In pondering why energy emerged as the No. 3 topic of discussion — after terrorism/Iraq and the Nov. 7th elections — during White House Radio Day, the thought occurred that energy, while a pressing national priority, is still defined regionally according to local production patterns. And WDAY’s “Hot Talk” host, Scott Hennen, who allowed us to join him, broadcasts to an Upper Midwest audience from Fargo, North Dakota.
In the Upper Midwest, ethanol now rules — politically, at least. (For a good analysis of the economic viability of alternative fuels, please see this Popular Mechanics article.) So in interviewing Deputy Energy Secretary Clay Sell on Tuesday, Hennen spent much of the discussion on ethanol.
Still, given that North Dakota is also a major coal state, with abundant supplies of a low energy-content coal called lignite, and is awfully windy, the interview ventured into those other areas, including clean-coal technology.
Hennen’s interest in wind was also piqued by local initiatives in Grand Forks and Fargo, N.D., which would mandate a 20 percent reliance on renewable energy by 2020 in those communities (and 30 percent by 2030). Local mandates strike us as a bad idea, as carving out small territories for specific energy uses and disregarding market forces. (A good fact sheet from opponents is here.) Sell was, shall we say, politically adroit when asked about the topic.
Finally, we were pleased to see the Deputy Secretary endorse the major point that NAM makes on energy: “I would say that anyone who’s spent a little time in the energy policy arena, or who has talked much about it, recognizes that there is no one silver bullet, there is no one great silver bullet.” The NAM supports a national energy policy that promotes a robust, diverse and dependable energy supply, building on the foundation of our major energy resources: oil, coal and clean-coal, natural gas and nuclear power.
To the extent alternative energy can supplement those production sectors, great, but for the U.S. manufacturing economy to grow, we will need to expand the use of the major energy resources that produce baseload electricity.
It’s a pretty good interview, providing insight into how one part of our country views the national energy debate. For an unofficial transcript, please go to this pdf file: Interview with Clay Sell