US Needs A Serious, Informed Energy Debate

Will he back raising fuel prices to European levels?

barack_obama.jpgSource of picture: sociologycompass.wordpress.com

 

By John Richardson

IN the midst of the continuing BP oil-spill saga, here’s an important question for our American readers: Once the story is forgotten, meaning when it drops out of the 24-hour-news cycle, will you be willing to back tougher legislation that could lead to gasoline once again rising to above $4 a gallon?

Maybe I am reading the wrong reports, but I have yet to see a serious debate about the tough lifestyle choices the world’s biggest energy consumer might need to make.

Sure, BP appears to have made lots of mistakes, but even with the best safety standards, pushing the technology envelope hard to extract oil from difficult, remote places may become uneconomic if the wrong kind of regulations are introduced.

Or, perhaps, the alternative is to go for much-tougher deep-sea and arctic drilling rules while providing hell-for-leather support for the US ethanol industry, without having to sacrifrice all those lovely SUVs? As this excellent article from my colleague at ICIS in Houston, William Lemos, points out the US ethanol is sorely in need of more support.

But what will happen if there are no commercial breakthroughs in second-generation technology and the food-versus-fuel debate rears its head again?

And/or as we wrote about earlier this week, the US has huge potential to add more natural gas to its energy mix, but there are environmental concerns over shale gas.

“Most of the risks in shale gas relate to what happens above ground – i.e. accidents in handling the acid used to extract the gas,” a senior chemicals industry source told the blog this week.

Presumably, these risks should be fairly easy to mitigate, as indeed they probably have been, by a Responsible Care-style approach.

“What happens underground isn’t a problem because the depth of these shale-gas wells is way deeper than aquifers and so the only problem for groundwater pollution would be if there was a rupture. Ruptures shouldn’t happen if the right drilling procedures are used,” he added.

The debate about the right energy choices needs to be serious, and informed by good science, along with the President of the US being brave enough to stand up and say: “I am going to raise taxes on fuel to the same levels as Europe.”

Dream on…..

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