Roundtable Discussion on Renewable Energy

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 09 Feb 2011 14:00:00 GMT

The two-day conference will bring together stakeholders from across the government, renewable energy industry, and conservation community to discuss the administration’s efforts to rapidly and responsibly stand-up renewable energy projects on our nation’s public lands.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack will open the workshop with a roundtable discussion about the Administration’s work to build a clean energy economy. Immediately following the roundtable, the Secretaries will hold a press conference to discuss how President Obama’s tax cuts are encouraging business investment and job creation in wind, solar and other renewable energy technologies.

Roundtable Discussion with Secretaries Salazar, Chu, Vilsack
  • Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior
  • Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy
  • Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture

10:15 a.m. Press Conference

Department of the Interior Yates Auditorium
1849 C St., NW
Washington, D.C. 20240

All credentialed media are invited to cover the event. Please RSVP to [email protected]

Accelerating Innovation to Help Meet Our Energy and Climate Goals

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 29 Nov 2010 17:30:00 GMT

r. Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy, will talk about accelerating innovation to help meet our energy and climate goals at a National Press Club luncheon on Monday, November 29.

As United States Secretary of Energy, Chu, is charged with helping implement President Obama’s agenda to invest in clean and renewable energy, end the nation’s addiction to foreign oil and address the global climate crisis.

Steven Chu will say that the clean energy successes of China and other countries represent a “Sputnik Moment” for the United States that requires the nation to focus its attention on clean-tech innovation.

The energy secretary will call for the nation to ramp up efforts to develop and deploy the next generation of energy alternatives to ensure the country is able to compete for what he sees as the jobs of the future. Chu is also expected to use the opportunity to tout several of his agency’s ongoing research efforts, including a stimulus-funded project to develop a cost-competitive plug-in car battery with a single-charge range of 500 miles or more.

Chu was co-winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1997.

Prior to his appointment, Chu was director of DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, and professor of physics and molecular and cell biology at the University of California. Previously, he held positions at Stanford University and AT&T Bell Laboratories.

The National Press Club luncheon will begin promptly at 12:30 p.m. and Chu’s remarks will begin at 1:00, followed by a question-and-answer session.

The National Press Club 529 14th St. NW, 13th Floor

Clean Energy Economy Forum

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 07 Oct 2009 13:30:00 GMT

On Wednesday, October 7, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke will be joined by Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Carol Browner and other top Administration officials in hosting a Clean Energy Economy Forum at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building with business leaders from around the country. The Administration officials will reiterate the need for a comprehensive energy plan that puts America back in control of its energy future and breaks a dependence on oil that threatens our economy, our environment, and our national security. They will also have the opportunity to answer questions from and get the perspective of business leaders who have first-hand experience creating jobs while contributing to American energy independence.

Democrats on the Waxman-Markey Fence Worried about RES, Allocations

Posted by SolveClimate Thu, 23 Apr 2009 17:02:00 GMT

By SolveClimate’s Stacy Morford.

The usual court jesters shot off verbal fireworks as a week of hearings got underway on the Waxman-Markey climate bill, but the real attention on Capitol Hill was tuned to a few moderate Democrats who have the power to make or break the bill.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman acknowledged their concerns this morning as EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood were being questioned by the committee.

Praising one of those moderates, former committee chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.), Waxman said he had hoped to see his legislation pass with something like the committee’s 42-1 vote that had secured amendments to the Clean Air Act in 1990. But he added,

“I have my suspicions after listening to the opening statements here that we may not be able to succeed in the same way.”

The statements and questions so far from the committee’s moderate Democrats suggest that winning enough votes will likely mean rewriting the bill’s proposed renewable energy standard to account for regional differences. It may also require free emissions permits and other aid for industries – particularly automotive and energy – that will need to evolve to survive in a carbon-constrained world.

The RES currently proposed in the draft legislation would require utilities to derive 25 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2025.

Mike Ross (D-Ark.) and Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) both expressed concerns that that level would penalize states like theirs that lack the wind power of Texas and the sunshine and geothermal reserves of California. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) said his state could probably reach its current target of 15 percent by 2025, and possibly do better if nuclear and biomass could count, but 25 percent was out of the question.

Jim Matheson (D-Utah) asked Chu if he thought Congress would be overprescribing if it required both an emissions cap and a national renewable energy standard.

Chu has been outspoken in his desire to restore the United States’ place as the world’s leader in energy technology. The RES, he said, is a necessary interim driver of innovation and renewable energy use. The cap won’t start until 2012, and industry will need time to adjust. The RES, meanwhile, will drive renewable energy development by guaranteeing a marketplace. Energy executives who testified later in the day echoed that argument, saying federal rules would create stability and expectations that businesses could bank on.

That doesn’t mean that that the RES has to be uniform nationwide, though. A few committee members questioned whether Congress could instead require each state to set a minimum standard, which could then be met in ways tailored to that state’s own resource mix. Twenty-eight states already have renewable energy standards.

Dingell also questioned the “aggressive nature of the renewable electrical standard,” but he and Gene Green (D-Texas) were more focused on aid for industries, particularly the U.S. automakers and refiners.

Green, worried about job losses in the Houston ship channel area that he represents, urged the committee to provide ample free emissions allowances from the trading program for energy-intensive industries, as well as financial support for consumers facing higher electricity prices.

“We must protect our energy–intensive industries, including refineries, so we do not simply export those jobs abroad to nation without carbon controls and lax environmental regulations,” Green told the committee.

Dingell called for doubling the incentives for the Department of Energy’s advanced technology vehicle incentives programs to help the auto industry in his home state. He added:

“Of course, the question of auction versus allocation still lies before us, and that is a very serious question. Some might say ‘deal breaker’ for many members.”

The auction details from the cap-and-trade portion of the bill have yet to hammered out, which has created an easy target for fiscal fear mongering among opponents. Without knowing how the money from cap-and-trade auctions would be distributed, the Congressional Budget Office can’t accurately gauge the bill’s financial impact.

Jackson offered the committee the EPA’s newly released cost assessment: The energy bill for an average family would rise between $98 and $140 per year.

However, the EPA’s analysis looked only at the cap-and-trade portion of the bill, and with so many details yet to be determined by the committee, the EPA had to make assumptions about the price of carbon ($13-17 per ton in 2015) and the percentage of revenue that would be returned to consumers (40 percent).

The 40 percent rebate for consumers, a number recommended by the bill’s authors, did offer more insight into how Waxman and Markey might propose divvying up the revenues, but it was still only an estimate.

The committee’s 23 Republican members asked Waxman in a letter this week for more hearings to flesh out the details before the committee begins marking up the legislation for a vote.

“Your discussion draft lacks any decision on permit allocations versus auctions,” they wrote. “The manner in which you will address this issue is the cornerstone of the legislation; without it the bill is simply not finished and not ripe to be marked up or accurately discussed in the context of a hearing.”

In the absence of stronger data, some opponents have resorted to inventing their own numbers.

Two of the most outspoken opponents of the bill – Reps. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas) – suggested that the lack of details was a conspiracy to prevent the committee from knowing the true cost. They repeated the GOP’s manipulation of a recent MIT study, saying the increase would be $3,100, a number the study’s own author says is 10 times too high.

It was a fellow Republican, LaHood, who spoke up today about the continued abuse of the MIT study.

LaHood held up a letter from the study’s author correcting the GOP’s use of his numbers. But when he asked to enter the letter into the committee record, Shimkus objected. If the MIT letter was submitted, then Shimkus wanted to submit a story written by the Weekly Standard, too. Waxman agreed to both.

Shimkus was clearly playing to the cameras this morning. He vowed that “those of us who want jobs are going to try to defeat this bill” and went on to declare cap-and-trade a greater danger than terrorism:

“I see this as the largest assault on democracy and freedom in this country as I’ve ever experienced. I’ve lived through some tough times in Congress. I’ve seen two wars, terrorist attacks. I fear this more than all of the above.”

Like it or not, economics will be the issue for members of Congress. Their re-election campaigns are built on numbers – how many jobs they created, how much federal bacon they brought home – and their campaigns are always on.

WonkLine: April 20, 2009

Posted by Wonk Room Mon, 20 Apr 2009 15:37:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

Electric utility executives in coal-heavy Indiana and North Dakota attacked cap-and-trade legislation as a “tax” on electricity, calling energy policy reform “too complicated to do swiftly.”

“If Greenland melts,” Secretary of Energy Chu told reporters at the fifth Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, “we are looking at a 7-meter sea level rise around the world. Some island states will disappear.”

Appearing on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) confusedly attacked the science of climate change: “George, the idea that carbon dioxide is a carcinogen that is harmful to our environment is almost comical. Every time we exhale, we exhale carbon dioxide. Every cow in the world, you know, when they do what they do, you’ve got more carbon dioxide.”

2009 Energy Conference: A New Climate For Energy

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 07 Apr 2009 11:30:00 GMT

The 2009 EIA conference is being held April 7-8 at the Washington Convention Center.

Please register onsite at the Walter E Washington Convention Center starting at 7:30am on Tuesday, April 7th.

Tuesday agenda
7:30 AM Registration and Badging
9:00 AM Plenary
Welcome – Howard Gruenspecht
Acting Administrator, Energy Information Administration

Keynote Address – Dr. Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy

Energy and the Macroeconomy – William D. Nordhaus, Sterling Professor of Economics, Yale University

Energy in a Carbon-Constrained World – John W. Rowe, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Exelon Corporation
10:30 AM Break
Concurrent Sessions
11:00 AM
(1) The Future for Transport Demand (2) What’s Ahead for Natural Gas Markets?
Moderator: Andy Kydes (EIA) Moderator: Steve Harvey (EIA)
  • Lew Fulton (International Energy Agency)
  • David Greene (Oak Ridge National Laboratory)
  • Lee Schipper (Precourt Institute, Stanford University)
  • Speakers:
  • Brian Jeffries (Wyoming Pipeline Authority)
  • James Simpson (BENTEK Energy, LLC)
  • Rick Smead (Navigant Consulting)
  • John Strom (Haddington Ventures, LLC)
  • Christine Tezak
  • 12:30 PM Lunch Break
    1:45 PM
    (3) Meeting the Growing Demand for Liquids (4) Electric Power Infrastructure: Status and Challenges for the Future
    Moderator: Glen Sweetnam (EIA) Moderator: Scott Sitzer (EIA)
  • Eduardo González-Pier (PEMEX)
  • David Knapp (Energy Intelligence Group)
  • Fareed Mohamedi (PFC Energy)
  • Speakers:
  • P. Kumar Agarwal (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission)
  • Timothy J. Brennan (University of Maryland)
  • Mark G. Lauby (North American Electric Reliability Corporation)
  • 3:15 PM Break
    3:30 PM
    (5) Renewable Energy in the Transportation and Power Sectors (6) Financial Markets and Short-Term Energy Prices
    Moderator: Michael Schaal (EIA) Moderator: Tancred Lidderdale (EIA)
  • Denise Bode (American Wind Energy Association)
  • Bob Dinneen (Renewable Fuels Association)
  • Bryan Hannegan (Electric Power Research Institute)
  • David Humbird (National Renewable Energy Laboratory)
  • Speakers:
  • Jeffrey Harris (Commodity Futures Trading Commission)
  • Robert McCullough (McCullough Research)
  • Adam E. Sieminski (Deutsche Bank)
  • Robert Weiner (George Washington University)
  • 5:00 PM Adjourn

    DOE Grants $535 Million Loan Guarantee for Solar Power 1

    Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 20 Mar 2009 17:55:00 GMT

    From the Department of Energy, Energy Secretary Steven Chu today offered a $535 million loan guarantee for Solyndra, Inc. to support the company’s construction of a commercial-scale manufacturing plant for its proprietary cylindrical solar photovoltaic panels. The loan guarantee is conditional on Solyndra satisfying equity commitments. Announcing his first loan guarantee, Chu said:
    This investment is part of President Obama’s aggressive strategy to put Americans back to work and reduce our dependence on foreign oil by developing clean, renewable sources of energy. We can create millions of new, good paying jobs that can’t be outsourced. Instead of relying on imports from other countries to meet our energy needs, we’ll rely on America’s innovation, America’s resources, and America’s workers.

    Based in Fremont, CA, Solyndra is currently ramping up production in its initial manufacturing facilities. Once finalized, the DOE loan guarantee will enable the company to build and operate its manufacturing processes at full commercial scale.

    Solyndra estimates that:
    • The construction of this complex will employ approximately 3,000 people.
    • The operation of the facility will create over 1,000 jobs in the United States.
    • The installation of these panels will create hundreds of additional jobs in the United States.
    • The commercialization of this technology is expected to then be duplicated in multiple other manufacturing facilities.

    Secretary Chu initially set a target to have the first conditional commitments out by May.

    Secretary Chu On Global Warming: 'Wake Up'

    Posted by Wonk Room Thu, 05 Feb 2009 15:47:00 GMT

    From the Wonk Room.

    Steven ChuIn his first interview as Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu “offered some of the starkest comments yet on how seriously President Obama’s cabinet views the threat of climate change, along with a detailed assessment of the administration’s plans to combat it.” Secretary Chu told the Los Angeles Times that the nation is like a family buying an old house and being told by an inspector that it must pay a hefty sum to rewire it or risk an electrical fire that could burn everything down>

    I’m hoping that the American people will wake up.
    Chu also worried the nation doesn’t yet recognize how great a threat global warming represents:
    I don’t think the American public has gripped in its gut what could happen.
    One danger Chu highlighted in the interview was rising drought throughout the West, with major declines in the snowpack that waters California. In the worst case, Chu said:
    We’re looking at a scenario where there’s no more agriculture in California. I don’t actually see how they can keep their cities going.

    Chu described “public education as a key part of the administration’s strategy to fight global warming” – in addition to clean energy research, infrastructure, a national renewable electricity standard, and a greenhouse gas cap-and-trade system.

    Nomination of Steven Chu to be Secretary of Energy 1

    Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 13 Jan 2009 15:00:00 GMT

    • Steven Chu

    10:14 Boxer: It’s an exciting day all over the hill.I believe the US must be a world leader in developing new energy technologies to protect the environment, to protect the health of our people, but more important to be a leader in the world. I think Obama has found that leader in Dr. Chu. Dr. Chu is uniquely qualified to be Secretary of Energy. Science must lead us. We have our man in Dr. Chu. I am so proud to be here with Sen. Feinstein to introduce a candidate from our home state of California.

    10:18 Bingaman: Swears in Dr. Chu. I’ll ask three questions: Will you be available to this committee and other committees?

    Chu: Yes.

    Bingaman: Are you aware of any conflicts of interest should you be confirmed?

    Chu: All of my personal assets have been reviewed with conflict of interest and I have taken appropriate action to avoid conflicts of interest.

    Do you have any assets held in a blind trust?

    Chu: No.

    Chu: Joining me is my wife Jean Chu and my brother Morgan Chu. Climate change represents a clear and growing threat. We must make a change to a new energy economy. In many ways, Obama’s plan builds on the work of this committee: renewable energy, energy efficiency, efficient cars and trucks, CCS, a continued commitment to nuclear power, responsible oil and gas development, a smarter electrical grid, and a cap and trade system to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

    I’ve moved the focus of my lab to the problem of climate change.

    The work of the National Nuclear Security Administration is critical for our national security. I take this work very seriously. I will work towards the vision of a world without nuclear weapons. I pledge I will do my best to accelerate cleanup of contaminated lands. I’m a proud member of the commission that generated the report Rising Above the Gathering Storm. As the largest supporter of the physical sciences in America, DOE plays a critical role in our future economic prosperity.

    If the department is to meet the challenges ahead, it must operate more efficiently and effectively. I do not underestimate the difficulty of meeting these challenges, but I believe we can meet them. I commit I will provide strong, energetic, focused leadership, and I look forward to close collaboration with this committee. The challenges we face will require bipartisan effort.

    Bingaman: The development of this massive economic recovery bill. The expectation is that it will contain tens of billions of dollars for grid modernization, energy efficiency. There’s been a lot of frustration in this committee for the time it’s taken to implement what we’ve already enacted. For example, the loan guarantee program in the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

    Chu: I share your concerns. During my tenure at Lawrence Berkeley I spent 3/4 of my time in operations. We have to move rapidly.

    Bingaman: The new org charts. The new White House coordinator for climate and energy policy. How does this affect your role? Will you be able to be a strong voice on climate and energy issues?

    Chu: The President-elect, when he chose to establish this office it shows how important he sees this issue. The country’s energy and climate change future is very important. I look forward to working closely with Ms. Browner. She has a very difficult task ahead of her. I’m looking forward to working with her. I think it will be a collaborative and close cooperation.

    10:33 Murkowski: I particularly appreciate the words about the importance of education. I also think that within the Department of Education (sic) is how we educate the rest of the nation. I hope you appreciate that is a big challenge. Domestic oil and gas production. Last year the President removed the presidential moratorium and then Congress let a similar ban expire. I agree that we should focus on conservation and renewable energy sources. Will you join us in opposing the reinstatement of the bans?

    Chu: Responsible production is part of a larger energy policy. Reserves of the United States are perhaps 3% of world’s reserves. While it is important to fold in production, we have to keep in mind these numbers. More efficient use is the main thing we can do to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

    Murkowski: You support continued nuclear development. Nuclear is a very key component in reducing our emissions. The DOE has an unconditional obligation to take and dispose nuclear waste. What do you propose to do?

    Chu: These are very thorny questions. The President-elect has stated his position on Yucca Mountain very clearly, but the DOE has an obligation. I am supportive that the nuclear industry has to be part of our energy mix. There’s a lot of new science coming to the floor. It will occupy a significant part of my time and energy.

    Murkowski: Recycling?

    Chu: Yes. The processes we have are not ideal. There’s an urge to reduce the proliferation resistance of recycling. There’s an economic feasibility issue. This is in my mind is a research problem.

    10:40 Johnson: High-power renewable energy transmission.

    Chu: Some of the greatest renewable energy resources lie in areas like the Dakotas and the southwest United States. How do we construct these very expensive lines across state boundaries, over states that don’t benefit much from them, frankly, to population centers that do benefit? We have to think nationally. There are two obstacles: siting is one. We have the technologies.

    Johnson: Biofuel production. What policies need to be in place to reach production targets?

    Chu: This is partly a technical question. I frankly don’t know whether one can safely go to E15 and E20 and higher with automotive engines.

    Johnson: Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory in South Dakota.

    Chu: I visited the DUSEL laboratory. It’s a very exciting project. Going forward, I’m going to have to remove myself from decisions with that specific project, but with regard to cooperation with the DOE, this is squarely in the sights with what they plan to do in FermiLab. Cooperation between NSF and DOE is essential.

    10:46 Burr: I hope we can expeditiously take care of your nomination. Do you support FERC having expanded transmission authority?

    Chu: Let’s just say I know the bottlenecks and there’s been a lot of frustration. DOE has authority to designate critical corridors. There are two designated corridors. We’re now mired in lawsuits. What you really want to do is make these things happen as quickly as possible. If one just expands the authority my feeling is the states and local people might react. We should start with a softer approach but we do have to move quickly.

    Burr: Nuclear loans. Authorized at $18.5 billion. Not sufficient but a good start. Will you make the loan guarantee program more useful?

    Chu: I think it is something that is very important. It’s a mixture of the loan guarantee program and the local regulatory authorities. The point here is that nuclear power is going to be an important part of our energy mix. I will do my best to put together a leadership and management team to do this in a more timely manner.

    Burr: Technology transfer.

    Chu: What we need to do is get to the place where we need to go as rapidly as possible. International cooperation is often the best way.

    Dorgan: I will be chairing the subcommittee that funds you. I’m happy to vote for you. While I’m a strong supporter of renewables and efficiency, I want to talk to you about coal. 50% of electricity we use is coal. I don’t think anybody believes that in the next decade we won’t use our most abundant resource. Your notion about promoting clean coal technologies, continuing to invest in CCS. Your statements about coal as your worst nightmare. If we continue to use in the whole world using coal without controls I would consider that a nightmare as well.

    Chu: Thanks for giving me a chance to expand on that comment that’s been ricocheting around the Internet. In China for example they have not even begun to capture NOX, SOX, mercury. Coal is an abundant resource in world. US, India, China, and Russia have 2/3 of the world’s coal. They will not turn their back on coal. I’m optimistic we will develop CCS. I will work very hard to extensively develop these technologies. There are some people in the United States that believe we should turn off coal. But even if we do, China, India, and Russia will continue to use coal.

    Dorgan: We have to do everything well. The price of oil went to $147 a barrel, then went way down. That should not in any way diminish our appetite to develop renewables, conservation, but also more production.

    10:58 Barrasso: There are tradeoffs when energy costs go up. 32 years ago when Jimmy Carter came into the Senate he charged a small group of energy planners to come up with a plan in 90 days. They wanted tax incentives for companies to switch from oil and natural gas to coal. I read an article in one of the Wyoming papers when Obama said the dangers of dependence on foreign oil are eclipsed by the long-term threat of climate change. Biden said, “No coal plants here in America.” I’d like to have your comments on that. I know you met with Illinois delegation on FutureGen.

    Chu: The coal resources in the United States are immense. I am hopeful and optimistic we can use those resources in a clean way. It’s really a question of technology. I’m very hopeful this will occur and I think we will be using that great natural resource.

    Barrasso: Coal is the most affordable, available, and reliable source of energy.

    Chu: I would take your question to a slightly different place. As we build new power plants, energy efficiency is a great investment of intellectual thinking because it allows power companies to build fewer power plants. It’s ROI. The biggest thing we can do is slow the building of new power plants and that’s very important. We in DOE would be working very hard to bring these new technologies as quickly as possible. Energy efficiency remains the lowest hanging fruit in the next decade or two.

    11:03 Sanders: We’ve talked nuclear and coal, but we haven’t talked about solar. The southwest is the Saudi Arabia of solar energy. Because of the credit crisis, many solar thermal plants are not moving forward. Would you be willing to sit down with the solar industry and myself?

    Chu: I would definitely be willing to do that. I share your enthusiasm.

    Sanders: Federal policy for PV units on rooftops?

    Chu: It would foolish for me to say the rest of the United States cannot learn something from California.

    11:09 Sessions: I would like the opportunity to meet with you. I think you’re on the road to a successful confirmation. The nuclear loan program really needs to move forward. Let’s talk about nuclear power. If you accept that CO2 is a global warming problem, isn’t it important we accelerate the use of this clean source of energy?

    Chu: Yes. We have to do the work necessary to see if recycling is feasible.

    Sessions: It reduces the quantity and toxicity of waste to 600 years from 100,000 years. Carter’s decision was one of the more colossal disasters of energy policy. Are you committed to making a breakthrough here?

    Chu: Again, I’m not an expert in recycling technologies. It’s a technology that was invented in the United States.

    Sessions: We need to make a decision rapidly.

    Chu: There are two questions. Do we build generation 3 reactors? Plans are underway. The recycling issue is one we don’t need a solution today or even ten years from today. It doesn’t mean that you stop everything today. We will be building some coal plants. One doesn’t have a hard moratorium on that while we study CCS.

    Sessions: The real crisis economically is not electricity but foreign oil.

    11:15 Landrieu: I appreciate the meeting in our office. With so much off limits in the past, I would urge you to be careful about the comment of 4% of known reserves. The importance of developing the right kinds of technology can never be underestimated. We don’t have pirates in the Gulf of Mexico but there are pirates all over the world. Oil and gas industries can’t practice their craft safely in many parts of the world. We do the world a great service if industries can work here. What can you do to move forward on nuclear?

    Chu: We need to move forward on the nuclear loan guarantee. I agree we’ve got to get going. We need to develop a plan for the long-range disposal of the waste. There’s research that has to be done on reprocessing.

    Landrieu: Sugar is a great base for biofuels.

    11:21 Corker: I enjoyed our phone conversation. Would it make sense to have Browner in for testimony? You mean to pursue nuclear now despite issues with waste. We probably need 300 plants.

    Chu: I’m confident we can find a solution with the waste problem. This is a complicated economic decision that utility companies have to make.

    Corker: You advocate putting a price on carbon. Tax or cap and trade?

    Chu: The president-elect is clear in supporting cap and trade. I support his decision. The simpler the cap and trade system is the happier I will be.

    Corker: Stakeholders want loopholes. Cap and trade systems have all kinds of free allocations and offsets and you’re not achieving anything.

    Chu: Countries around the world are in cap-and-trade systems and we have to integrate with the rest of the world. Again, philosophically, I have not studied these bills that have been advanced, but the simpler it is, the better it is. There are stakeholders.

    Corker: Coal is part of our energy base. Without some huge dimunition in our standard of living it’s going to be a part for a long time. I’m just a junior senator from Tennessee. I have trouble seeing how CCS works on a commercial base. Unfortunately Tennessee’s extensive use of coal has been noted in the press recently.

    Chu: From the geophysicists I’ve talked with, it’s a possibility but a significant challenge. There are many geological sites we have to test. We have to accelerate the testing.

    Corker: A lot of people think that will happen when donkeys will fly.

    11:28 Lincoln: I appreciate having the opportunity to visit with you. Cellulosic biofuels.

    Chu: We’ve worked on technologies that convert cellulosic material into fuel. In the first six months we’ve trained bacteria and yeast to take simple sugars to produce gasoline/diesel substitutes. The scientists are dedicated to making this commercially feasible.

    Lincoln: I just want to make sure it’s something I grow.

    Chu: We’re looking at the entire list of possibilities. How do you break plants down. Algae. I’m optimistic real progress can be made.

    Lincoln: Do you agree that biofuels have a significant role in addressing our nation’s carbon footprint? Geographic distribution of wind energy leaves out the southeast.

    Chu: We have to be very diverse. Solutions have to come from every sector. Biofuels is very important to get off our dependence on foreign oil.

    11:35 DeMint: I appreciate your visit to my office. We agree on the importance of moving away from fossil fuels, but also the reality of our near-term use of coal and nuclear. We talked about carbon taxes which concern me in the context of penalizing fossil energy now. The rational way to do that is to create incentives. But carbon taxes or penalties should not take place until we give the time for utilities and industry to convert.

    Chu: Coal and nuclear and gas form the baseload generation of electricity today. We have to evolve. We need all the solutions as quickly as possible.

    DeMint: It’s been reported that you’ve said, “We should do to raise the price of gasoline to the price in Europe.” Do we really want to add a tax to living and businesses?

    Chu: Gasoline taxes are off the table. That comment was made in the context of reducing our use of foreign oil. Energy efficiency is the key. Weatherization of homes. More efficient cars. They’re beneficial in two ways. It reduces costs and reduces demand. Demand went down because of a recession, lowering prices. We do not want to see ever rising costs. This will do exactly that.

    DeMint: Nuclear is obviously important. States like South Carolina have received a lot of nuclear waste in temporary storage.

    11:42 Cantwell: I look forward to working with you. I’d love to talk about smart grid legislation in the future. Your DOE budget is about $25 billion. About 10 percent of that is the Hanford Washington cleanup. Do you support the tri-party agreement that 99% of the waste should be cleaned up?

    Chu: The DOE has a legal and moral obligation to clean up these sites. I will do everything I can to use the funds more effectively and rapidly. I am committed to cleaning up these sites.

    Cantwell: The last administration planned to expedite the cleanup by leaving more waste behind. Would you support increasing the Hanford funding? The state has identified a plume of groundwater contamination.

    Chu: I’m not sure of the exact number, but I did argue in discussions about the stimulus package for funds for this cleanup. It would be very bad if the contaminants get to the Columbia River.

    Cantwell: Some contaminants are already there. A concern is Bonneville Power Authority’s ability to expand transmission lines for renewable energy.

    Chu: I support that.

    11:48 Menendez: I regret we didn’t have an opportunity to speak before. A national grid is in the national interest. But the entire state of NJ has been designated as a national interest corridor. On the West Coast the DOE produced a transmission line by transmission line study. As the DOE updates their congestion studies, will they be accurate on a line by line study? Would you be willing to narrow the Northeast transmission corridor?

    Chu: I recognize that New Jersey is a bigger state than some people think. I would be willing to narrow the corridor based on reviews. I don’t know the details but will review that.

    Menendez: We are the second-largest producer of solar equipment. A big challenge is net metering and interconnection standards. Do you support legislation?

    Chu: Yes. I’m on the NAS panel, on the transmission and distribution subpanel. The smart grid is a very important part of our strategy to a sustainable energy future.

    Menendez: Sen. Sanders and I authored the efficiency block grant program. I hope you will look at that.

    11:53 Wyden: I look forward to supporting you as our secretary. The nuclear blueprint greenlights more plants without dealing with the waste.

    Chu: I’m willing to work with you, but I believe nuclear power will be part of our future. Nuclear power is 70% of our carbon-free production today.

    Wyden: The ballgame on climate change is bringing in China and India into a global agreement.

    Chu: Currently we’re in a standoff position. Our position is we won’t go forward without China. China’s position is that the richer countries that have put all the historical emissions up have the responsibility. I think all countries have to be a part but we need to lead. We need to start working with China and India to work concurrently developing technology, particularly efficiency. For example, building energy-efficient buildings.

    Wyden: I think you’ll be an excellent secretary.

    11:58 Udall (D-Colo.): There’s a belief that a renewed emphasis on science will serve Colorado, this nation, and the world well. I look forward to supporting your nomination. The Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site. We’ve closed that site. But we have ongoing issues. Cleanup, worker health.

    Chu: I will certainly look into this.

    Udall: The National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

    Chu: I think NREL will play a key role going forward. You have my assurance that NREL is certainly on my radar screen and has to play a vital role.

    Udall: The national renewable electricity standard. Would you work with us on developing one?

    Chu: I would be working with you on that. Renewable electricity is something we have to develop as quickly as possible.

    12:04 Bayh (D-Ind.): I enjoyed our phone conversation yesterday. Coal and clean coal technology is very important. I think it’s critical to involve China and India in any CO2 treaty. You said we have to lead and hope China will follow. I don’t think that will pass Congress. Simply trusting China to follow won’t work.

    Chu: I agree with that absolutely. I was the author of a international report, Lighting the Way. We said that all the countries have to be part of the solution. This is a touchy diplomatic, international problem.

    Bayh: We have to make sure it’s going to work. I’m a little skeptical if they’ll ever get there. Our first hearing was on energy security. I view this as one of our defining challenges of our time.

    Chu: First is to move to the electrical grid. We have to improve batteries. These first electric hybrid cars don’t have the battery lifetime we need.

    12:11 Shaheen (D-N.H.): As we discussed when we visited, New Hampshire is doing interesting work with biofuels.

    Chu: You accelerate first-generation work in many ways. You challenge scientists to keep their eye on the ball. This is not a ten or twenty year program. We’ve had national emergencies. The good news is because of energy security, climate change threats, some of the best and brightest students in the country want to work on this. We should support retraining of postdoctorates. Working with national labs and industry. We don’t know where the solutions will come from, but they will come from the best and brightest. The fraction of our fuel going to something other than petroleum. A low carbon standard. These are excellent draws.

    12:15 Bingaman: We wish you well in your new position and the hearing is adjourned.

    Energy Secretary Contender Dr. Steven Chu: Transform the Energy Landscape to Save 'A Beautiful Planet'

    Posted by Wonk Room Mon, 08 Dec 2008 14:09:00 GMT

    From the Wonk Room.

    The Washington Post’s Al Kamen reports that there’s “buzz” that the Obama transition is “looking hard at some scientific types” to lead the Energy Department. Dr. Steven Chu, the Nobel laureate director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is reportedly a dark horse candidate.

    In a presentation at this summer’s National Clean Energy Summit convened by the University of Nevada Las Vegas, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), and the Center for American Progress Action Fund, Dr. Chu described why he has moved from his background in experimental quantum physics to tackling global warming:

    Consider this. There’s about a 50 percent chance, the climate experts tell us, that in this century we will go up in temperature by three degrees Centigrade. Now, three degrees Centigrade doesn’t seem a lot to you, that’s 11° F. Chicago changes by 30° F in half a day. But 5° C means that … it’s the difference between where we are today and where we were in the last ice age. What did that mean? Canada, the United States down to Ohio and Pennsylvania, was covered in ice year round.

    Five degrees Centigrade.

    So think about what 5° C will mean going the other way. A very different world. So if you’d want that for your kids and grandkids, we can continue what we’re doing. Climate change of that scale will cause enormous resource wars, over water, arable land, and massive population displacements. We’re not talking about ten thousand people. We’re not talking about ten million people, we’re talking about hundreds of millions to billions of people being flooded out, permanently.

    As Dr. Chu explains in the above video, the optimal way to reduce greenhouse emissions is to waste less energy, by investing in energy efficiency. He demolished the myth that we can’t reduce our use of energy without reducing our wealth by offering numerous counterexamples, or, in his scientist’s jargon, “existence proofs.” Applause broke out when he described how companies, after claiming efficiency gains and lowered costs were impossible, “miraculously” achieved them once they “had to assign the jobs from the lobbyists to the engineers.”

    Chu continued by discussing what he has done to develop “new technologies to transform the landscape.” He discussed the Helios Project, the research initiative Berkeley Lab launched for breakthrough renewable energy and efficiency technology. In addition to research into energy conservation, Berkeley Lab researchers are pursuing nanotech photovoltaics, microbial and cellulosic biofuels, and chemical photosynthesis.

    Dr. Chu concluded his address with a reminder why this challenge is so important:

    I will leave you with this final image. This is – I was an undergraduate when this picture was taken by Apollo 8 – and it shows the moon and the Earth’s rise. A beautiful planet, a desolate moon. And focus on the fact that there’s nowhere else to go.