Dave's Energy

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Domestic, Clean, and Cost Competitive

Last week, at the invitation of the fine people at Think Equity Partners, I had the opportunity to join in a round-table discussion with the senior folks from the U.S. DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and the NREL (National Renewables Energy Lab). I used the opportunity to pose my ongoing question regarding our sometimes conflicting national priorities. That is, as a nation we speak about trying to accomplish several key goals over time, each of which might drive us toward potentially different solutions. My question was basically this: how does the administration view our ability to reconcile the competing goals of: 1) emissions reduction; 2) price containment (i.e.: reducing economic impact); 3) growth and; 4) security of supply.

The answer, of course, was that all were important. Specifically, Assistant Energy Secretary Karsner was clear that he seeks solutions that are "Domestic, Clean, and Cost Competitive". We further discussed how those same goals could be pursued differently whether you were talking about the Power market (trying to displace coal) or the transportation market (trying to displace crude oil). It became clear that the power market was much less of a focus at the moment, and that the DOE will be putting a great deal of effort behind biofuels, primarily because that is where they believe we can have the most impact. Their goals are to displace a significant percentage of our transportation fuels (30% or more) in a fairly short period of time. They clearly have a mandate to chase cellulosic solutions, solar opportunities, and other biofuels and were out meeting people like our group in order to find out where private capital can help move the programs forward. It was all somewhat encouraging. Given all the entrepreneurs I've been meeting lately with cellulosic ethanol plans and algae-based biodiesel plans, it will help for me to get out to the NREL and see some of their best science up close. More on all that later...

BTW, I think the DOE definitely heard from the private sector that capital will more likely be invested in those areas that have stable and predictable policy regimes. That may be too much to hope for in U.S. political arena, but we can always hope, can't we?

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