Thursday, March 12, 2009

My Comments on the State Energy Plan, Part 1

As I wrote the other day, the Governor's Energy Advisory Council has developed a draft energy plan, which can be viewed at the Energy Office's website. Tonight, I present the first part of the comments I submitted to DNREC:
The conventional wisdom that the public’s environmental interest is in conflict with the public’s economic interest is out of date. Instead, policy makers and the public are coming to understand that our economic and environmental interests are closely aligned.
Many of the techniques and criteria used to analyze the costs and benefits of different sources and uses of energy reflect old assumptions that no longer stand up to careful scrutiny. When the costs of carbon emissions are factored into the costs of burning fossil fuels, cheap energy isn’t so cheap anymore, and renewable energy sources look more economical in comparison.
Economic analysis of energy proposals should encompass long term costs, economic development opportunities and health costs, as Governor Markell has proposed. Delaware’s Medicaid budget exceeds one half of one billion dollars; so health costs can hardly be considered to be incidental to a public discussion on energy policy.
Some of the recommendations stand up to such analysis, and deserve public support, including: Recommendation 37: Clean Energy Business Development Initiative, Recommendation 12: Distributed Renewable Energy, Recommendation 25: Alternative Fuel/Fuel Efficient Vehicles, Recommendation 27: Smart Growth and Recommendation 28: Transit-Oriented Development, to name a few.
In particular, I wish to endorse Recommendation 49: Energy Planning Governance:
Energy Policy should be elevated to the Governor’s office by creating a Governor’s Executive Office for Energy Policy.
The scope of the energy policy challenges and opportunities facing Delaware goes far beyond the long standing functions of utility regulation and encouraging conservation. For instance, our state government is not adequately equipped to meet the opportunities presented by the burgeoning renewable energy industry. Nancy Floyd of Nth Power, a company that invests in new energy technologies, has compared the clean energy business to the computer industry when the Macintosh came out in 1984.
Governor Markell has said in his budget briefings that Delaware’s budget crisis stems from an economic crisis. State government budgets for roughly 15,000 full time employees, not including public and higher education. With a workforce this large, we should be able to provide the staff to make Delaware a leader in creating a new energy economy.

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