when subsidies and mandates are unnecessary.” He went on to say that President Trump’s emphasis on coal, oil and natural gas in our economy “makes the future is very bright.”