the (new) american worker

Gallup: Americans Want Diverse, Economy-Focused Energy Policies
March 21, 2010, 10:49 pm
Filed under: jobs | Tags: , , ,

Gallup has run a number of polls this month that have really captured the current American sentiment on Obama’s ramped-up energy rhetoric and policy initiatives. The results demonstrate a rather conservative consciousness on energy, as in a March 13 poll where only 30% of respondents indicated support for reducing financial incentives for the oil and gas industries. In addition, 28% of respondents stated that current financial incentives for oil and gas should be maintained. Gallup condenses this information into a simple, powerful fact – 2 out of every 3 Americans believe the federal government should continue to support traditional energy sources like oil and gas. If anyone is wondering why Obama continues to pursue an “all colors of the rainbow” national energy policy – well, there you go.

A recent Gallup poll found that 53 percent of Americans favor economic growth over considerations for the environment.

The March 13 poll also showed an 11 percent tumble in the number of respondents who favor environmental protections over development of energy resources – from 58 percent in 2007 to 47 percent in 2010. Of course, the massive recession our country is still climbing out of likely influences these results. From nuclear to smart-grids, no energy proposal is complete nowadays without the requisite slogan of “jobs, jobs, jobs.” Compare this to the underemployment figure reported by Gallup this week – 20.1 percent – and it’s pretty easy to see why Americans are grasping at anything that resembles economic growth.

This realignment was also evident in another Gallup poll released last Thursday. When asked whether economic growth should be pursued, regardless of adverse environmental affects, 53 percent of respondents answered yes.

In my mind, this confirms what is often written nowadays about renewables like solar and wind – mainstream days are still a long way off. Sure, there may be huge economic potential in some of these projects – greater than the alternatives, in my opinion – but until renewable energy advocates can sell Americans on the idea that this potential exceeds the cost of reduced investment in say, natural gas or clean coal technology, then it looks like the American public will continue to support the old, the new and everything in between.


Nuclear: Is It Really Worth It?
February 19, 2010, 12:45 pm
Filed under: nuclear | Tags: , , , ,

President Obama put the nuclear debate back on the map this week with a high-profile announcement that his administration will guarantee a $8.33 billion loan towards building the nation’s first nuclear units in thirty years. The loan guarantee will go to Georgian-based Southern Company, to open the last two of four reactors the company has been trying for decades to complete.

Obama's "Nuclear Bet:" Southern Co. and the Vogtle power plant

Nuclear. Just the word brings to mind a stark landscape of hulking reactors and radioactive waste. It seems so…retro. Is Obama and his energy team really moving us forward with this one?

Hardly, says Michael Grunwald in his TIME piece: “Why Obama’s Nuclear Bet Won’t Pay Off.” Look past the outcry from the greenies, and the eons-long commitment to waste storage, and there is still the obscene costs, something Grunwald calls “the insanity of nuclear economics.”

Grunwald writes that when Southern Company first started building the Vogtle Power Plant, it put a $1 billion price tag on four reactors. By 1989, that number had raised to $9 billion – for only two of the four. Now, Southern Co. is looking for help to finally build those last two reactors, a cost it estimates at $14 billion.

Grunwald adds:

“And you can be sure that number is way too low, because nuclear cost estimates are always way too low.”

His piece goes on to acknowledge that yes, the Vogtle plant is expected to create “3,500 well-paying jobs,” if ground is broken next year, and yes, nuclear power really is emissions-free. Two points for Obama. But minus one for the state of Georgia, since the Vogtle reactors are expected to increase resident electricity bills by nine percent. Residents also may not be so thrilled to hear that the federal government is likely stepping in as a lender of last resort, since Wall Street won’t touch nuclear and credit ratings agencies have consistently downgraded any utilities with nuclear plans. Ouch.

Nuclear runs rain or shine, so it is understandable why our country is currently so dependent upon it. But it seems to me like a better use of fiscal resources would be to invest more heavily in energy efficiency and the gradual reduction of dependencies altogether. It would be like looking nuclear in the face and saying “we can do better” –  and get a better price.

–Mia Lamar

Obama Talks Nuclear
February 16, 2010, 11:54 pm
Filed under: Washington | Tags: , , ,

President Obama spoke at an nuclear energy training center in Langham, Maryland today to tout programs embedded in the Economic Recovery Act that will ultimately “create 700,000 jobs” in clean energy infrastructure and initiatives.

He pointed to America’s pithy place on the world stage in building new energy economies, particularly nuclear.

“Our competitors are racing to create jobs and command growing nuclear industries,” Obama said. “Jobs will be produced overseas, instead of here in the United States of America.”

The first anniversary of the Economic Recovery Act comes tomorrow and the president and his many advisers are hitting the street to talk up what many regard as limited success in job creation. Once a core White House talking point, Obama’s grand plans for training and development in new energy and sustainable infrastructure seemed adrift just months ago. After the State of the Union Address last month, Obama has aggressively retaken this cause, though his foray into nuclear is a trickier political maneuver – and a questionable one too.

Obama To “Show and Tell” for First Anniversary of Economic Recovery Act
February 16, 2010, 2:24 pm
Filed under: Washington | Tags: , , ,

Tomorrow is the first anniversary of the passage of the Economic Recovery Act and the White House seems intent on using the occasion to highlight job creation (or their very own “jobs saved” formula.)

President Obama will host “an event involving Americans from across the country have benefited from the Recovery Act,’’ the White House said today, according to The New York Times “The Caucus” blog.

Despite the persistence of unemployment in this “jobless recovery,” the White House has – to the derision of many – persistently claimed that the ERA created/saved? 2 million jobs. Officials from a laundry list of agencies will fan out across the country tomorrow in community meetings and speaking tours to drive home this claim, The Caucus reports.

I believe that many jobs are simply lost – and if the recovery act saved any jobs, let’s be sure they were worth saving. As Nouriel Roubini reminded us all in an op-ed late last year, “recent studies suggest that a quarter of U.S. jobs are fully out-sourceable over time to other countries.”

Rockefeller Questions Obama’s Loyalty to Coal
February 5, 2010, 11:44 pm
Filed under: The Hill | Tags: , , , ,

If you’ve been following the clean coal debate, or any bit of Obama’s energy push at all, you know that the president has embraced a number of energies not so high on the “greenie” list: so-called clean coal and nuclear energy.

It’s been written that Obama’s enthusiasm for coal is not solely an effort to promote job creation in new, competitive energy industries, but also a subtle attempt to win over conservatives in the coal states.

Senator Jay Rockefeller (D) expressed skepticism over Obama's new love for the clean coal industry.

Well, in a budget hearing yesterday on Capitol Hill, West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller (D) suggested that it won’t be so easy for the president to win the miner’s heart.

From The New York Times:

“He says it in his speeches, but he doesn’t say it in here,” Rockefeller said, referring to the budget proposal. “He doesn’t say it in the actions of [EPA Administrator] Lisa Jackson. And he doesn’t say it in the minds of my own people. And he’s beginning to not be believable to me. So I want you to put me at rest or put me away.”

At issue was the administration’s decision to eliminate four tax breaks for the coal industry. Rockefeller also noted that the administration continues to shake a stick at mountain-top removal coal mining, a controversial process heavily criticized by environmental groups.

The Times writes that Orzag defended the President, noting that current proposals allot hundreds of millions of dollars for experimental carbon-capture technologies and other components of the clean coal movement.

The skepticism of Rockefeller and other “coal state” governors are an indication of just how difficult a future the president’s energy proposals – nevermind the cap-and-trade component – face on Capitol Hill. Obama seemed to walking the line quite well, if anything, he’s really bended towards the old guard of energy, fossil fuels like coal and nuclear.

NRDC’s Beinecke: “There Is No Clean Coal”
February 4, 2010, 11:51 pm
Filed under: Mad Media | Tags: , , ,

Interesting bit of opinion in the HuffPo yesterday from the president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Frances Beinecke.

First things first, Beinecke writes, “there is no clean coal.” Her organization has long fought against the “filthy practice,” she goes on to say. Yet even she acknowledges what seems unavoidable in Obama’s energy agenda.

“The reality is that coal is relatively cheap and abundant, and it generates on average half of all our electricity. Coal will continue to be a part of our energy portfolio for awhile,” Beinecke writes.

The “clean coal” debate is not new, but I believe it will get significantly louder now that the president has thrown himself on coal’s side. He hasn’t completely lost people like Beinecke however; she commends the president for his efforts to lash job creation and energy initiatives in one comprehensive bill. Jobs – all 2 million of them – may be all that’s necessary to sweeten clean coal for the otherwise skeptical.

Winning Over the “Coal” States
February 3, 2010, 10:54 pm
Filed under: Washington | Tags: , ,

For reasons somewhat incomprehensible to me, “climate change” is a politically divisive term. This sentiment is shared, I assume, by all the people who enjoyed a laugh with President Obama last week when he publicly mocked climate change skeptics during the State of the Union Address.

But, that was last week. This week, it seems our president has decided to adopt a somewhat more modest tone. He has very clearly centered his efforts to create new American jobs around clean energy and infrastructure initiatives, so if he is to get anything done, it seems he’s decided to stop throwing “global warming” around. Better buzzword? Actually, there’s three. Jobs, jobs, jobs.

This piece from MSNBC notes that the president is trying to win over voters in coal and farm states while he travels around America touting his energy initiatives, a two-birds-with-one-stone kind of thing.

From the White House:

“I happen to believe that we should pass a comprehensive energy and climate bill,” Obama told a White House meeting of governors, many from coal-producing states. “It will make clean energy the profitable kind of energy, and the decision by other nations to do this is already giving their businesses a leg up on developing clean energy jobs and technologies.”

Sure, he’s pandering to his audience, but good for him. There is nothing wrong with a little modesty. In my mind, moves like publicly mocking climate skeptics may garner a temporary laugh – look at those “crazies” it says – but something about the way Obama does it just comes off as arrogant. It surely can’t help him with the Palin types. Now if Obama can win over some center-rights, maybe even some independents, and get the ball rolling on new jobs for energy projects, now that’s something I’ll cheer for.