Memo to: Jim Lehrer, PBS; Candy Crowley, CNN; Bob Schieffer, CBS
In re: Energy questions you should be asking when you moderate the upcoming October Presidential debates
From: A diverse panel of energy experts, assembled by the American Petroleum Institute (API) in Washington Sept. 19.
Both President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney say they back “all of the above” in energy and see the energy industry as an important job-creator, but the experts said on-point questions could reveal substantial differences between Democrat Obama and Republican Romney.
On the panel were Charles Ebinger, Director of the Energy Security Initiative, Brookings Institution; Kyle Isakower, Vice President, American Petroleum Institute; Michael Mandel, Chief Economic Strategist, Progressive Policy Institute; Kevin Smith, CEO, SolarReserve; Frank Verrastro, Director of the Energy and National Security Program, Center for Strategic & International Studies; and Jack Gerard, President and CEO, API.
Among the questions they raised for the Presidential hopefuls:
- What does “energy independence” mean to each candidate, and is North American energy independence desirable? Given the US’s network of trade agreements, is independence even feasible? If independence means simply that the US no longer buys oil from the Middle East, how would that change our global military needs and strategy? How would it shift our relations with Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Iran?
- How would each candidate react to a hostile closing of the Straits of Hormuz? If the US doesn’t need Middle Eastern oil, emerging Asian economies still will, so whose Navy will keep the Straits open if the US does not?
- What’s the future role of nuclear power? Can the nation have a serious climate policy without a serious nuclear one, including finally confronting the issue of nuclear waste? How should the US deal with nuclear waste? Would the candidate endorse continued research and development work in small modular nuclear reactors?
- Should the US export liquefied natural gas (LNG)? Natural gas supporters want to ship it to higher-priced markets abroad; petrochemical manufacturers want to limit or bar exports to keep US feedstock prices low. How would each candidate balance these competing interests?
- One reason US oil consumption has gone down in the last three years is higher auto fuel economy, or CAFE, standards. Those standards are slated to raise average mileage requirements even more in the coming decade. Are CAFE standards a good approach to energy efficiency – and why or why not? What’s the alternative?
- Fossil fuels like natural gas and coal still play a large role in US energy, but coal particularly has a huge and expanding role in bringing electricity to people in emerging nations. Both have significant carbon emissions. What’s the proper trade-off between fossil energy, economic development, and climate protection?
- Energy research and development is key to any long-term energy policy, but how can the US afford to continue to support research in the current budgetary environment?
- Regulation of natural gas and oil hydraulic fracturing is now left largely to the states. Is that adequate to protect local environments, or are some federal standards or other regulation needed, particularly where aquifers underlie more than one state?
The debates are scheduled Oct. 3 in Colorado, moderated by Lehrer; Oct. 16 in New York, moderated by Crowley; and Oct. 22 in Florida, moderated by Schieffer. All will be televised.