Over the past year no amount of forecasting or “guesstimating” would have predicted where our country’s still-evolving energy policy would be today. Yet, attendees at last spring’s AclaraConnect Conference got a front-row view of how two leading energy and environmental policy leaders helped shape the transition of both Presidents Obama’s and Trump’s energy initiatives.
The two experts on opposite sides of the political spectrum shared their perspectives, visions and war stories of what it takes to shape a new energy policy at the start of a presidential administration.
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Elgie Holstein, currently senior director for strategic planning for the Environmental Defense Fund and former leader of President Obama’s energy transition team, and Thomas J. Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research and head of the Trump Department of Energy transition team brought into sharp relief the differences between the current and previous administrations when it comes to energy policy.
Holstein emphasized Obama’s mandate to harness energy and environmental policies as “pillars of economic revitalization,” and referenced the former administration’s goals of using incentives to drive new economy jobs in renewable energy.
Pyle shared the Administration’s then-new goal of reviewing the energy regulatory landscape with an eye to “determine the cost benefits for rules and regulations.” Many of his transition team’s policy recommendations informed the new administration’s rapidly-paced Executive Orders redirecting priorities for both the Environmental Protection Agency and the DOE.
The policy panel also focused on the issue of who should control energy policy– government or private enterprise – and which is best suited to drive research into new energy technologies.
“The government does have a role to play in basic energy research, to help move that research ‘off the bench’,”
explained Holstein, who favors government’s role in creating public and private energy research consortia.
Agreeing in principle but differing on the extent, Pyle questioned just how
“far along the workbench the government should take research. I think that’s a role for more suited to private investment and the private sector.”
Defining the line between government support and private initiates, Aclara’s energy policy forum also examined the role of energy and environmental regulations, budget priorities and new infrastructure initiatives.