Energy advisors for presidential candidates John McCain
Obama met at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology (MIT) in Boston,
MA last night to debate their
candidates' energy policies on issues including supply, security and
Scroll down for video clips of the representatives' closing arguments.
Both representatives agreed their candidates' plans are
thematically similar. "What we have here are two responsive energy programs,"
said R. James Woolsey, venture partner and senior advisor with VantagePoint Venture Partners and former
director of the C.I.A. Jason Grumet, founder/president of the Bipartisan Policy Center and chair
of the Energy and Environment Policy Group for the Obama Presidential Campaign,
said the main goal of both plans is ultimately finding an "affordable, reliable
source of energy."
But Woolsey identified centralization as a key difference. McCain
is focusing on a federal-based effort with a generic move toward alternative
fuels, which Woolsey said is key to a successful separation from oil. Grumet
named consistency and detail as two main strengths of Obama's plan, calling out
McCain's Lexington Plan as a "fancy name for a two-and-a-half-page memo." He
stressed Obama's focus on low-carbon and renewable standards and targeted
McCain's choice of vice president, saying Palin is "not concerned with
Tom Ashbrook, host of NPR radio show "On Point" and
moderator of the debate, was accompanied by Susan McGinnis, managing editor and
news anchor for CleanSkies.tv and Geoff Carr, science editor for The Economist.
McGinnis asked when the representatives see fossil fuels no
longer being part of the energy mix, keeping in mind the expense of nuclear and
availability and scalability of some alternative fuels. Grumet outlined the
need to diversify fuels and strengthen fuel economy standards, while Woolsey
said the move away from liquid and toward electric "needs to be done in a
generic way, with no picking and choosing."
Carr asked the representatives' opinions on natural gas and
their stands on energy imports. Woolsey named natural gas as a "fine complement"
to renewable fuels for a more steady flow of electricity to the grid, but said
natural gas should be used as more of a partner for renewable fuels and there
should be "no operating at the behest of the Russians." Grumet agreed
additional dependence on fuels the country doesn't possess is a negative and
called for natural gas to be brought down from Alaska via a pipeline that Obama has called
for in the past.
When asked about their goals for energy independence, both
advisors named corn-based fuel as still useful. Woolsey called for a generic
move toward waste-based fuels but said if the only loss is starch via the use
of corn-based fuels then they should still be part of the mix. Grumet said
Obama recognizes corn-based fuels as a pioneer fuel, but the country needs to
move quickly past it to sustainable biofuels such as algae and switchgrass.
Both advisors identified the importance of carbon capture
and storage. Grumet touted Obama's $15 billion per year focus on carbon capture
technologies, and Woolsey countered with McCain's $2 billion per year focus
being all that is needed, with there just being a shift in detail and
management choices between the two plans. Grumet agreed the plans are
thematically the same but different in actuality, and stressed that Obama is a
supporter of "truly zero carbon coal." Woolsey said he leaves the possibility
open for coal-fire plants, at least in the interim.
Both advisors recognize the move to alternative energy
sources as a difficult one, especially in light of the current state of the economy.
Woolsey identified technology as our "only out," and said there are ways to
focus penalties on carbon-emitting sources, with less penalty to natural gas
and none to renewable or solar energy. Grumet said Obama views "pollution as a
form of inefficiency" and the move, while not cheap and easy, will require a "different
type of community" willing to take on the challenge. Both identified destroying
the dependence on oil as the key strategic commitment.
And both representatives identified green technology and
their candidates' energy plans as effective sources of economic stimulus.
Woolsey identified drilling in Alaska
as part of McCain's effort to reduce the country's financial dependence on outside
fuel sources and imports, saying there is the need to move away from oil, but a
change for the better will only happen with "some interim drilling." Grumet said
Obama believes his plan for new energy technologies will "form the backbone for
The representatives also addressed how their candidates will
encourage investment in the Smart Grid. "We have a dumb grid," said Grumet,
"that does not tap the power of our sunny and windy cities." He identified the
decoupling of energy supply and profit as the key to grid modernization.
Woolsey named the need for a grid at a federal level, resilient against
hacking, with the built-in capacity of vehicle-to-grid.
Woolsey identified McCain's plan to deploy 45 new nuclear
power plants as "difficult," but focused on the candidate's plan for the
generic encouragement of new technologies as a major strength. Grumet identified
site sequestration spots for wind power and power lines across state lines as
issues Obama is "still figuring out."
Both representatives discussed the natural gas portion
of T. Boone Pickens' plan as half correct. Grumet and Woolsey both agreed with
wind power as a solution but Grumet identified the need for a power sector and
said a complete transition to natural gas is improbable. Woolsey said plug-in
hybrids will be more cost-effective than fueling stations.