To hear it told in Washington, you would think everything good that has ever happened in the last two decades is threatened by the sequestering of 4 percent of federal spending on Friday. Who knew the government did so many wonderful things? While the talk in other sectors is about Head Start programs closing and airplanes falling out of the sky, energy bureaucrats are warning the Clean Energy Revolution will be stopped in its tracks. The American Association for the Advancement of Science worries that research spending will end. In fact just about everybody in Washington is using the Sequester to ride their particular hobbyhorse. Surya Gablin Gunaskara of the Washington Examiner tells us the Sequester only increases the need for the Keystone Pipeline. Perhaps the best commentary comes from CNSNews, which tells us that spending at the Department of Energy has increased 43 percent in the last decade. No wonder Washington is prospering while the rest of the country is in the doldrums.
At the ARPA-E annual gathering down at Gateway on the Potomac, attendees are ogling the work of what deputy director Cheryl Martin called “America’s Modern Explorers.” Yesterday was show-and-tell, with dozens of entrepreneurs showcasing their wares (above). Ideas ranged from innovative geometries for vehicle natural gas tanks to wireless electric vehicle charging schemes. Today’s speakers will include Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Purdue University President Mitch Daniels, and T. Boone Pickens, who knows a lot about energy and will need no introduction. Private investment in ARPA-E sponsored companies has now reached $450 million, according to Martin, but so far here have been no home runs.
China continues to pursue energy the old-fashioned way – by buying up natural resources. Sinopec inked a $1 billion deal to buy half of Chesapeake Energy’s oil and gas holdings in Oklahoma. They have signed a deal to import natural gas from Russia and are also eyeing British Columbia supplies. China’s energy consumption rose 3.9 percent in 2012 but the nation’s shale revolution – which is supposed to duplicate US success – still hasn’t gotten off the ground.
Finally, departing Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar was in Boston promising that his successor will be accelerating the permitting of offshore wind project. Salazar made the ritualistic threats that the Sequester would end this progressive effort (see above) and also promised that the Cape Wind project – delayed almost a decade by environmental opposition, especially concentrated around Hyannis Port – will finally be completed. Meanwhile, an ambitious project to cover the ocean off Atlantic City with windmills is beginning to run into questions of just how much the whole thing will cost. Midwest Energy News proclaims that all this makes a great lesson for developing offshore wind on the Great Lakes. But what is the lesson?