In the United States and throughout the world, there is a continuing search for common ground between energy and environmental goals. Despite the great progress made since the early 1970s, there are many remaining challenges.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s litigation involving the New Source Review program under the Clean Air Act remains controversial. Industry representatives contend that the EPA’s interpretation is wrong and unfair and will lead to delays in permitting energy projects. However, the EPA’s proposed New Source Review reforms have generated opposition from environmental groups.
The complexity of these issues has led to calls for more economic-driven solutions — in particular the development of market-based mechanisms such as emissions trading.
The cap and trade program for electric utilities under the acid rain provisions of the Clean Air Act is a prime example. It has been successful in achieving emission reductions in a more economical manner, and perhaps the concept should be applied to other industries and other environmental programs.
There is an international dimension to all of these energy and environmental issues. Industrialized and nonindustrialized countries are attempting to address issues such as global climate change.
Consider that roughly two billion people in the world are not served by electric power, while other countries rely primarily on nuclear plants. One can appreciate why global climate change issues are complex and politically sensitive.
Although the 1997 Kyoto Protocol is still moving toward ratification, the United States remains outside the protocol. U.S.-based companies have to decide whether to get ahead of the curve or whether to wait until the landscape is better defined.
Our panel today will help us explore the many facets of these issues.
Jonathan Groner, editor at large, Legal Times: People have been saying for decades that our nation’s energy needs are irreconcilably in conflict with the similarly important national need to protect the environment. But lately, some have been arguing that this is not necessarily an irreconcilable conflict.
How accurate do you think this perception is that there is an irreconcilable conflict and that America has to choose, as it were, between keeping the air and water clean and having a viable energy policy that allows for energy growth and energy independence?
G. William Frick, vice president and general counsel, American Petroleum Institute:
There doesn’t have to be a conflict, and there can’t be a conflict. We need both. If we’re going to be a growing economy, we have to have energy. To keep people fed and clothed and warm, you have to have energy. It’s an integral part of our society.
At the same time, we are doing a lot more in terms of protecting the environment. The companies that I represent, as well as other industries, are spending enormous amounts of resources on every project that they’re building.
Whether it’s changes at the refineries, whether it’s the makeup of fuels, whether it’s access and development of new resources, we’re spending billions of dollars to protect the environment.
We have made enormous strides from a technological standpoint, and I think that’s one of the areas the public doesn’t see as much. It takes much less land to produce the same amount of energy than it did 20 years ago. The footprint is much, much smaller, so we are doing much better. All of the indicators are showing that there is improvement.
So I think we can have both, and we just need to keep working on that.
Groner: Does this same sort of thing happen, Michele, in the industry that you represent? Has there been a technical stride that has changed things significantly in the last 20 years or so?
Michele Joy, general counsel, Association of Oil Pipe Lines:
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