The Point of Inquiry Weekly Wrap-up: Michael Levi
May 17, 2013
On this week's episode, Chris Mooney interviewed energy expert Michael Levi, author of a new book that is looking to strike the middle ground in the ongoing climate wars, The Power Surge: Energy, Opportunity and the Battle for America's Future.
Levi is currently the David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment and Director of the Program on Energy Security and Climate Change for the Council on Foreign Relations, a nonpartisan think tank focused on generating discussions and solutions for international issues across the globe. Here are some highlights from the interview.
Levi on what it means to be an energy moderate:
"...I talk about a most-of-the-above strategy. You want a broad portfolio. You want options. You want to be able to produce more oil when oil is expensive. You want natural gas to be able to push aside coal, strengthen the economy, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. You want zero-carbon technologies, whether that's renewable energies or nuclear power or carbon capture and sequestration, to give you ways to decarbonize the power sector. And you want tools that you can use to transform our cars and trucks so that we use less oil. Now that's not everything, and while we broaden our set of options, we also need to make sure we get rid of the really bad ones."
On what we should be worried about when it comes to fracking:
"The biggest environmental issue in some ways around fracking though is how it transforms communities and towns. It's tough to sit in a town around natural gas development without seeing a time of day where massive numbers of trucks are coming though, when there is an influx of people really shaking things up. Good for some people, some people getting jobs, tough for other folks. And it's all pervasive. And you need to manage that impact."
And lastly, on what to avoid about being too moderate on energy:
"And as I see it, the biggest risk here is actually political. Is that we get complacent. That we tell ourselves that climate change is too hard, we can't pass legislation. Natural gas will save us. Let's focus on something else with our lives. It turns out if you do that, if you don't put the policies in place, you are not going to get close to a zero-carbon energy system."
And now for our comment of the week, this one coming right from our Facebook page, courtesy of Pam Maples. Pam takes issue with some of Levi's conclusions:
"He dismisses the grouting of fracking wells as if they are easy to make last for ever; because that is how long the cement grout has to last. The oil drilling industry itself admits that 6 to 7 percent of oil wells grout fails the day the well is completed and the failure rate goes up steadily with age. He also doesn't know about or doesn't understand that old oil wells and other wells drilled in the 1800's and early 1900's are also culprits for allowing methane to migrate up into groundwater. About the pipeline, he completely did not address the obscene environmental destruction and contamination of rivers and lakes that results from mining the tar sands. Not only does this wanton destruction of the arboreal forest result in the addition of carbon into the atmosphere when the trees are cut down it also removes great vast sections of trees that used carbon from the atmosphere."
Far be it for our fans to leave any stone unturned.
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As always you can check out Levi's full interview, as well as buy his new book, through Point of Inquiry.
Thanks for tuning in.
Photo credit: CFR.org