Achieving Presidential Candidates' Goal of a More Secure Energy Future

With crude oil, gasoline, and home heating oil prices near all-time highs, energy security in the US is one of the most common themes among the presidential candidates. While Democratic and Republican candidates alike agree that energy security should be high on the next president's agenda, their plans for achieving that goal vary widely.

"For the new president, perhaps the most important first step in developing a policy for energy security will be to establish the right process for progress -- one that is fully inclusive and transparent," said Marcela Donadio, Ernst & Young's oil and gas leader for the Americas. "Oil and gas companies should have a seat at the table alongside environmental leaders, renewable energy developers and energy efficiency experts."

"There are some thought-provoking ideas being raised through this presidential election cycle," said Charles Swanson, energy advisor and leader of Ernst & Young's Houston office. "That's the beauty of this process; it really gets people thinking big. But ultimately, the vision must be grounded in pragmatism, with short-term programs that can be implemented right away along with well-thought-out strategic goals and plans for a new energy future."

Longer-term focus on sustainable energy

In order to move toward a more secure energy future in the longer term, Ernst & Young energy leaders suggest that the next president focus multi-party dialogue on the following areas:

  • Incentives -- What incentives are necessary to spur major development of alternative and renewable energy and the clean use of carbon-based resources, as well as the infrastructure for delivering it?
  • Research and development -- How do we capture and reward the best thinking and move it from concept to reality?
  • Infrastructure -- How can we maximize the pipeline, transportation and retail network in place and what new infrastructure is needed?

Working together, government and industry can chart a reasonable, workable course for energy security using alternative resources such as biofuels, wind, solar and geothermal, along with the clean use of conventional energy resources. "The new administration has the perfect opportunity to bring the best thinking together to create a comprehensive energy strategy," said Donadio. "The easy part of collaboration and dialogue is to put all the tough questions on the table and talk about a longer term vision for energy security, the hard part, and critical part, will be to chart the course -- or multiple courses -- on how best to get there."

Near-term focus on domestic resources and efficiency

To move toward a more secure energy future in the near term, Ernst & Young energy leaders suggest that the next president focus dialogue on the following areas:

  • Domestic resources -- Optimization and expansion of access to domestic energy resources, to the extent that environmental impact is measured and acceptable. Where access is not an issue, streamline the regulatory approval process so that domestic projects can be fast-tracked as safely and quickly as possible. And consider more incentives for clean coal technologies, given that the US holds significant recoverable coal resources.
  • Energy efficiency -- Develop a sophisticated demand-side management program to increase energy efficiency and reduce consumption by industrial, commercial, and residential energy users. Consider raising standards for energy-efficient appliances and industrial equipment while providing tax and R&D incentives for those implementing initiatives.

Also in the near term, Swanson says there is opportunity for greater dialogue about searching for best solutions on energy tax policy, climate change policy, and job creation. "As the government may have a growing concern over potential job losses in an economic downturn, the energy industry is facing a serious job shortage. That alone is a reason to talk and work together."

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