Power, Greed, Political Influence: Whose Energy Debate Is This?

The debate over Keystone and other domestic energy issues is reaching a fever pitch, and powerful voices in politics are making their voices heard.

Feb 24, 2014 at 9:12AM

This article was written by Oilprice.com -- the leading provider of energy news in the world. Also check out these recent articles:

Billionaire Tom Steyer launched a campaign to rival the conservative Koch brothers and supporters of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. A rival campaign that cost a Nevada solar power project more than a quarter of its designed capacity, however, shows there are deep divisions, along with powerful political forces, driving U.S. energy policy.

Steyer, founder of global investment firm Farallon Capital Management, hosted top Democratic leaders last week, vowing to put up $50 million of his own money and raise $50 million more to back the party's pro-green leaders.

The event, backed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, was meant as a counterweight to a conservative effort from the billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David, to drive the Republican agenda through along with the Keystone XL pipeline.

Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, said there's a "jarring disconnect" in how Democrats and Republicans frame the national energy debate. Republicans, he said, have an obvious "anti-environmental" agenda, while rivals in the Democratic party "are overwhelmingly pro-environment."

When President Obama announced measures to improve fuel efficiency for medium- and heavy-duty trucks last week, he sang a refrain familiar to Republicans that the effort could help reduce America's dependence on foreign oil.

"America is closer to energy independence than we've been in decades," he said.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said Obama's much-lauded "all-of-the-above" energy policy was also blazing news trails in the solar power sector. When Obama took office in 2009, she said, there were no solar projects approved on public lands. With the Stateline solar farm in California and Nevada's Silver State South project, however, there will be enough solar capacity online to meet the demands of 170,000 households serviced by Southern California Edison, one of the largest utility companies in the country.

First Solar, the company behind the facilities, proposed State South as a 350 megawatt plant. It was forced to downsize by 100MW and fork over $7.1 million to mitigate risks to a desert tortoise habitat. Last year, environmental group Defenders of Wildlife threatened to sue over the solar project.

U.S. energy policy, Jewell said, requires a "long view." While high-profile issues like the "dirty" Keystone XL pipeline is fodder for energy wonks, issues like the broader climate debate don't do much in terms of driving a political agenda forward, according to critics mindful of Al Gore fatigue. Seyer's $100 million bet on a low-carbon Capitol Hill is likely a low energy initiative in and of itself. But even the greenest of debates has its foes, showing Obama's "all-of-the-above" energy policy may just as well describe its wide range of critics as much as its initiatives.

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Written by Daniel J. Graeber at Oilprice.com.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

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David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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