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Energy Politics and a Coming Shift in the Environmental Movement  Rory Cox
 Aug 26, 2005 11:53 PDT 

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Energy Politics and a Coming Shift in the Environmental Movement
August 25, 2005 22 40 GMT

Stratfor.com



By Bart Mongoven

With oil prices at record levels and rising, the question of whether
there are sufficient global supplies to satisfy rising demand -- and
even whether continued reliance on oil as a primary energy source is a
sound idea -- is moving from the sidelines to become a more prominent
issue in American public policy debate. This is leading to a very public
discussion in policy circles over the role of oil in the U.S. economy
and alternative energy sources. Several policy debates will unfold in
coming months that forward-thinking businesses need to be aware of: They
will provide an opportunity for businesses in the energy industry to
work with heretofore unlikely allies: environmental groups.

Despite the recent passage of comprehensive energy legislation, debate
on energy sources will continue this autumn (and for the foreseeable
future), largely as a result of public concerns over oil prices and over
the national-security implications of reliance on foreign oil suppliers.
Significantly, environmentalists are incorporating both political and
economic -- rather than merely "environmental" -- arguments into their
campaign for alternative energy sources, with some success. And although
neither a substantial shift in federal energy policy nor a significant
reformulation of the current mix of U.S. energy sources is likely
anytime soon, policymakers' discussions about alternative sources --
particularly nuclear and liquefied natural gas (LNG) -- will gain new
seriousness after the August congressional recess. Also, though the
McCain-Lieberman climate change bill did not pass this summer, various
iterations of similar carbon-cap legislation are likely to be put
forward during the next three months.

Alternatives to oil

Viable alternatives to oil currently include nuclear energy (a
perennially controversial subject), liquefied natural gas (LNG) and
so-called "clean coal" technology. Different considerations apply to
each as a potential primary energy source.

Where nuclear energy is concerned, there have been no new power
facilities built in the United States since the Three Mile Island
disaster 26 years ago. Recently, however, the Bush administration has
discussed the possibility of issuing permits for new nuclear power
facilities, thus showing a degree of support for increased nuclear
energy usage. This initiative, and the potential for new reactors to be
built in places such as Virginia and Alabama, is drawing the attention
of media and of activists who view Bush's proposal as a problematic
first step toward the eventual construction of new nuclear facilities.

Environmentalists -- along with a sizable percentage of the American
population -- traditionally have viewed nuclear energy as too risky, too
unsafe and too environmentally harmful to be an acceptable alternative
to fossil fuels. In fact, organizations such as Greenpeace originally
were founded to oppose nuclear energy in the 1970s. Opposition to
nuclear energy has remained a core issue for many environmental groups,
despite the drastic reductions in emissions of both toxics and
greenhouse gases that would result if nuclear power replaced coal-fired
plants in the power generation sector.

However, growing concerns about the release of carbon dioxide and other
greenhouse gases (GHGs) from the burning of coal and oil have caused
some environmentalists to reexamine this view. For example, both
Environmental Defense and the Pew Center on Global Climate Change (a
powerful nonprofit funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts) recently have
expressed the opinion that nuclear energy should not be ruled out as an
option for replacing GHG-emitting power plants. This opinion would have
been anathema to the environmental community 20 years ago -- and to
some, it still is -- but it reflects the way beliefs about global
climate change are radically affecting mainstream environmentalists'
views of what is and is not "environmentally friendly."

LNG also has faced significant opposition, despite indications that
building more infrastructure for LNG imports in the United States could
be the key to easing tight supplies of and high prices of natural gas --
and thus help to reduce U.S. demand for oil. This opposition derives
mostly from coastal communities, where local groups subscribing to the
"Not In My Backyard" (NIMBY) argument claim that LNG facilities are
potential hazards to health and safety and could hurt the property value
of their homes and businesses. Construction of new LNG terminals, like
construction of new nuclear facilities, also has been stalled by arduous
multi-stakeholder permit and siting processes.

However, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 contained provisions increasing
the federal government's ability to override such objections at the
local and regional levels. In addition, many in the NGO community --
which normally builds on NIMBY concerns to build wider opposition to
some development projects, particularly industrial facilities -- have
shown tacit support for construction of more LNG facilities. This
position stems from the view among many in the environmental community
that natural gas -- especially if used in the transportation sector --
could be a bridge fuel to non-polluting hydrogen fuel cells, seen by
many (including the Bush administration) as the light at the end of the
energy-debate tunnel.

"Clean coal" -- a term referring to a range of technologies that allow
coal to be burned without emitting high levels of GHGs -- is another
controversial source of energy.

As with nuclear energy and LNG, a vocal community normally opposed to
increased consumption of coal -- national and local environmental groups
-- is increasingly split on the feasibility and usefulness of new
technologies to improve the environmental performance of coal use. Some
groups continue to view coal as an irredeemably problematic energy
source, while others argue that coal deserves a fresh look in light of
recently developed technologies that reduce the emissions of coal-fueled
plants. In particular, the influential Natural Resources Defense Council
(NRDC) has adjusted its position on the use of clean coal technologies
that capture and store carbon rather than releasing it into the
atmosphere. In the past, NRDC -- along with most environmental groups --
dismissed "clean coal" as, at best, an oxymoron, and at worst, a cynical
attempt at "greenwashing" by the coal and energy industries. Recently,
however, NRDC has argued that the threat of global climate change and
advances in clean coal technology have made clean coal more attractive.









New Partnerships Emerging

As support grows for these new energy sources, relationships between
environmentalists and business are changing in an intriguing way. The
support of some in the environmental community for these alternative
energy sources shows the extent to which the movement is willing to
compromise -- risking its standing in the eyes of hard-line
environmental groups -- to reach the ultimate objective of capping GHG
emissions in the United States. Some environmentalists are realizing
that they must promote the use of viable alternative energy sources, not
all of which might be completely benign from an environmental
standpoint, in order to reduce the United States' consumption of oil --
the energy source they view as the greater evil.

The schism forming between these two factions provides businesses in the
energy sector with opportunities to work with environmental groups on
certain projects. If they seize these opportunities, businesses could
gain a key ally in policy debates and potentially increase their
standing within the environmental community.

A leading example of such a partnership involves General Electric (GE)
and several Washington environmental groups. In May, GE -- in
cooperation with Environmental Defense and World Resources Institute --
launched its "Ecomagination" initiative, committing to (among other
things) reduce its GHG emissions 1 percent by 2012. GE potentially could
be a major contractor involved in the construction of new nuclear power
plants and related equipment. After partnering with GE, Environmental
Defense broke with the rest of the Washington-based environmental
organizations to support the most recent version of the McCain-Lieberman
Climate Stewardship Act, which contains provisions for the government to
subsidize the construction of nuclear power plants.

This is not to suggest that Environmental Defense and GE hammered out a
bargain wherein the corporation agreed to support Environmental
Defense's campaigns on global warming and greenhouse gas emissions in
exchange for the group's lobbying support. Rather, Environmental Defense
and GE simply came to realize that they had similar objectives --
support for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and for the idea
that nuclear power is a viable means by which to achieve those
reductions.

The ongoing shifts in the environmental community's view of energy
issues indicate that more corporate-activist partnerships of this kind
are possible.

Environmentalists and certain other key lobbies -- including the
producers of other sources of energy -- for some time have called for
U.S. policymakers to force drastic reductions in the amount of oil the
country consumes. The government could force this change mainly in two
ways: Either by providing massive research and development investments
for new energy technologies, or by pushing through more strict
energy-efficiency and fuel-economy standards for products made and sold
in the United States -- especially automobiles.

Some of those arguing for this policy change approach the issue as a
purely environmental concern, while others claim the United States'
dependence on oil -- which at this point is mostly imported from other
countries, and perpetually unstable ones at that -- poses a serious
threat to national security. Still others think the focus on oil poses a
serious economic threat and that encouragement of alternative energy
sources will help to promote U.S.-based forms of energy (such as ethanol
and coal) -- thus boosting the country's economic health to a degree.

At the end of the day, and however the argument is presented, calls for
reduced oil consumption in the United States will continue to grow
during the near future -- especially as gas prices continue to climb and
oil-producing regions such as Venezuela and the Middle East pose foreign
policy dilemmas.

As this debate progresses, the lines between pro-environment and
pro-business factions will blur. This represents a significant change in
the mechanics of the energy debate in the United States and that is
likely to make advocacy of different energy sources -- especially
nuclear, LNG and clean coal -- more nuanced in the future, and
opportunities for partnerships more apparent.



****************************************

Rory Cox - Communications Coordinator

Pacific Environment

311 California Street, Suite 650

San Francisco, CA 94104

Ph: 415/399-8850 x302

Fax: 415/399-8860

www.pacificenvironment.org

www.lngwatch.com



Protecting the Living Environment of the Pacific Rim.




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<div class=Section1>

<p class=highlight><b><font size=2 color="#0c5496" face=Verdana><span
style='font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Verdana'>Energy Politics and a Coming Shift
in the Environmental Movement<br>
August 25, 2005 22 40  GMT<o:p></o:p></span></font></b></p>

<p class=highlight><b><font size=2 color="#0c5496" face=Verdana><span
style='font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Verdana'>Stratfor.com<o:p></o:p></span></font></b></p>

<p class=MsoNormal><font size=1 color=black face=Verdana><span
style='font-size:9.0pt;font-family:Verdana;color:black'><o:p> </o:p></span></font></p>

<p style='margin-bottom:12.0pt'><b><font size=1 color=black face=Verdana><span
style='font-size:9.0pt;font-family:Verdana;color:black;font-weight:bold'>By
Bart Mongoven</span></font></b><font size=1 color=black face=Verdana><span
style='font-size:9.0pt;font-family:Verdana;color:black'><br>
<br>
With oil prices at record levels and rising, the question of whether there are
sufficient global supplies to satisfy rising demand -- and even whether
continued reliance on oil as a primary energy source is a sound idea -- is
moving from the sidelines to become a more prominent issue in American public
policy debate. This is leading to a very public discussion in policy circles
over the role of oil in the <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">U.S.</st1:place></st1:country-region>
economy and alternative energy sources. Several policy debates will unfold in
coming months that forward-thinking businesses need to be aware of: They will
provide an opportunity for businesses in the energy industry to work with
heretofore unlikely allies: environmental groups.<br>
<br>
Despite the recent passage of comprehensive energy legislation, debate on
energy sources will continue this autumn (and for the foreseeable future),
largely as a result of public concerns over oil prices and over the
national-security implications of reliance on foreign oil suppliers.
Significantly, environmentalists are incorporating both political and economic
-- rather than merely "environmental" -- arguments into their
campaign for alternative energy sources, with some success. And although
neither a substantial shift in federal energy policy nor a significant reformulation
of the current mix of <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">U.S.</st1:place></st1:country-region>
energy sources is likely anytime soon, policymakers<st1:PersonName w:st="on">'</st1:PersonName>
discussions about alternative sources -- particularly nuclear and liquefied
natural gas (LNG) -- will gain new seriousness after the August congressional
recess. Also, though the McCain-Lieberman climate change bill did not pass this
summer, various iterations of similar carbon-cap legislation are likely to be
put forward during the next three months.<br>
<br>
<b><span style='font-weight:bold'>Alternatives to oil</span></b><br>
<br>
Viable alternatives to oil currently include nuclear energy (a perennially
controversial subject), liquefied natural gas (LNG) and so-called "clean
coal" technology. Different considerations apply to each as a potential
primary energy source. <br>
<br>
Where nuclear energy is concerned, there have been no new power facilities
built in the <st1:country-region w:st="on">United States</st1:country-region>
since the <st1:place w:st="on">Three Mile Island</st1:place> disaster 26 years
ago. Recently, however, the Bush administration has discussed the possibility
of issuing permits for new nuclear power facilities, thus showing a degree of
support for increased nuclear energy usage. This initiative, and the potential
for new reactors to be built in places such as <st1:State w:st="on">Virginia</st1:State>
and <st1:State w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Alabama</st1:place></st1:State>,
is drawing the attention of media and of activists who view Bush<st1:PersonName
w:st="on">'</st1:PersonName>s proposal as a problematic first step toward the
eventual construction of new nuclear facilities. <br>
<br>
Environmentalists -- along with a sizable percentage of the American population
-- traditionally have viewed nuclear energy as too risky, too unsafe and too
environmentally harmful to be an acceptable alternative to fossil fuels. In
fact, organizations such as Greenpeace originally were founded to oppose
nuclear energy in the 1970s. Opposition to nuclear energy has remained a core
issue for many environmental groups, despite the drastic reductions in
emissions of both toxics and greenhouse gases that would result if nuclear
power replaced coal-fired plants in the power generation sector. <br>
<br>
However, growing concerns about the release of carbon dioxide and other
greenhouse gases (GHGs) from the burning of coal and oil have caused some
environmentalists to reexamine this view. For example, both Environmental
Defense and the <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:PlaceName w:st="on">Pew</st1:PlaceName>
<st1:PlaceType w:st="on">Center</st1:PlaceType></st1:place> on Global Climate
Change (a powerful nonprofit funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts) recently have
expressed the opinion that nuclear energy should not be ruled out as an option
for replacing GHG-emitting power plants. This opinion would have been anathema
to the environmental community 20 years ago -- and to some, it still is -- but
it reflects the way beliefs about global climate change are radically affecting
mainstream environmentalists<st1:PersonName w:st="on">'</st1:PersonName> views
of what is and is not "environmentally friendly."<br>
<br>
LNG also has faced significant opposition, despite indications that building
more infrastructure for LNG imports in the <st1:country-region w:st="on">United
States</st1:country-region> could be the key to easing tight supplies of and
high prices of natural gas -- and thus help to reduce <st1:country-region
w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">U.S.</st1:place></st1:country-region> demand for
oil. This opposition derives mostly from coastal communities, where local
groups subscribing to the "Not In My Backyard" (NIMBY) argument claim
that LNG facilities are potential hazards to health and safety and could hurt
the property value of their homes and businesses. Construction of new LNG
terminals, like construction of new nuclear facilities, also has been stalled
by arduous multi-stakeholder permit and siting processes. <br>
<br>
However, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 contained provisions increasing the
federal government<st1:PersonName w:st="on">'</st1:PersonName>s ability to
override such objections at the local and regional levels. In addition, many in
the NGO community -- which normally builds on NIMBY concerns to build wider
opposition to some development projects, particularly industrial facilities --
have shown tacit support for construction of more LNG facilities. This position
stems from the view among many in the environmental community that natural gas
-- especially if used in the transportation sector -- could be a bridge fuel to
non-polluting hydrogen fuel cells, seen by many (including the Bush
administration) as the light at the end of the energy-debate tunnel. <br>
<br>
"Clean coal" -- a term referring to a range of technologies that
allow coal to be burned without emitting high levels of GHGs -- is another
controversial source of energy. <br>
<br>
As with nuclear energy and LNG, a vocal community normally opposed to increased
consumption of coal -- national and local environmental groups -- is
increasingly split on the feasibility and usefulness of new technologies to
improve the environmental performance of coal use. Some groups continue to view
coal as an irredeemably problematic energy source, while others argue that coal
deserves a fresh look in light of recently developed technologies that reduce
the emissions of coal-fueled plants. In particular, the influential Natural
Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has adjusted its position on the use of clean coal
technologies that capture and store carbon rather than releasing it into the
atmosphere. In the past, NRDC -- along with most environmental groups --
dismissed "clean coal" as, at best, an oxymoron, and at worst, a
cynical attempt at "greenwashing" by the coal and energy industries.
Recently, however, NRDC has argued that the threat of global climate change and
advances in clean coal technology have made clean coal more attractive.<o:p></o:p></span></font></p>

<p class=MsoNormal align=center style='text-align:center'><font size=1
color=black face=Verdana><span style='font-size:9.0pt;font-family:Verdana;
color:black'><img width=400 height=230 id="_x0000_i1025"
src="cid:image0-@01C5AA33.E6C91900"><o:p></o:p></span></font></p>

<p class=MsoNormal style='margin-bottom:12.0pt'><font size=1 color=black
face=Verdana><span style='font-size:9.0pt;font-family:Verdana;color:black'><o:p> </o:p></span></font></p>

<p class=MsoNormal align=center style='text-align:center'><font size=1
color=black face=Verdana><span style='font-size:9.0pt;font-family:Verdana;
color:black'><img width=400 height=230 id="_x0000_i1026"
src="cid:image0-@01C5AA33.E6C91900"><o:p></o:p></span></font></p>

<p class=MsoNormal><font size=1 color=black face=Verdana><span
style='font-size:9.0pt;font-family:Verdana;color:black'><br>
<br>
<b><span style='font-weight:bold'>New Partnerships Emerging</span></b><br>
<br>
As support grows for these new energy sources, relationships between
environmentalists and business are changing in an intriguing way. The support
of some in the environmental community for these alternative energy sources
shows the extent to which the movement is willing to compromise -- risking its
standing in the eyes of hard-line environmental groups -- to reach the ultimate
objective of capping GHG emissions in the <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place
w:st="on">United States</st1:place></st1:country-region>. Some
environmentalists are realizing that they must promote the use of viable
alternative energy sources, not all of which might be completely benign from an
environmental standpoint, in order to reduce the <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place
w:st="on">United States</st1:place></st1:country-region><st1:PersonName w:st="on">'</st1:PersonName>
consumption of oil -- the energy source they view as the greater evil.<br>
<br>
The schism forming between these two factions provides businesses in the energy
sector with opportunities to work with environmental groups on certain
projects. If they seize these opportunities, businesses could gain a key ally
in policy debates and potentially increase their standing within the
environmental community.<br>
<br>
A leading example of such a partnership involves General Electric (GE) and
several <st1:State w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Washington</st1:place></st1:State>
environmental groups. In May, GE -- in cooperation with Environmental Defense
and World Resources Institute -- launched its "Ecomagination"
initiative, committing to (among other things) reduce its GHG emissions 1
percent by 2012. GE potentially could be a major contractor involved in the
construction of new nuclear power plants and related equipment. After
partnering with GE, Environmental Defense broke with the rest of the
Washington-based environmental organizations to support the most recent version
of the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act, which contains provisions for
the government to subsidize the construction of nuclear power plants. <br>
<br>
This is not to suggest that Environmental Defense and GE hammered out a bargain
wherein the corporation agreed to support Environmental Defense<st1:PersonName
w:st="on">'</st1:PersonName>s campaigns on global warming and greenhouse gas
emissions in exchange for the group<st1:PersonName w:st="on">'</st1:PersonName>s
lobbying support. Rather, Environmental Defense and GE simply came to realize
that they had similar objectives -- support for reductions in greenhouse gas
emissions, and for the idea that nuclear power is a viable means by which to
achieve those reductions. <br>
<br>
The ongoing shifts in the environmental community<st1:PersonName w:st="on">'</st1:PersonName>s
view of energy issues indicate that more corporate-activist partnerships of
this kind are possible.<br>
<br>
Environmentalists and certain other key lobbies -- including the producers of
other sources of energy -- for some time have called for <st1:country-region
w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">U.S.</st1:place></st1:country-region>
policymakers to force drastic reductions in the amount of oil the country
consumes. The government could force this change mainly in two ways: Either by
providing massive research and development investments for new energy
technologies, or by pushing through more strict energy-efficiency and
fuel-economy standards for products made and sold in the <st1:country-region
w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">United States</st1:place></st1:country-region>
-- especially automobiles. <br>
<br>
Some of those arguing for this policy change approach the issue as a purely
environmental concern, while others claim the United States<st1:PersonName
w:st="on">'</st1:PersonName> dependence on oil -- which at this point is mostly
imported from other countries, and perpetually unstable ones at that -- poses a
serious threat to national security. Still others think the focus on oil poses
a serious economic threat and that encouragement of alternative energy sources
will help to promote U.S.-based forms of energy (such as ethanol and coal) --
thus boosting the country<st1:PersonName w:st="on">'</st1:PersonName>s economic
health to a degree. <br>
<br>
At the end of the day, and however the argument is presented, calls for reduced
oil consumption in the <st1:country-region w:st="on">United States</st1:country-region>
will continue to grow during the near future -- especially as gas prices
continue to climb and oil-producing regions such as <st1:country-region w:st="on">Venezuela</st1:country-region>
and the <st1:place w:st="on">Middle East</st1:place> pose foreign policy
dilemmas.<br>
<br>
As this debate progresses, the lines between pro-environment and pro-business
factions will blur. This represents a significant change in the mechanics of
the energy debate in the <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">United
States</st1:place></st1:country-region> and that is likely to make advocacy
of different energy sources -- especially nuclear, LNG and clean coal -- more
nuanced in the future, and opportunities for partnerships more apparent.</span></font><font
size=2 face=Arial><span style='font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Arial'><o:p></o:p></span></font></p>

<p class=MsoNormal><font size=2 face=Arial><span style='font-size:10.0pt;
font-family:Arial'><o:p> </o:p></span></font></p>

<p class=MsoNormal><font size=2 face=Arial><span style='font-size:10.0pt;
font-family:Arial'>****************************************</span></font><o:p></o:p></p>

<p class=MsoNormal><st1:PersonName w:st="on"><font size=2 face=Arial><span
style='font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Arial'>Rory Cox</span></font></st1:PersonName><font
size=2 face=Arial><span style='font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Arial'> -
Communications Coordinator</span></font><o:p></o:p></p>

<p class=MsoNormal><font size=2 face=Arial><span style='font-size:10.0pt;
font-family:Arial'>Pacific Environment</span></font><o:p></o:p></p>

<p class=MsoNormal><st1:Street w:st="on"><st1:address w:st="on"><font size=2
face=Arial><span style='font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Arial'>311 California
Street, Suite 650</span></font></st1:address></st1:Street><o:p></o:p></p>

<p class=MsoNormal><st1:place w:st="on"><st1:City w:st="on"><font size=2
face=Arial><span style='font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Arial'>San Francisco</span></font></st1:City><font
size=2 face=Arial><span style='font-size:10.0pt;font-family:Arial'>, <st1:State
w:st="on">CA</st1:State> <st1:PostalCode w:st="on">94104</st1:PostalCode></span></font></st1:place><o:p></o:p></p>

<p class=MsoNormal><font size=2 face=Arial><span style='font-size:10.0pt;
font-family:Arial'>Ph: 415/399-8850 x302</span></font><o:p></o:p></p>

<p class=MsoNormal><font size=2 face=Arial><span style='font-size:10.0pt;
font-family:Arial'>Fax: 415/399-8860</span></font><o:p></o:p></p>

<p class=MsoNormal><font size=2 face=Arial><span style='font-size:10.0pt;
font-family:Arial'><a href="http://www.pacificenvironment.org">www.pacificenvironment.org</a></span></font><o:p></o:p></p>

<p class=MsoNormal><font size=2 face=Arial><span style='font-size:10.0pt;
font-family:Arial'><a href="http://www.lngwatch.com">www.lngwatch.com</a></span></font><o:p></o:p></p>

<p class=MsoNormal><font size=3 face="Times New Roman"><span style='font-size:
12.0pt'> <o:p></o:p></span></font></p>

<p class=MsoNormal><font size=2 face=Arial><span style='font-size:10.0pt;
font-family:Arial'>Protecting the Living Environment of the <st1:place w:st="on">Pacific
Rim</st1:place>.</span></font><o:p></o:p></p>

<p class=MsoNormal><font size=3 face="Times New Roman"><span style='font-size:
12.0pt'><o:p> </o:p></span></font></p>

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