McCain Team Energy Update

A blogger conference call was held today, hosted by McCain policy adviser Nancy Pfotenhauer, to discuss energy issues in election 2008. Nancy started off by stressing the need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and the impact of rising fuel prices on not only gas, but almost all goods owing to rising transportation costs. “It is irrational and irresponsible to ignore safe, known energy sources.” Congress is refusing to consider increases in domestic production, and she describes McCain’s approach as the equivalent of “the surge” on our energy challenges.

On the issue of nuclear power: Safe, clean energy which can be built on existing sites, expanding them, rather than only building on new sites.

Here’s a portion of the Q&A segment:

A question from Ed Morrissey: Will McCain change his mind on drilling in ANWR? Not at this time. The word “refuge” is in the name for a reason.

How can a president open up more opportunities for nuclear? Cap and trade will lower costs, making it more viable. Also, barriers to new nuclear plants will be lowered if we open Yucca mountain for the storage of waste products.

Would McCain look at an overhaul of the NRC? The Senator would consider any and all options to safely streamline the process, while ensuring that safety and environmental concerns were kept at the forefront.

There was also a discussion of how the McCain campaign would reach out to the auto industry as they shift to a new model of transportation and energy management. McCain will incentivise advancements in new technology to make it easier and more appealing to move forward. (See the battery prize, among other proposals.)

Someone suggested that “new science” was suggesting that carbon emissions were “not as much of a problem as we thought or not a problem at all” and asked if McCain would reconsider his cap and trade proposals. The answer, while very politely phrased, was that McCain has looked at the science, sees a need to combat climate change by reducing carbon emissions and feels that cap and trade is one way to help achieve that goal. She also noted that the McCain plan would pass savings realized through cap and trade directly back to the public and into the economy, while the Obama plan would immediately spend the savings.

It was also noted that expanding domestic energy production across the board – in drilling, clean coal, nuclear and green technology – would create tens if not hundreds of thousands of new jobs. This is a side effect which should be of interest to those watching the recent employment figures and tumbling housing numbers.

There should be more in this series, and we’ll try to keep you up to date with any new information. NOTE: You can catch another perspective on the call from Hot Air.

33 Comments

  1. Note that his plan is more complex than the critics would have us believe, as well as being on the right side of so many issues, despite what lefties would claim.

    “It is irrational and irresponsible to ignore safe, known energy sources.”

    Absolutely correct. The Obama team has no valid rebuttal to this.

    McCain's plan is far from ideal and has Dem Lite aspects to it, but is better than Obama's. Where McCain has flaws in his plan, Obama could do better, but at the expense of offending his liberal Dem wing, so he'll stick with an inferior plan.

    I wish McCain would (or if not he, Obama would) concentrate on real air pollution rather than on global warming politics, and also scrap the cap-and-trade game-playing, and just regulate and possibly tax emissions.

    I get leery when learning how the federal government may want to aid “the automobile industry,” which in practice means propping up the Big Three and their failed model while the thriving domestic US industry in the South isn't in any way associated with bailouts or government involvement (“partnership”).

    Of course, open Yucca Mountain or require opponents to provide something equally good at equal or lower cost, _immediately_, or grow up and shut up. The new modular improved nuke plant designs are very encouraging although the costs are still high for start-up and I don't forsee any power companies “pioneering” at great expense while their competitors use coal.

    “incentivise advancements in new technology to make it easier and more appealing to move forward”: Whether it's just a gimmick here and there or full-blown “industrial policy” to forcibly promote new forms of energy, this is a bad idea. Just remove obstacles that have been established by governments that need not or should not exist, and perhaps fund research and development the results of which would be made available at no or little cost to anyone to use.

  2. “clean coal”

    Progress on synfuels, purified, clean-burning synfuels, _NOW_

  3. Before we get into any sort of debate on this (which is fine, of course) I would point out that this was not an opinion piece. I'm simply reporting back to our readers what took place during the call. Just a little peek inside the campaign for you.

  4. and possibly tax emissions.

    DLS is in favor of raising taxes on the American people!!

  5. Nuclear safe and clean eh?

    Instead of having the twin towers to pick from who's fallout extended a few blocks, the terrorists will have multiple “towers” to pick from who's fallout will extend for many many miles and for many decades to a much wider range of victims who will die slowly and painfully.

    Nuclear isn't the answer. It is expensive in multi-dimensional ways and for a fraction of the cost of startup litigation, permitting, operation, maitenance and waste disposal containment we could start up ten solar, wind or geothermal plants for the COST of one nuclear plant.

    Why is BigOil backing nuclear? It's simple. BigOil knows it is on its way out and wants to shift its monopoly to another technically difficult energy to produce so that competition will again be minimized and price fixing can go on unfettered.

    Be advised: nuclear is just BigOil under a different suit.

    You can't put a meter on the sun. And BigOil knows you can set up your own power station in your backyard. If solar took off and was demonstrated without a shadow of a doubt to be the revolution it truly is and has been for decades, mass production would force prices down down on panels and components and everyone could produce power. And this is why they are pushing nuclear.

    Don't buy it.

  6. “DLS is in favor of raising taxes on the American people!!”

    Yes, if they are justified. (The GOP can work with the Dems on this. Just be objective about what pollutants are defined and what is being sought in the taxation of them.) Federal involvement is justified in this case (as opposed to so many instances where constitutional federalism has been defied since the 1930s) because pollution obviously does not respect state boundaries (it is an externality, which may be taxable, literally traveling to or falling on other states, not just within states).

    * * *

    “Nuclear safe and clean eh?”

    Yes, despite what the anti-nuclear crowd says.

  7. “this was not an opinion piece”

    Understood. It's the McCain campaign.

    * * *

    “Clean coal”: Go, go, go. It's the short-to-medium term ideal for transportation fuels. Let coal synfuels compete against bio-butanol (which is appealing).

    http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/1996/of96-092/other_fil

    http://www.worldcoal.org/pages/content/index.as

    http://www.futurecoalfuels.org/

    http://www.cleancoalfuels.com/

    http://www.eere.energy.gov/afdc/fuels/emerging_

    http://www.butanol.com/

    For electricity production, nuke and hydro are the cleanest. Off-grid _serious_ household power someday (same for motor vehicles) is probably with fuel cells; research could be pushed on this as well as additional improvements to wind and solar, which are _not_ base load sources but helpful (especially wind, which has had a quiet growth greater than many would realize in this country).

    http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy07osti/41435.pdf

  8. Sil – the problem with wind, solar and geo is the baseload issue. None of those technologies can address that. They are great ideas, and to the extent of the load that they can take on, they should.

    But you MUST have continuous, 24/7 power sources for a significant portion of any countries energy needs. For that, you need coal, oil, hydro or nuclear, and hopefully fusion in the future.

    As long as the arguments around alt energy come with 'all or nothing' tags, no real overall solution is possible.

  9. Did anyone ask what McCain thinks of the accidents in Farnce's nuclear plants with 100 workers being lightly contanimated this week?
    It would be good to know how well informed his team is about developments in France, as it's so heavily committed to nuclear energy and has a lot of history to study.
    Waste disposal, in the French experience, is also much more complicated than 'opening Yucca mountian.'

    While a combination of approaches is clearly necessary, McCain's grab bag of options lacks a central goal or sense of direction, of what it's important to accentuate and what is just a stopgap measure, and how encouraging one affects the others.
    Does he still see lowering gas prices as an end goal in itself, or is that only part of a broad and sustainable energy policy?

    One stopgap measure is cap and trade. which everyone endorses, but then forgets that it can't work if it becomes a permanent mechanism; It has the potential of becoming the equvalent of our Agricultural bill, so entrenched in politics that it can't be adjusted to suit changing circumstances, accumulating bad consequences as it continues.

    How to use the benefits of cap and trade to benefit the economy, depends entirely of which manner of boosting the econmy one endorses: bottom-up, top-down.,
    or a combination. In this regard, McCain's particular applied ideology will satisfy only those who adhere to it. .

    I don't object to any particular thing McCain said, but I am still looking for his vision and depth beyond offering a grab bag of what sounds good.

  10. Sil, if you're that worried, why don't we just place a few SAM batteries around the sites?

    I'm glad to see a more through look into McCain's energy plans but there are still some questions left unanswered:

    “It is irrational and irresponsible to ignore safe, known energy sources.” Yes it is, why aren't the oil companies drilling/exploring where they have leases now? Is McCain going to make them answer this questions before opening new areas?

    Just to make sure we're all on the same page, did they define “safe”?

    Did McCain support the “use them or loose them” amendment on these leases from a few weeks ago? If not, why?

    Did they specify any more incentives and who qualifies to receive them? Is this like a X-Price or just money given to industry? Where is this money coming from?

    Other than the cap & trade, expanding drilling areas, and “incentives” that weren't fully defined, what are McCain's medium and long term plans for energy independence for this country?

    How are they going to pass the savings from Cap & Trade into the economy?

    “…and she describes McCain’s approach as the equivalent of “the surge” on our energy challenges.”

    OMG, did they really say that? Is there anything they won't try to tack “the surge” onto now? He needs to be careful or turn into John “the surge” McCain.

  11. I don't object to any particular thing McCain said, but I am still looking for his vision and depth beyond offering a grab bag of waht sounds good.

    Agreed. And McCain is totally exploiting the issue of drilling. Anyone In The Know, realized that new drilling won't solve our energy problems. Like his Gas Tax Holiday, it just sounds nice.

  12. “As long as the arguments around alt energy come with 'all or nothing' tags, no real overall solution is possible”

    I agree to that.

    But the other side of the coin has the question: What happens if you bury alt. energy under an avalanche of fossil fuel initiatives?
    Everyone talks about compromise, and I'm looking for one that is truly a compormise and not a give-away to the entrenched oil and coal industries.
    What is new is at am initial disadvantage, in the markets, until it can build up volume and acceptance. What may appear to be 'fair' at first glance, may be an initiative killer in the long run, particularly because of the entrenched political connections.

    The minute I see a truly fair ompromise, I'll jump on it.
    In McCain's plan, green energy is only a throw away line, while nuclear and drilllig receive a full breasted endorsement. That's not a compromise, that's a sop in an effort to stifle criticism..

  13. Runasim wins again

  14. ” I am still looking for his vision and depth beyond offering a grab bag of whaht sounds good.”

    Far beyond the scope merely of McCain's energy policy, your statement is most applicable as good advice to Obama voters about _all_issues_ with _Obama_.

  15. “Waste disposal, in the French experience, is also much more complicated than 'opening Yucca mountian.' “

    Well, yes, beginning with reprocessing, which we should be doing and which Carter ended because it looked nicey-nicey in a pee-cee sort of way.

  16. “As long as the arguments around alt energy come with 'all or nothing' tags, no real overall solution is possible”

    I agree to that.”

    Yep. Especially to the no-drilling no-thought and the no-nukes no-thought.

  17. “Sil, if you're that worried, why don't we just place a few SAM batteries around the sites?”

    Put the reactors underground, even if crazier environmentalists howl about this.

  18. “In McCain's plan, green energy is only a throw away line, while nuclear and drilllig receive a full breasted endorsement. That's not a compromise, that's a sop in an effort to stifle criticism..”

    It's bait for swing voters.

  19. “Everyone talks about compromise, and I'm looking for one that is truly a compormise and not a give-away to the entrenched oil and coal industries.”

    And nuclear? There are no give-aways, not by McCain and in any reasonable compromise, which begins with treating energy reasonably rather than in an unrealistic or political rather than practical manner.

    Alternative energy is in the future and far from the here and now and largely belongs in a compromise as the subject of research and development at this time.

    Nuclear and hydropower are the cleanest but as Chris has reminded us, nuclear plants, even the great new designs, still are too expensive to construct to be cost-competitive at this time, and the best hydro sites are pretty much all taken (and any compromise that would preserve ANWR would also preserve Wild and Scenic River sites that would provide some of the few remaining really good hydro sites). Short term R&D would involve synthetic fuels from coal as well as from biomass, because any near-to-medium-term substitute needs to be practical as well as economical, meaning with as little change of equipment or costs as necessary. Longer-term we're looking at electric motor vehicles, most likely, and fuel cells to power either motor vehicles or provide off-grid power for households. Solar is a distant dream, still; some research into that is worthwhile, though more R&D in wind is justified at this time, along with compromising on tax incentives or other mechanisms of government interventionism that can support or promote wind power where it makes sense. Fusion research remains desireable but is a long-term less-important thing whereas nuclear fuel reprocessing is something that can be done right from the start. (Even consuming spare bomb fuel in reactors.)

    There is your compromise.

  20. McSurge's campaign quotee was stupid to call drilling a Surge (as opposed to an eventual surge in production that may constitute so little of a spike it doesn't merit the term “surge” at all).

  21. AustinRoth: the problem with wind, solar and geo is the baseload issue. None of those technologies can address that.

    Austin, you really, really need to read this, in the case of wind, and this in the case of solar. I can point you to others, but those are must-reads. They are both “systems” approaches, meaning they analyze all of the variables including transmission. And transmission is definitely key to both. That's what transforms wind and solar from “intermittent” sources to dependable sources. Assuming a widely distributed transmission network, wind is a very reliable baseload source. Likewise assuming a widely distributed transmission network, solar thermal (with heat storage) is even better because it possesses baseload AND load-following characteristics.

    And what's this about geothermal not being baseload? What are you, kidding? It's as good as hydro. Sometimes even better, because it's not subject to droughts. Moreover, geothermal plants can be taken off-line for repairs in partial fashion. So can wind and solar. Nuclear plants have to be taken off-line for repairs in all-or-none fashion. In most cases that means you have to find another way to supply about a GW of power while it's down.

    One could effectively argue that at least in the short term (meaning less than 20 years or so), wind, solar thermal, and/or geothermal are not very viable options everywhere in the country. With an HVDC-backed national grid they could be, but it would take a long time to build even assuming it were seriously contemplated (and that doesn't appear to be the case). Given that, they are more viable in the west and midwest. The atlantic coast has considerable wind resources, particularly off shore, but off shore wind is considerably more expensive than on shore. And solar thermal and geothermal resources are even more limited in those areas. So in those cases other sources have to be found, e.g., nuclear. I have nothing against nuclear — except the cost. I sincerely believe that wind, solar, and geothermal, including the necessary transmission grid, makes more sense in the west and midwest than any other option. Plus, they can be built and become available in a fraction of the time that a nuclear plant can.

    Then there's the biggest, fattest, lowest-hanging fruit of all: energy efficiency. And for whatever reason, it's something McCain hardly ever mentions, much less addresses meaningfully.

  22. DLS-

    Your 'comprimise' is an anti-compromise, exactly as I described.
    You can't talk about a topic by redefing it or replacing it.

  23. “And transmission is definitely key to both. That's what transforms wind and solar from 'intermittent' sources to dependable sources.”

    I would argue that it is the key issue to generating electricity using vast areas where little or no population is, but making it available where the people are.

    (The same is going to be true someday with water supplies in the southern USA but this is still largely a future concern.)

    The sun does not shine all the time and the wind does not blow all the time, which is why they are not suitable to provide base load sources. Wind might work if a large enough area were developed to catch enough wind someday but the area required would be incredibly large.

    “Nuclear plants have to be taken off-line for repairs in all-or-none fashion. In most cases that means you have to find another way to supply about a GW of power while it's down.”

    That's one (additional) argument in favor of the new, modular plant designs, which can be simpler and often smaller.

    http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/f

    http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/nuclear/page/analy

    http://www.nei.org/keyissues/newnuclearplants/n

    But to return to solar and wind, those must-reads do illustrate that more work on solar as well as wind can pay off. Here's another writeup that does what that solar article you linked us to does, addresses the “solar base load” problem. (The article you gave us a link to included an attack on the “base load” concept itself.)

    http://www.cana.net.au/documents/Diesendorf_The

    http://www.sustainabilitycentre.com.au/Baseload

    Background (conventional description of the issues)

    http://www.phyast.pitt.edu/~blc/book/chapter14….

    “Then there's the biggest, fattest, lowest-hanging fruit of all: energy efficiency.”

    I don't want Uncle Sam or my state government requiring all kinds of labels and worse, bombarding me with nagging commercials about conservation or about paying attention to efficiency when buying or using things. I can think immediately (and have thought many times) about something that can permit down-rating of wattage of high-intensity lamps on roadways where there are NEMA heads, including those suspended in their very ugly but utilitarian manner above Michigan intersections, which could cost as little as $20 each in bulk purchases and improve roadway lighting while offering substantial state-wide savings,

    [photos show improvement in lighting and ability to use lower wattage lamp]

    http://www.mediasoft.net/macdowell/oldandnew.htm

    but this shouldn't be mandated. (Nor going to LED and other new lighting that is more efficient, someday.)

  24. DLS-
    have you considered getting your own website?

  25. “Your 'comprimise' is an anti-compromise, exactly as I described.”

    I'm afraid you're wrong once more. It is a compromise and a good one that makes sense for present and future US energy policy, working on behalf of alternative as well as the currently-superior conventional sources of energy.

  26. “have you considered getting your own website?”

    Maybe someday. And if you're curious, yes, I yield “the floor” now. Others' turn!

  27. Everyone talks about compromise, and I'm looking for one that is truly a compormise and not a give-away to the entrenched oil and coal industries.

    People continue to go off on tangents. Try to deflect the argument. Try to spin it out of control and in the end we end up right back to where we were. Nothing to replace oil.

    The Democrats/Barak Obama's “Punish America” Tour is coming to a city near you.

    Walk to work. Thats their new campaign slogan.

    The terrifying fear of the left is that if we drill it might be successful. Otherwise if they are convinced it is not going to be successful then why oppose drilling?

    Show those oil companies a thing or two and let them drill anywhere they want…………even on the White House Lawn.

    Then you can prove to us what the experts keep claiming. It wont matter. Well if it wont matter then why oppose exploration??

  28. ricorun – saying 'the only problem is the transmission problem' is a little like saying 'the only problem world hunger is distribution'. easy to say, factually correct, and no real-world solution in sight.

    Alt energy is great, but you can't just sweep the main problem under the rug. I am all for alternative energy, but wishing and hoping that solutions will come along is not planning.

    There is more than just simple engineering issues to deal with; there are basic, unresolved design and physics problems. Even with our current mainly geographically dispersed baseload environments, the attempts to put them into a fail-safe national grid have not been particularly effective. Further centralization of power generation will only strain that infrastructure more, and I don't mean capacity, but fault tolerance.

  29. AustinRoth: Alt energy is great, but you can't just sweep the main problem under the rug. I am all for alternative energy, but wishing and hoping that solutions will come along is not planning.

    Here's some planning for you: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/19/business/19wi

    You might also want to track back to this thread:
    http://themoderatevoice.com/science/energy/oil/

    That will provide you with even more information about planning (among other things). If you want even more evidence of planning, track back through this thread:
    http://themoderatevoice.com/science/energy/gas-

    Finally,you might want to additionally read one of DLS's links that also supports the baseload fallacy as it pertains to wind (http://www.cana.net.au/documents/Diesendorf_The…)

    And what you say about the limitations of the existing grid is true of whatever you try to put on it, not just renewables. Said in another way, the existing grid sucks. For the last 20 years or so it's been held together with scotch tape and bailing wire. Things have to change no matter what.

    You say, “There is more than just simple engineering issues to deal with; there are basic, unresolved design and physics problems.” I'm not exactly sure in what context you mean that, but in general I disagree. Not in every context maybe, but in most. Perfection isn't required, only good enough (except nuclear maybe — you want to be very sure a new nuclear plant design will work). And a lot of technologies are good enough — most with much more potential to get even better, and cheaper. But don't take my word for it. The information in many of the links I've provided on this and other threads support what I've said and contradict you. So if you want to save whatever credibility you desire, perhaps you would be so kind as to be more clear about what you mean and document it. Because you're a little thin in that regard.

    I hear the kind of stuff you're spouting all the time though — that is to say the “we're not there yet” argument, with the implicit corollary of “and until we are we shouldn't do anything other than what we're already doing.” To that I reply… Yes..We..Are, and Yes..We..Should. That thinking is what got us into our present predicament in the first place.

  30. “that is to say the “we're not there yet” argument, with the implicit corollary of “and until we are we shouldn't do anything other than what we're already doing.”

    Actually, I wasn't saying that. I was and am saying keep trying to find solutions, but right now, the underlying problems are not simple engineering issues. I was talking about the grid in particular, as there is no potential alt energy solution that can solve the base-load problem without a completely new grid, as they all currently require some high degree of centralization. Furthermore, this grid has to be built on as-yet unidentified technology (that is where I was directing my “simple engineering issues…basic, unresolved design and physics problems” comment).

    So, as there is of now no new baseload alt energy sources that can be counted on, until there is we have to do our planning on technologies that either do exist, or are in the final stages of industrial-scale deployability.

    In short – keep trying to identify new and better energy sources, improve the existing technologies, and reduce consumption via non-productivity impacting methods.

    In the meantime, plan for current and projected power needs with provable sources, and add new technologies when they are feasible (not perfect; I think we are too risk-adverse as a country these days, but that is a different post)

  31. Austin, there is nothing about the proposed transmission grid that is technologically new or unidentified. Even HVDC exists now.

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