Rocky Mountain Institute helps forge National Energy Policy Initiative |

Rocky Mountain Institute helps forge National Energy Policy Initiative

The United States’ short-sighted and inefficient energy policy should be changed to use more clean, efficient fuels, asserts the new National Energy Policy Initiative.

Old Snowmass-based Rocky Mountain Institute was a major player in the creation of the initiative, which was introduced on Capitol Hill Thursday. The National Energy Policy initiative, or NEPI, is billed as a framework for creating a new national energy policy.

Amory Lovins, chief of research for RMI, made introductory remarks at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington Thursday morning to explain the purpose and importance of NEPI.

“The National Energy Policy Initiative reached a challenging conclusion,” he said. “The United States’ current energy policy has inadvertently created serious threats to the nation’s security, prosperity and environment.

“Yet the initiative also found that a well-integrated set of proven policy innovations can improve security, the economy and the environment simultaneously and without compromise.

“We can enjoy the lifestyles we want, with abundant hot showers and cold beer, mobility and comfort – along with the health, safety and security we and our children need,” Lovins said.

RMI teamed up with Cambridge, Mass.-based Consensus Building Institute to create the initiative by compiling ideas for energy policy goals. The two groups then agreed on what direction the country’s energy policy should go.

The next step came when 21 highly-respected national energy policy experts gathered in Warrenton, Va., from Feb. 1-3 to develop a vision and create the NEPI report.

NEPI focuses on four areas: transportation and mobility, electricity services, energy security, and climate change.

“The United States, and the world, must begin a decades-long transition to an energy system that will not run out, cannot be cut off, supports a vibrant economy and safeguards our health and environment,” NEPI’s vision statement said.

On transportation and mobility, NEPI warned against continued dependence on foreign oil, while it pushes for greater fuel efficiency and the development of new fuel sources and systems.

The future of electricity must concentrate less on central generation, costly grids, poorly regulated monopolies and meager environmental regulation and focus more on distributed generation, recycled energy, combined heat and power generation and large-scale grid development, the report said.

While energy security always has been important, the issue has become especially poignant since Sept. 11. The report points out that the country’s heavy dependence on foreign oil, coupled with a vulnerable energy infrastructure, need to be changed.

“Reducing the vulnerability of centralized energy systems to accidental or deliberate disruption will require short-term protection of existing infrastructure,” the report said.

Climate change is also addressed in the report. The need to eliminate greenhouse gases is crucial, as these gases increase the risk of major climatic change.

“Climate change could impose direct economic costs on the United States and could also create global economic and political instability,” the report said. “Starting immediately, energy policies need to send clear signals to producers and consumers to reduce carbon emissions.”

The transition “could be a net benefit to the economy because investments in fuel efficiency and new non-fossil fuel technologies can be profitable,” the report stated.

Norm Clasen, director of communications for RMI, explained the importance of considering the NEPI findings when creating a new national energy policy – the first major revision since President Carter’s administration.

“If you’re going to adopt an energy policy, these things must be considered,” he said. “Our children’s and our grandchildren’s future is right smack dab in the middle of the energy question.”

He also explained the importance of RMI being chosen to facilitate such a plan.

“It was over a $350,000 expense to try and put all these people together,” Clasen said. “It’s quite an honor for RMI to be given the opportunity to do this.”

The impetus for creating NEPI stemmed partly from an Oct. 10 meeting between Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Daschle told Bingaman to set aside the energy policy bill they were working on and instead devise a new set of energy proposals that could be introduced in the Senate within a few months. The NEPI is, in part, the result of that effort.

Bingaman, who Clasen said backs the report’s findings, hosted a Capitol Hill press conference Thursday explaining the significance of NEPI.

“Promoting efficiency is the key to developing a truly comprehensive energy policy,” he said. “We would do well as a nation to heed the recommendations contained in the NEP Initiative – a farsighted plan that can build a strong national consensus for a new energy future.”

In the end, federal policymakers will “cut and paste” different ideas to create an energy policy “the country will have to live with for a while,” Clasen said.

“That’s why when you do something like this that it’s done with great care,” he said.

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