The shadow of Hurricane Sandy hung over the Doha Climate Conference as delegates decided whether any significant action will be taken. Observers hold only modest hopes for the conference. The Kyoto Protocol is unlikely to be renewed as the rift between developed and developing nations widens. Meanwhile, it appears the Lower 48 of the United States is headed for its warmest year ever and the UN says 2012 has been a year of extremes at the global level. And scientists at the conference have raised another concern. Is melting permafrost in the Arctic a new threat?
Government planning of energy is always a siren call and it has been sounded again by a new bipartisan group featured ex-Senators Byron Dorgan of North Dakota and Trent Lott of Mississippi. The Bipartisan Policy Center says the White House and Congress should create yet another “National Energy Strategy Council” to plan the nation’s energy course. But then why do we have a Department of Energy? The plan, of course, would centralize even more decision-making in Washington. France is doing something similar as Socialist Premier Francois Hollande tried to reduce the country’s nuclear electricity from 75 percent to 50 percent and replace it with windmills and solar collectors. Meanwhile in China, Inventis Investment Holdings, one of China’s oldest private equity firms, has suggested the government should slow its efforts to buy North American energy resources through government-owned entities and let private investors do it. Ships passing in the night?
On the unplanned side of the economy, natural gas fracking continues to boom, with the Marcellus Shale (above) now providing 26 percent of the nation’s natural gas. New York drillers are asking the state to “do a Pennsylvania” and unleash them to create jobs and produce resources on their side of the border. (New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has punted again on the issue.) Texas investors are talking about a newly discovered field in the Permian Basin that they say may be the nation’s biggest shale play ever. And David Banks argues that, except for environmental opposition, America’s energy boom would be bringing prosperity to the rest of the world as well.
Finally, the wind tax credit fight continues in Congress, with supporters lining up armed services veterans to their cause. Governors Terry Branstad of Iowa and John Kitzhaber of Oregon are complaining about potential job losses in their states and Vestas emphasized this by laying off 20 percent of its workforce. But critics of the subsidy are holding their ground, saying it wastes government money and is producing an unsightly gaggle of giant landscape-busters that contribute very little useful energy at high cost.