Sen. John Barrasso, R-WY, says he'd like to support President Obama's call for the nation to get 80 percent of its electricity from clean energy by 2035, but he's still uneasy about the specifics and the technology. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-OR, says the majority of states are already headed in the direction the president wants, so it makes sense for the rest of the nation to follow. The two lawmakers tell Susan McGinnis their reactions to the energy initiatives the president announced in his State of the Union message.
Barrasso says it was remarkable that the president endorsed so many different forms of energy, including clean coal. He says America needs
commodities that Wyoming has, like coal, uranium for nuclear plants and natural gas, because world energy demand will soar in the next 25
years. He says we need to make energy as clean as we can, as fast as we can, without raising costs for American families. As for supporting
the president's call, Barrasso says he's like to see the technology developed to make maximum use of all those clean sources of energy. He
says America needs to make sure that other countries like China and India are using that technology as well, because it's best to have
everyone around the world using the best technology and the cleanest means of producing energy. What he doesn't want is to have renewable
energy become the least expensive form of energy by making other forms more expensive. He says raising the cost of traditional forms of
energy could be damaging to energy security and economic growth.
Barrasso says the president's call for $8 billion in new clean energy funding may not play well with Americans at home and already concerned about their energy costs. He says Obama's call to end oil subsidies will result in an increase in the price of gasoline. He says renewable energy companies that get subsidies or stimulus funding often burn through them with no results. He cites firms in Massachusetts and California that received hundreds of millions in stimulus money and are now cutting jobs. He says renewables can't compete economically, and it makes more sense to make available, affordable energy sources cleaner. He says for the sake of energy security, the U.S. needs to use all the sources of domestic energy that it can to achieve economic growth.
Blumenauer says his support for a clean energy standard will depend on the definition of "clean." He says it's not just carbon emissions. Particulates and mercury from coal burning have to be considered, too. He says the majority of states have already made commitments to a renewable portfolio standard, and the president is correct to try to steer the nation in that direction. He says the planet can't survive with huge use of dirty coal. He believes the standard should be very clear, and it needs to work economically, by giving renewable energy subsidies that are level with those of nuclear power and fossil fuels. He says it makes much more sense to subsidize renewable energy that needs the money, rather than fossil fuels that don't. Blumenauer recalls that former President George W. Bush said fossil fuels would not need subsidies when the price of oil reached $50 per barrel. The last price he checked was $89 per barrel.
Blumenauer says when the fluctuating global price of petroleum drops, it goes down more for India and China than it does for the United States because of the subsidies American oil companies get. It makes more sense, he says, to fund renewable sources of energy whose costs are going down. He says wind and solar companies scramble every year to renew subsidies that are permanent for oil. And while oil companies say those tax breaks are needed to fund risky exploration, Blumenauer says those companies will do that exploration anyway because of oil's price. He says a shift to longer term support will help renewables industries become more competitive with oil.
Blumenauer disagrees that most of the president's ideas will die in Congress. He says pressure from the large federal budget deficit and emerging clean energy technology will make it possible to move forward with an energy bill.
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