Obama huddles with energy execs, ‘thought leaders’

Source: Nick Juliano, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, March 11, 2013

President Obama met Thursday night with more than a dozen executives and “thought leaders” to discuss energy policies, including natural gas, renewables, research and development, and efficiency, the White House said today.

The meeting comes ahead of a planned trip by Obama to Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois to discuss energy policy.

“The discussion covered a variety of topics, including the important role of natural gas in our domestic energy portfolio; new opportunities for renewables, like wind, solar and advanced biofuels; the importance of clean energy research and development; as well as the promise and potential of increased energy efficiency in our homes and businesses,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said during today’s briefing.

Earnest touted the administration’s record, including increases in U.S. oil and natural gas production, a doubling of renewable energy installations, reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and lowered oil imports.

“The president made clear that his administration will build on this historic progress, using tools including existing authorities across the federal government and leveraging public-private partnerships to achieve key energy and climate objectives in his second term,” Earnest said today.

Meeting participants were culled from nearly all sectors of the energy space, including companies devoted to oil, natural gas, electric utilities, biofuels, renewable electricity and efficiency, as well as former government officials and academics.

The participants included Jim Hackett, executive chairman, Anadarko Petroleum Corp.; Lew Hay, executive chairman, NextEra Energy Inc., and chairman, Edison Electric Institute; Walter Isaacson, president and CEO, Aspen Institute; Shirley Jackson, president, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Eric Lander, professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard, and member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology; Alex Laskey, president and founder, Opower; former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, director, Center for the New Energy Economy, Colorado State University; Debra Reed, CEO, Sempra Energy; Terry Royer, president and CEO, Winergy; Jeff Shaw, CEO, Southwest Gas Corp.; Fred Smith, chairman, president and CEO, FedEx Corp.; Cass Sunstein, professor, Harvard Law School; Sue Tierney, managing principal, Analysis Group; and Cynthia Warner, president, Sapphire Energy Inc.

White House staff at the meeting included John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Heather Zichal, deputy assistant to the president for energy and climate change; and Cecilia Muñoz, director of the Domestic Policy Council.

The list of attendees includes several prominent names in energy policy circles.

For example, Smith also serves as co-chairman of Securing America’s Future Energy, the group that came up with the proposal to create an “Energy Security Trust” to spend royalties from oil and gas production on federal lands for clean energy research and development. Obama touted the idea in his State of the Union address this year.

Sunstein previously led the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which is in charge of reviewing major federal regulations. And Tierney is a former Department of Energy official who remains a prominent fixture in Washington and was rumored to have been in the running to become secretary of Energy.

In an interview today, Tierney said the meeting was a wide-ranging exchange of ideas on a variety of energy issues, as well as the president’s existing authorities under environmental laws and his ability to use the “bully pulpit” to elevate public attention to energy policy concerns. She declined to provide many specifics on the discussion.

“It’s probably no surprise to think of the kind of topics the president’s interested in,” she said, noting that “the nation’s domestic resources” were a definite topic, including all different types of energy, not just clean energy or renewables.

Obama’s trip to Argonne National Lab will present a key opportunity to employ the bully pulpit on energy. Earnest said that he would travel to the facility today to discuss energy and that additional details on the trip would be released next week.