White House energy advisor sidesteps using EPA power plant rules to lessen GHGs
Washington (Platts)--27Feb2013/450 pm EST/2150 GMT
President Barack Obama's top energy adviser on Thursday declined to
commit to having the Environmental Protection Agency institute greenhouse-gas
regulations on existing power plants, saying the administration has many
tools to tackle climate change.
The EPA still has to finalize its rules for new power plants, after
receiving more than 2 million comments on its proposed regulation, said
Heather Zichal, Obama's deputy assistant for energy and climate change.
"We can't put the cart before the horse," said Zichal, speaking at the
Center for Strategic and International Studies. "EPA is going to spend its
time focusing on the review process there. We have to remember that even the
standards for new ... power plants is something never done before. It's going
to shape the future of the power sector. It's not an insignificant undertaking."
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But she said the White House and its Cabinet agencies still have other
means of using their authorities to cut US GHG emissions by 17% below 2005
levels by 2020, as the US committed to during UN climate talks in Copenhagen
Those include pushing further aggressive energy efficiency standards,
investing in clean-energy research and permitting renewable projects on
federal land, Zichal said.
"It would be wrong to fall into the trap that one tool is going to get
us to the 17% target," she said. "It's true that EPA and its authority are a
bright shiny object, but it's important we move forward many initiatives we
started in the first term."
She added: "This administration has demonstrated time and time again our
ability to think creatively about our authorities and use them."
Obama will lay out more of his climate and energy plans "in the weeks
and months ahead," as he builds on his urgent calls for action in his
February 12 State of the Union address, Zichal said.
In that address, the first of his second term as president, Obama
pressed Congress to pass a "bipartisan, market-based" cap-and-trade bill, but
warned that if Congress fails to act, he would direct his cabinet to identify
executive actions he could take.
Many environmental groups had taken that to mean Obama would soon call
on EPA to regulate GHGs from existing power plants.
Zichal said Obama would seek to make the production tax credit for
renewable energy permanent. The administration will also be finalizing its
fracking fluid disclosure regulations, she added.
The prospect of expanded LNG exports is an opportunity to create jobs,
but the White House wants to ensure that consumers are not harmed, Zichal
said. The US Department of Energy is reviewing whether to allow further LNG
exports to countries that do not have free-trade agreements with the US.
"As a general rule of thumb, we are not opposed to the notion of
exports," she said. "That's through the lens of making sure we are not
doing that in a manner that will undermine American consumers."
Committing to energy efficiency and clean energy is vital, given that
the US is still vulnerable to global disruptions in energy supply, even as
domestic oil and gas production has boomed, Zichal said.
"As rising [gasoline] prices remind us, we are still reliant on oil,"
she said. "Some will say we can solve our problems if the administration
will just drill more at home. That misses the fact that oil output is at a 15
year high and we are on track to overtake Saudi Arabia as the highest oil
producer in the world by 2020. Instead of fighting about things we can't
control, let's focus on things we can."
--Herman Wang, email@example.com
--Edited by Richard Rubin, firstname.lastname@example.org