Jason Barton

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Archive for the ‘U.S. Leadership’ tag

Energy and Climate Change Discussions in Congress

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As Obama said during his campaign, and as this article reiterates, it’s preferable for Congress to take some sort of stand on a comprehensive energy policy. But if they’re not going to do it, the White House should use it’s tools to make something happen.

A buddy and I were just talking about this same set of policy decisions, drawing a parallel with how the last few weeks have impacted doing business in Egypt. Stick with me for a minute.

Corporate leaders around the world are eager to see who’s going to be in charge of Egypt, Africa’s largest economy, and an important leader in the Arab world. Of course this transition can’t be rushed, but investment will be withheld until there’s some certainty.

Good, bad, or indifferent, businesses will formulate their strategy based in large part on the policy environment in this important country.

Similarly, companies in the U.S. will make decisions regarding manufacturing practices, their vehicle fleets and transportation, and other, energy-intensive aspects of their business based in part on the policies about which our Congress continues to debate, without substantive action. Another article from the recent issue of The Economist discusses the influence of policy on energy prices as well as the trouble with policy uncertainty.

How many U.S. presidents, of both parties, have discussed the need for a comprehensive federal energy policy? I’m too tired to find the exact number, but it’s at least two. Thankfully, the article below is well researched and clearly delineates the desire on the part of several levels of government, including the present administration and the last one, as well as the call from business leaders to provide a decision on energy policy.

Plenty has already been written on this site about the need for balancing the objective of domestic, renewable energy, with economic realities, so rather than than pontificate about what SHOULD be done, I’ll just say that SOMETHING has to be done.

Congress, I know you’re busy, but this is important. If it’s only votes you’re after, figure out a way to win votes by making a decision. Dithering rarely wins the hearts and minds of voters.

Good, bad, or indifferent, whether you’re going to continue with the status quo by favoring imported fossil fuels; decide this is not a matter for the federal government and tell states they should formulate their policies independently; forge ahead with a more progressive policy that encourages research, development, and gradual implementation of domestic energy resources; or do something entirely different, please, just do something.

Grilling Lisa Jackson is a very small step. Take more steps. Soon.

Heated but hollow

Congress embarks on a rhetorical debate about greenhouse gases

Feb 10th 2011 | WASHINGTON, DC | From The Economist print edition

 Grilling Ms Jackson

WHILE campaigning to become chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee of the House of Representatives, Fred Upton, a Republican from Michigan, vowed that he would grill Lisa Jackson, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in front of his committee so often that she would need her own parking space on Capitol Hill. On February 9th Ms Jackson submitted to her first interrogation, about one of the Republican Party’s pet peeves: the EPA’s plan to restrict emissions of greenhouse gases from cars and factories by decree.

That plan has been a long time in the making. During the administration of George Bush junior several states, frustrated by the administration’s refusal to address global warming, sued the EPA. They argued that it was required to use its powers under the Clean Air Act, a law from the 1960s aimed first at smog and later acid rain, to declare carbon dioxide a threat to the environment and public health and regulate it accordingly. The case eventually made its way to the Supreme Court, which decided in 2007 that the EPA did indeed have the authority to do this. But the Bush administration, which maintained that restrictions on emissions would raise the price of energy and so hurt the economy while doing little to help the climate, managed to prevaricate for almost two years before passing the buck to Barack Obama and Ms Jackson.

Read the entire article here.

The US and China Can Collaborate on Energy Innovation without Losing Competitive Edge, or National Sovereignty

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This article reminds me of conversations I’ve had with a friend who was an electrical engineer in Silicone Valley. He talked about meeting with colleagues, usually people who worked with other companies, even competing companies, over dinner or drinks. The conversation would often turn to a certain circuit or other piece of technology one had been working on, and they would draw models on cocktail napkins, brainstorming ways to meet their objectives.

Look at my buddy Matt Raible’s website (www.raibledesigns.net) and you will see how computer programers work together to solve their problems as they work to accomplish goals like bringing TV to our computers and the internet to our TVs.

These people are all competitors. They are also innovators, capitalists (regardless of their particular political stripe), and collaborators, and they work together to solve problems while also protecting their respective niches, and making a lot of money in the process.

It’s encouraging to see the US and China work together on clean energy innovation. Done wisely, this will work for the betterment of each country, and the rest of the world, without either one sending jobs overseas or compromising our respective national sovereignty.

Obama, Hu Jintao have clean energy opportunity

S. Julio Friedmann,Orville Schell

San Francisco Chronicle January 16, 2011 04:00 AM

Pool / Getty Images

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (left) and China’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi meet at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing.

Among the many difficult issues Presidents Obama and Hu Jintao will confront when they meet this week stands one possible bright spot: collaboration on clean energy technology. It represents a critical, urgent need, an enormous market opportunity for both nations and an area of potential common interest – if we can just avoid being our own worst enemies.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

January 16th, 2011 at 8:28 pm

Kerry and Lieberman Release Energy Bill

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This looks to be a fairly pragmatic approach, though without a single Republican backer it may be a moot point, which makes me think Dems are only releasing it to campaign on it this fall, claiming Republicans won’t work with them on important issues. We’ll see.

The most disappointing aspect of this bill, from what little I’ve seen, is the lack of attention paid to energy efficiency and cutting energy use.

By Anna Fifield in Washington

Published: May 12 2010 18:01 | Last updated: May 12 2010 18:01

The Senate’s long-awaited climate change bill was finally unveiled on Wednesday, setting out sharp cuts in the US’s greenhouse gas emissions, but without the Republican who had been providing much-needed bipartisan support.

Democrat John Kerry and Independent Joe Lieberman presented a draft bill that offers major new incentives for nuclear power, coal, natural gas and offshore drilling, even as the BP oil spill makes supporting oil exploration politically difficult.

The draft, however, includes several new protections against oil spills, including one that allows states to veto drilling plans up to 75 miles from their shores or if they stand to suffer significant adverse impacts in the event of an accident.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

May 12th, 2010 at 9:22 am

China tops USA in spending on clean energy

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No surprises here. They have 4 times as many people and their economy is in much better shape. Still, if we want to continue to be the world’s leader, we’ll have to set a much better example.

Updated 3/25/2010 3:53 PM
By Julie Schmit, USA TODAY
China is emerging as the world’s clean-energy powerhouse, according to a new study by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Last year, China spent more than any other major country on clean energy, including wind and solar, toppling the U.S. from the top spot for the first time in five years, the Pew report says. The U.S. is also on the verge of losing the top spot in terms of installed renewable energy to China.

Read the entire article here.

China Leading Global Race to Make Clean Energy

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More news about China. There are many arguments, many of which I agree with, claiming that increased government intervention stifles innovation and an effective free market. Yet, in terms of energy, the world leaders are probably Germany and China, socialist and communist countries, respectively. How can this be?

Shiho Fukada for The New York Times

As China takes the lead on wind turbines, above, and solar panels, President Obama is calling for American industry to step up.

Published: January 30, 2010

TIANJIN, China — China vaulted past competitors in Denmark, Germany, Spain and the United States last year to become the world’s largest maker of wind turbines, and is poised to expand even further this year.

China has also leapfrogged the West in the last two years to emerge as the world’s largest manufacturer of solar panels. And the country is pushing equally hard to build nuclear reactors and the most efficient types of coal power plants.

Written by Jason

February 1st, 2010 at 4:15 pm

The State of the Union: Jobs, Energy and Climate

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Dear Mr. President,

Please base these important energy initiatives on market incentives, rather than excessive government oversight.

Thank you,


Click here to find out more!

Steven Cohen

Posted: January 28, 2010 01:48 PM
I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change. But here’s the thing — even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy-efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future — because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. And America must be that nation.

Read the entire article here.

Barack Obama’s first year: Reality bites

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I certainly don’t agree with the glowing reviews of Obama’s first year discussed in this article, nor with the condemnation that he is ruining our country, but it is encouraging to think that people beyond our borders are thinking more positively about us than they have in recent years. My experience in Brazil agrees with this assessment, having lived there from 2002-2006, and now returning to work for weeks at a time each year. Brazilians and others throughout the Americas have always received me with open arms, but they have clearly been much more encouraged by respectful rhetoric of inclusion and dialogue than they ever were by Manichean ultimatums that ‘you’re either with us or you’re against us.’

This is not simply a matter of good feelings, making friends, or just wanting people to like us. In an increasingly interconnected world we depend on the people and lands outside the U.S. for raw materials, manufacturing, labor, markets for the goods we produce here, and, of course, for our security. The recent issues of health care, cap and trade, and an ever-expanding deficit have me perplexed at best, and often out right infuriated.  But in terms of the way that we are seen by people in other countries, it matters, and in that respect there have been significant improvements in the last year.

Jan 14th 2010 | WASHINGTON, DC
From The Economist print edition

Governing is harder than campaigning. But America’s 44th president has made an adequate start


FOR some, the magic is undimmed. Carl Baloney is extravagantly happy that Barack Obama is his president. He is old enough to remember segregation: back in the 1960s, his local university turned him away because he was black, he says. He is also old enough to have high blood pressure, which pushes his monthly health-insurance premiums skywards.


Others feel differently. “I’m neither a Democrat nor a Republican, neither a jackass nor an elephant. But I wouldn’t vote for a socialist. Hell, I’d vote for Adolf Hitler before I’d vote for Barack Obama. At least you know what he’d do to you,” says Ron King, a retired policeman in Stuart, Virginia. He adds that Mr Obama “lies all the time” and is “dangerous; he’s trying to change the entire country.” Mr King has perhaps not rigorously thought through his Hitler analogy, but his anger is real.


How much does this matter? Simon Anholt, an analyst, heroically estimates the value of the “Obama effect” on America’s global brand at $2.1 trillion. […] Under Mr Obama, he finds, America is once again the most admired country in the world (having slipped to seventh place in 2008). Using the same tools that consultants use to value brands such as Coca-Cola or Sony, he guesses that the value of “Brand America” has risen from $9.7 trillion to $11.8 trillion.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

January 14th, 2010 at 4:11 pm

What’s Necessary To Compete For Clean Energy Jobs

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Monday, December 7, 2009

By Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass.

Chairman, House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming

The winds of change blow into Copenhagen this week, as the United States and 200 other nations will meet for the UN Climate Conference. Copenhagen will indicate which nations are serious about energy security, ending oil addiction, cutting carbon pollution and creating clean energy jobs.

This week, I am pleased to host this discussion on the NationalJournal.com Copenhagen Insider blog, as I believe Copenhagen will reset both the international and domestic debate for the next year. To get started, here are two key areas to watch:

New U.S. Leadership

President Obama arrives in Copenhagen next week, with a refreshing new message for the world:  The United States is ready to be the leader, not the laggard, in the clean energy economy. He will back up this proclamation by proposing a carbon pollution reduction target in the range of 17 percent by 2020 and investment proposals to create clean energy jobs and technology at home that can be spread to other nations to help cut global warming pollution.

Obama has the backing of the House of Representatives, which passed the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy & Security Act this summer. He is also strengthened by bipartisan movement in the Senate from Sens. John Kerry, Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman. This week he received another positive sign from the Senate, as a group of key moderates sent him a letter calling for action in Copenhagen. This letter addressed energy security, reciprocal commitments, verification, technology cooperation and trade provisions that are congruent with proposals included in Waxman-Markey.

Action In China

The myth that China will not agree to emissions reductions has long been the primary talking point of “do-nothing” voices in Congress. That blockade could be set to fall in Copenhagen. The first sign of movement occurred this fall at the GLOBE International forum, when I joined with Chinese Congress Chairman Wang Guangtao on the Markey-Wang principles. They covered energy efficiency standards, forestry preservation, and renewable energy measures to help limit global average temperature rise to 3.6 degrees F. More than 100 legislators from the major economies committed to enacting legislation in their countries that meet these principles and speed the transition to a clean energy economy.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

December 7th, 2009 at 7:50 pm

America can’t overlook energy issues

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George Allen, in the article below argues persuasively, with keen insight and strong evidence, against cap and trade legislation. I, too, am extremely leery of government intervention. I also do not believe that fear mongering on issues such as climate change is an effective lever to pull, and I am not convinced that cap and trade will be positive for the U.S. or the rest of the world.

I do, however, believe that we need to move in a different direction with energy than the trajectory we are currently following. The energy resources on which we base our economy, indeed, our very way of life, will be gone before the end of this century if we don’t change our energy system.

This is selfish, irresponsible behavior.

It’s true that Cap and Trade may not be the best way to achieve the necessary change, but a change is definitely necessary. This is not to say that we should not be using oil, natural gas, or even coal. We should use all of it. But we should plan in ways that will have us using it over the next 500 to 1000 years, rather than the current lack of planning, which will have it used in the next 50 to 100 years.

This kind of change cannot come from government. Government can help in the process, but it needs to be just that: help. As Mr. Allen explains, government cannot be a barrier to the kind of innovation and adaptation at which the free market is so astoundingly adept.

As citizens and consumers we have endless potential to direct this change. And the businesses that develop and deliver the technologies necessary for these changes will profit greatly from their efforts.

Mr. Allen points out that China and India may continue to use the cheapest technologies to produce the products we buy from them, and so placing restrictions on our own businesses will only tie our competitive hands. But if we as consumers refuse to pay such low prices, when they come with such high costs, we maintain our competitive advantage while protecting the health of necessary natural resources for generations to come.

This may seem overly idealistic. The methods for turning this idealism into reality are not so far fetched. In economic terms, it’s simply a matter of internalizing the externalities. That is,  those costs incurred in the course of business that are borne by uninterested third parties need to be paid by consumers and producers. If burning coal, oil, and other fuels makes people sick, as we know they have done, then the health care costs for those people need to be paid by the people who are purchasing and burning those fuels.

Does this seem overly complex? Then that’s just another indicator that we need to simplify our systems.

The United States, our people, our companies, and so many aspects of our diverse culture, have been admirable leaders in so many ways over the past century. Yes, we have also been abysmal, at times, in our treatment of our own people, other peoples, and natural resources, but, for better or for worse, we have consistently been world leaders.

If we wish to maintain the position of world leader, and I believe it is best for us and the rest of the world that we do, we will have to lead by example. The way that we and the rest of the world have used energy over the last century has transformed the world, for better and for worse. It is clear that this way cannot continue.

Let’s lead in a new direction.

By GEORGE ALLEN | 9/11/09 5:16 AM EST

Farmers work a corn field.

With all the consternation about government takeover of our health care decisions dominating the news, Americans must not overlook the issue with even more potential to negatively impact our lives: cap and trade.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

September 13th, 2009 at 9:07 am