Trump, trade the focus of Global Energy Forum discussions | VailDaily.com

Trump, trade the focus of Global Energy Forum discussions

BEAVER CREEK — Energy policy under the Trump administration will open markets, not manage markets to reach some ideological goal, said a panel of energy experts.

This year's Global Energy Forum attracted some world's foremost energy experts to discuss energy markets and issues. Often the discussion returned to President Donald Trump and trade agreements.

The shift from Obama/Clinton to Trump moved U.S. energy policy from Clinton's managed market with the target of a desired outcome to Trump's streamlining regulations to create a market-based energy policy, said Bud Albright, former member of the Trump transition team on energy and former undersecretary of energy.

The two-day Global Energy Forum discussions ranged from nuclear to natural gas to NAFTA to President Trump, with some dire warnings thrown in about the nation's cyber security and energy grid — and how fragile it is — from General Michael V. Hayden, USAF (Ret.), former CIA and NSA director.

A panel discussion about the Trump administration's goals for energy legislation featured Albright, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner and Karen Alderman Harbert, president and CEO of the Institute for 21st Century Energy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

America's energy first

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Trump's America First lineup is led by energy, as is Speaker Paul Ryan's and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's, said Alderman Harbert.

President Trump has already started down the energy road with an executive order that green-lights two pipelines: the Keystone XL pipeline and the Dakota pipeline.

Alderman Harbert said Trump could also remove Obama's ban on coal extraction from federal lands, expand opportunities for offshore energy development and open federal lands for energy. Utah saw 47 energy leases canceled when Obama took office — all already awarded and paid for, Alderman Harbert said.

Steve Kucsynski, president and CEO of Southern Nuclear Operation, put issue by the numbers.

"Three billion people in the world want energy like we have. It's not going to go the other way," Kucsynski said.

Gardner met with the foreign minister of Burma (Myanmar), Aung San Suu Kyi, and asked what the U.S. can do for them.

Two things, she said:

1. They'd like their civil war to end. The U.S. can help, but cannot legislate it, Gardner said.

2. They want electricity.

For Burma and the rest of the world to have the energy it wants, it needs a stable supplier, and that's us, Alderman Harbert said, as opposed to Russia or the Middle East, she said.

The combined resources of U.S., Canada and Mexico make North American the center of gravity for the energy universe, Alderman Harbert said.

And that leads us to NAFTA — North American Free Trade Agreement.

"There are things we could do to make it better, not to make it go away, but to bring it into the 21st century," Alderman Harbert said.

NAFTA is also a Colorado job generator, said former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, a Democrat.

Ritter said Mexico is Colorado's second largest international trading partner. Canada is first.

Gardner said 750,000 Colorado jobs are related to trade.

Coal and natural gas exploration will probably increase, and should, Alderman Harbert said.

The Trump administration will not likely gut regulations for no reason, but regulations must be justified, she said.

"Instead of looking to government to solve all these problems, we should be looking to the private sector," Albright said. "To do that, we need a strong regulatory framework — sensible, effective and efficient — and should include regulators speaking with business owners."

The sky is not falling. In fact, the sky is cleaner than it has been for decades.

"Emissions are lower than they were in 1994," Alderman Harbert said.

Pipelines: Facts matter

Alderman Harbert returned fire at headline hunters protesting the Keystone and Dakota pipelines. The Dakota pipeline is 1,000 feet from being built, she said.

"Facts matter," she said.

The original protests came to the fore because the pipeline was crossing Indian land. "Being built on Indian land has long been adjudicated," she said.

The feds are sensitive to the tribes nearby. That's why the Department of the Interior held 355 separate discussions with stakeholders, Alderman Harbert said. The neighboring tribe was invited to come and did not come to be part of the open and public process, she said.

"They knew the pipeline was being built," she said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers put forward the easement.

"Then at the last minute our own government overturns our own government and tells them to go back to the drawing board," Alderman Harbert said. "It seems politicized to me."

The Keystone pipeline is largely the same story, she said.

"Look at the Keystone pipeline judgment and the President of the United States of America said in his own words, 'I am doing this to preserve leverage in climate discussions,'" Alderman Harbert said. "He did not say the State Department proved to me that this is not in our national interest. He said, 'I'm doing this because I need political leverage.'"

"That is not a decision based on sound science or national interest. That's based on ideology and that's what we have to get out from under," Alderman Harbert said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

About the Global Energy Forum

Presented by the Global Energy Forum Foundation in partnership with the Stanford University Precourt Institute for Energy and the Stanford University Precourt Energy Efficiency Center, the sixth annual Global Energy Forum hostecd leaders from around the world in an engaging and thought-provoking examination of our energy future.