The 207-page report contained about 200 recommendations on how
President Barack Obama can use executive authority to advance the
climate change action plan he announced in June. It was released by
former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, who briefed U.S. cabinet
officials and senior policy staff focused on energy and climate
policy last week.
The recommendations focus on five areas: doubling energy efficiency;
financing renewable energy; producing natural gas more responsibly;
developing alternative fuels and vehicles; and helping utilities
adapt to the country's changed energy landscape.
They highlight measures that every federal agency can take, said
Heather Zichal, a former energy and climate policy adviser to Obama
who helped coordinate the report.
"The president is going to put pressure on his agencies to identify
areas of opportunity" to help the country meet its goal of slashing
carbon emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, said Zichal,
who left the White House in late 2013.
The report was inspired by a meeting last March between Obama and 14
corporate and private sector leaders to discuss ideas to reshape
energy policy. It was produced by the Center for the New Energy
Economy (CNEE) at Colorado State University, with contributions from
more than 100 business leaders, academics, energy experts and
One of the recommendations called on federal agencies to work with
electric utilities and regulators across the country to update
regulations that have created barriers for new clean energy
"As one utility executive put it, today's new energy technologies
are 10 years ahead of utilities in the United States, and utilities
are 10 years ahead of regulations," Ritter said.
Another idea was for the Internal Revenue Service to reform the tax
code to level the playing field for private investors who want to
bankroll clean energy technologies.
Zichal said proposals like a
bipartisan bill introduced last year called the Master Limited
Partnership Parity Act and Real Estate Investment Trusts could offer
the same tax breaks that support fossil fuel projects to the
renewable energy industry.
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The report also calls for a federal process to develop methods to
account for the full costs of various energy choices, including
healthcare costs associated with air pollution.
By calculating those costs, the administration would have more
information and choices to develop a "best of the above" energy
strategy. That's in contrast to the "all of the above" strategy
often cited by the administration.
That strategy uses cost assumptions and acknowledges the need for
the continued use of fossil fuel energy sources while calling for a
ratcheting down in carbon emissions.
"All of the above" has come under criticism, most recently by
several leading U.S. environmental groups that sent a letter last
week to new White House energy adviser John Podesta.
In a reply to the groups, Podesta outlined some of the
administration's accomplishments on the environment, including new
vehicle greenhouse gas emission standards, in light of tough
political opposition from Republicans in Congress.
He noted their attempts to defund the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency or to weaken its authority to regulate greenhouse gases, and
said he had expected to see more support for the administration's
work from the groups.
"Given this context, I was surprised that you chose to send your
January 16 letter to President Obama," Podesta wrote in his reply.
(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; editing by Ros Krasny and Amanda
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