Thursday, October 18, 2007

Jack Markell's Energy Policy

Jack Markell released his energy policy earlier this week. I've been hearing from people who like what he has to say. There are two ways to read his plan.
The first would be to check off the policy points like items in a menu:
Increasing renewable energy standards--check. Using the buying power of state government to support renewable energy--check. Attracting more research dollars--check. Developing new energy technologies as an avenue for economic development--check. Making a personal investment in clean energy--check.
The second way to understand such a policy paper is to look for clues as to how a candidate considers policy issues. Looking beyond the policy checklist, Jack Markell gives us a glimpse of how he thinks:
Some people think that renewable technologies are years away from being “practical” or “cost competitive” with traditional power sources. Wind is an exception to that rule and I believe we should act now to deploy wind power facilities in Delaware. Wind power is the fastest growing source of power in the US and the main reason is simple – its cost is fixed and attractive.
For example, in November 2005, the 35,000 customers of Excel Energy in Colorado who had signed up to purchase “green power” fueled by wind farms began paying less than Excel’s other customers. Natural gas shortages had forced Excel to impose a 27% price increase on traditional power customers, while the 35,000 wind power customers paid an average of $10 less per month. Wind is no longer an environmentalist’s pipe dream and with more US and European wind power companies building manufacturing plants in the US, I believe it is time for Delaware to get on board.
This is what caught my eye. He seems to understand that environmental benefits and economic costs and benefits are coming into alignment. The view that the two are antithetical is outdated, as I noted in comments I made to the Public Service Commission in March:
The conventional wisdom is that the public’s environmental interest is in conflict with the public’s economic interest. But my review of the record leads me to conclude that the conventional wisdom has been turned on its head...
No one could pretend to understand all of the the environmental and economic challenges that will confront us over the next decade. I could hardly expect that this one policy pronouncement can or will contain all there is to say about energy. One thing I look for in our next governor is an ability to look ahead, and not simply rely on the conventional wisdom of recent years. (By the way, I'm looking for similar evidence of forward thinking from John Carney, who can draw on his own public policy chops, having earned a masters degree in public administration.)
It's not enough to simply present a list of policy points without offering some framework on which those policies are arrayed.
I'm not just looking for someone to hit the right notes; I'm looking for someone who understands the melody and harmony, and not just the individual notes.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greats analysis Tom. You get the feeling with Markell that he views public office as a way to get things done - rather than an end in itself.

11:13 PM, October 18, 2007  
Blogger Tom Noyes said...

Thanks. I'm as interested in how a person thinks as I am in what a person thinks.

9:34 AM, October 19, 2007  

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