Energy policy predictions

There are no accurate crystal balls when it comes to predicting the future of energy policy under the administration of the new president. But given the cabinet appointees to key positions dealing with energy regulation, some prognosticators think they have an idea of what could happen.

Forbes magazine contributor James Taylor, an advocate for affordable energy and fewer government regulations, made a few predictions considering the cabinet picks for the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Among Taylor’s predictions:

*The EPA’s Clean Power Plan will be dismantled, but some new free market-based carbon dioxide emission reduction programs will be enacted.

*Oil and gas production on federal lands will be ramped up after years of greater restrictions during the Obama administration.

*Coal-generated power won’t return to the higher levels of use from past decades, but it could stay a cost-effective method of producing electricity if environmental restrictions on the industry are backed off.

*While wind and solar power have picked up some steam in recent years, Taylor contends that is in part because of heavy government subsidies that will be withdrawn in the coming years.

*The addition of ethanol in gasoline, put in place by the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act during the Bush administration, could have some mandates rolled back to reduce the costly measures.

*Nuclear power could get going again if the Yucca Mountain storage facility for spent fuel is allowed by the new government to accept radioactive waste after years of blocking it. But Taylor says that for nuclear power to surge forward it will take small, next-generation reactors utilizing new technology to make nuclear competitive again.

*Taylor says hydro power could also make a comeback as an affordable energy source. He cites a July 2016 vision statement from the DOE that says new hydroelectric technology could help boost hydroelectric power by 50 percent over the next 34 years to 150 gigawatts. The DOE report shows that the technology can power the numerous existing dams in the U.S. without excessive infrastructure cost, making it part of the no-emissions mix of electricity sources that include wind and solar.

*And lastly, Taylor predicts that U.S.-produced natural gas will play its part on the global stage with exports to other countries that could include China, which is relying heavily on its own high-emissions coal. Europeans also rely on Russian natural gas, but if roadblocks are lifted on the building of natural gas export terminals, the U.S. could be a major exporter to the world.

At Ensight, we recognize there are uncertainties regarding the new administration’s views on energy, and particularly renewable energy. The long-term dynamics and push toward renewable energy and natural gas, however, are here to stay long after the reign of the current administration.