Friday, March 6, 2009

A Transition to Cleaner Energy

Last week (2.24.09), The Center for American Progress (CAP) hosted a discussion with Robert Hefner III, Founder and CEO of GHK Exploration and author of The GET: Grand Energy Transition. CAP President and CEO John Podesta introduced Hefner as one of “the most powerful voices on the issue of energy transformation and energy security.”

Hefner is an engaging optimist willing to make assertions like 'cars are good; Americans love their cars and that's alright too, today's cars just run on the wrong kind of fuel; technologically speaking, not such a complicated fix. Correct that and you've got something.' Paraphrasing, of course, but not far from one of Hefner's central messages.

An ardent propent of natural gas as an abundant, carbon-free and clean-burning fuel, Hefner's book:
"highlights the long story of natural gas as a superior fuel, but currently of limited use in the United States, and argues that this energy source is a larger resource than liquid oil in the world."
When asked about the potential use of natural gas in other countries,
"Hefner underscored that Singapore runs its energy grid with natural gas, whereas several African nations still lag behind cleaner energy alternatives. “I believe in the abundance of natural gas,” Hefner said. “Everywhere we find coal or oil, natural gas is also found, and there are countries with large resources of natural gas like the United States, Indonesia or Australia.” In his book, he argues that U.S natural gas reserves are probably as large as—or larger than—the country’s remaining minable coal."
The CAP website summarizes Hefner's presentation (and proposed legislation, the Energy and Industrial Recovery Plan), as follows:
"First, he called for the elimination of taxes on labor and capital that would be replaced with a green consumption-based tax levied initially upon the use of oil and coal. Secondly, the Energy and Industrial Recovery Plan, a new piece of legislation proposed by Hefner, seeks to retrofit and transform half the U.S. automobile fleet to natural gas by 2020. He explained that an essential piece of infrastructure for this plan would be a 2.2 million-mile natural gas pipeline grid that would link the majority of U.S. metropolitan gas stations, as well as 63 million homes where nearly 130 million cars can be filled with home-fueling appliances.

He concluded by saying that the $1.5 trillion-dollar Energy and Industrial Recovery Plan, if passed, would also accomplish a number of economic, strategic, and climate goals, such as saving tens of thousands of jobs in the automobile industry; reduce oil imports by more than 5 million barrels per day; save trillions of dollars in payments to foreign oil partners that can instead be invested in the United States; lower carbon dioxide emissions by hundreds of millions of tons annually; and restore U.S. leadership in global energy—to name a few."

Like Architect Ed Mazria, Robert Hefner is a realist, a futurist and a person of resolute conviction that solutions are not only possible but are also right in front of us. Find the time to watch the CAP event. It's about an hour... well spent.

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