Energy Experts Sound Off on Economics and the Energy Industry

13_18_63---Power-Lines_web.jpgIn this time of economic volatility, it’s no surprise to hear that even the experts disagree about the impact that the financial meltdown will have on renewable energy development. Rarely do we get to hear them frankly discuss their thoughts, expectations, fears, and disagreements. Enter the National Journal’s Expert Blog.
The National Journal has brought together a panel of experts from government, industry, and non-profits and asked them to post about their thoughts on the impact of the economic volatility on renewable energy development. Obviously, they don’t all agree, which is part of what makes this such a compelling read.
Some choice nuggets include:
Carl Pope, President of the Sierra Club, who lays it on the line:

First, anyone who really claims to know that this market is going to do to ANYTHING is either going to be very rich or look very foolish — and I’m pretty sure I’m not going to get rich, so we really don’t know.

Only the internet can bring on that blatant honesty.
Skip Bowman, President of the Nuclear Energy Institute, a lobbying body for the nuclear industry, is very optimistic about the impact of the current volatility in the market on his members, stating,

Today’s conditions in the financial markets largely are irrelevant to the issue of new nuclear plant financing.

Jon Wellinghoff, Commissioner, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission sees things quite differently:

There is unlikely to be funding available in the foreseeable future for [coals plants or new nuclear plants] regardless of the condition of the economy given the costs and risks associated such ideas, unless there are substantial federal subsidies and some certainty regarding carbon regulation.

Then there is the ever optimistic American Gas Association, who thinks that the economic downturn makes investment in the traditional utility business model more appealing

In fact, given that the cause of the nation’s current economic difficulties are, in large part, due to overly risky business practices, the basic, easy-to-understand business model of a regulated utility may be a welcome “safe harbor” for investors.

David Parker, President, American Gas Association.
On the other hand, the steel industry sees the writing on the wall and is eager to seek new opportunities in the green economy:

Investment in renewable energy is a high priority for the nation and for America’s steel industry. As an energy-intensive industry, our member companies are committed to investing in advanced technologies to achieve ever greater energy efficiency.

Thomas Gibson, President & CEO, American Iron and Steel Institute

Finally, the president of the Union of Concerned Scientists (full disclosure: he’s my boss) offers concrete solutions government can take to turn the economy around and reduce global warming:

Next year the new administration and Congress can do much to jumpstart a “Green Deal” that would help pull the country out of our economic mess by investing in clean energy and expanding the national grid, which would generate hundreds of thousands of new green-collar jobs and reduce global warming pollution at the same time

Kevin Knobloch, President, Union of Concerned Scientists
This rich variety of opinions is an internet gold mine. The bummer is that there is no place for “non-experts” to comment on the discussion over at the National Journal. Luckily we don’t discriminate.
Readers: What do you think about the conversation? Who’s right? Do you have ideas they haven’t thought of?

Jen Boynton

Jen Boynton is editor in chief of TriplePundit and editorial director at 3BL Media. With over 6 million annual readers, TriplePundit is the leading publication on sustainable business and the Triple Bottom Line. Prior to TriplePundit, Jen received an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio Graduate School. In her work with TriplePundit she's helped clients from SAP to PwC to Fair Trade USA with their sustainability communications messaging. When she's not at work, she volunteers as a CASA -- court appointed special advocate for children in the foster care system. She enjoys losing fights with toddlers and eating toast scraps. She lives with her family in sunny San Diego.

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