Lydia Meigs National Journal Policy Summit: Energy, Environment and the Economy

Today the American Gas Association (AGA), along with the INGAA Foundation and AGA members CenterPoint Energy and Spectra Energy, hosted a National Journal Policy Summit: Energy, Environment and the Economy.

The examination of innovative solutions for America’s energy future was moderated by journalist Amy Harder, who reports on energy and environment issues for CongressDaily, and moderates National Journal’s Energy Experts blog.  The keynote discussion included Senators Mark Begich (D-AK) and Sam Brownback (R-KS).

Drawing on his familiarity with energy issues from his home state of Alaska, Sen. Begich firmly believes that the fundamental economic and national security issues surrounding a long-term source of domestic and efficient energy are paramount.  He stressed the fact that lower carbon emissions will be an inevitable product of investing in renewable and cleaner sources of fuel.  Begich stated that he is confident everyone is in agreement about the need to move in this direction, but that reaching consensus on the details will be the tricky part.

Sen. Brownback, who serves as Ranking Member of the Energy and Natural Resource Subcommittee on Water and Power, argued that the country’s future energy policy must represent a fine balance among the three E’s: Energy, Economy and Environment.  Calling it a veritable Bermuda triangle, he said that we can only hope the 112th Congress will not lose sight of the horizon.  Brownback also stressed that other countries are already riding the tide of investment in a cleaner energy future and Congress needs to work together in order to craft a successful comprehensive energy policy.

Both senators shared the view that renewable energy sources need to play a significant role in the future of America’s energy portfolio.  Senator Brownback added that these energy sources should be pursued and encouraged within the framework of investment and innovation rather than through taxes and regulation.  They also agreed that passage of an energy bill is possible before the end of 2010.

The panel discussion that followed included David Friedman, Research Director, Union of Concerned Scientists; Gregory Kallenberg, Director and Producer, Haynesville; the Honorable Phil Sharp, President, Resources for the Future and former U.S. Representative (D-IN); Dr. Robert Simon, Majority Staff Director, Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources; and Daniel Weiss, Senior Fellow and Director of Climate Strategy, Center for American Progress.

Opinions about the status of various pieces of energy legislation circulating in Congress were mixed, but there was a clear consensus about the importance of addressing the broad energy challenges facing our country.  “The cost may seem high, but if we don’t pay now, we will pay later at a greater cost.  Countries such as China, Japan and South Korea are consciously making the necessary investments in technology to affectively employ cleaner energy sources on a large scale,” said Sharp.

Kallenberg added that the U.S. should look to natural gas, the cleanest fuel available to meet our considerable energy needs, as a part of the solution along with bolstering renewable sources and focusing on efficiency and conservation.

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