U.S. Chamber of Commerce institute calls for policies that promote energy development

Christopher Guith
Christopher Guith

Federal policy must encourage the development of conventional as well as renewable energy sources to counter the growing risk the United States won’t keep pace with increasing demand.

“America is headed toward a level of energy security risk not seen in decades,” said Christopher Guith,  vice president for policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for 21st Century Energy.

In a presentation at the Energy Forum & Expo in Grand Junction, Guith discussed what he said are “realities” of energy demand as well as the various factors involved with energy security risk. He also detailed proposed policies to reduce that risk.

The timing is good, he said, because politicians pay more attention to energy issues when gasoline prices increases. “When oil and gasoline spikes, things can happen. Mountains can move.”

The reality of energy, Guith said, is that U.S. demand is expected to increase 35 percent between now and 2035 even as global demand increases 49 percent. By 2035, China will account for 30 percent of world energy demand, while the U.S. will hold steady at its current proportion of 16 percent. Fossil fuels are expected to continue to meet most of that demand — a projected 80 percent in 2035.

At the same time, though, oil and other energy resources will increasingly come under the control of countries pursuing strategic interests, he added.

In its efforts to promote what Guith called a “common sense” energy strategy, the Institute for 21st Century Energy has developed an index assessing U.S. energy security risk. The index takes into account 37 different factors sorted into four primary areas: geopolitical, economic, reliability and environment. A composite score is calculated for each year, with higher numbers reflecting increased risk

While imported oil constitutes a factor in calculating energy security, Guith said, so does electrical infrastructure, research and the number of college students earning degrees in science and engineering.

Since 1970, the highest index reading occurred in 1980, when index hit 100. The index reading stood at 85.6 for 2010 and is expected to rise to 89 for 2011. The index is projected to rise even higher in the future unless action is taken to improve energy security, Guith said.

To that end, Guith said the institute has developed a five-part plan recommending general solutions to energy challenges:

Maximize U.S. energy resources by producing more domestic energy, improving access to federal lands, allowing for the development of new resources and promoting energy efficiency.

Make new and clean energy technologies more affordable through a commitment to innovation and demonstration of new technologies and providing financing through a self-funding clean energy bank.

Eliminate regulatory barriers derailing energy projects by creating a predictable regulatory environment, streamlining environmental reviews and prioritizing siting and permitting of interstate electric transmission lines.

Keep existing energy providers in business by ensuring federal air and water legislation isn’t used indiscriminately to threaten energy supplies and provide for a smooth transition to cleaner energy sources.

Encourage free and fair trade of energy resources and technologies by promoting free trade, eliminating trade barriers and ending discriminatory content and trade policies.

Guith said something must be done to promote energy development in the U.S. to keep pace with growing demand.

A review of proposed energy projects in the U.S. shows that about 400 projects have been delayed or scuttled not only because of regulation, but also opposition from people living near where the projects would be built, Guith said. What used to be the sentiment known by the acronym NIMBY has become BANANA — from “not in my back yard” to “build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything.”

Those projects involve not only such conventional energy sources as coal-fired power plants, but also such renewable energy sources as solar and wind power, he said.