Drennen on Obama’s Energy Plans – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Drennen on Obama’s Energy Plans

Tom Drennen, associate professor of economics and chair of the environmental studies department at HWS, was interviewed by both the Democrat and Chronicle and Daily Messenger newspapers following President Barack Obama’s address to the nation on Monday, Feb. 23.

Drennen commented on President’s remarks in the areas of energy and the environment.

“In my mind, (a cap on carbon emissions) was the key part of it because that would make people take into account the true cost of generating power from dirty fossil fuels and would therefore make renewables more competitive,” he is quoted in the Democrat and Chronicle.

He also was encouraged by “Obama’s call for doubling clean renewable energy and investing in a smarter electricity grid to allow for efficient distribution of renewable power,” according to the Daily Messenger article, and “Obama’s plan to increase efficiency of homes by investing in insulation, windows and energy-efficient lighting.” The article cited Drennen as somewhat more skeptical about the potential investment of $15 billion in research and development aimed at renewable and clean coal technology.

“The latter has long been controversial as ‘clean coal’ technology is something of a misnomer,” said Drennen. “However, our nation today relies heavily on coal, as do countries such as China, and future technologies could sharply reduce the environmental effects of consuming coal.”

A member of the HWS faculty since 1995, Drennen earned a B.S. in nuclear engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, an M.A. in Public Affairs from the University of Minnesota, and a Ph.D. in resource economics from Cornell University. In 2006, he received the Hobart and William Smith Excellence in Teaching Award.

Drennen is the author of the book, “Pathways to a Hydrogen Future,” which seeks to untangle competing visions of a hydrogen economy, explain the trade-offs and obstacles, and offer recommendations for a path forward. The results are based on “The Hydrogen Futures Simulation Model,” developed at Sandia National Laboratories, where he is senior economist.

The full text of the Daily Messenger article appears below.


Daily Messenger
Obama wows local viewers
Julie Sherwood • staff writer • Feb 25, 2009

Ontario County, N.Y. –
Maggi Sullivan, one of the millions who watched President Barack Obama’s first
address to a joint session of Congress Tuesday night, said she felt he was speaking directly to her.

“The president spoke with authority, confidence and foresight,” said Sullivan, who watched the televised address from her home in Manchester. “He reassured the nation while challenging Congress, and he did it within an historical context, which reminded people of our ability to rise to any occasion. It was important for him to be clear about how we got to where we are, both domestically and globally, and he did that.

“I was particularly impressed with the way he outlined for the nation, and especially the members of Congress, that we have an opportunity for success, and it must be met,” added Sullivan, clinical services manager for Ontario ARC, an organization serving Ontario County residents with disabilities.

Victor resident Dan Darga agreed. He said the president was masterful in communicating a broad vision for what needs to happen to get this economy off the ground, not just in the short term but for the long haul. The president delivered his message as much to the American people as he did to Congress, said Darga, an automotive engineer.

“(He) struck an inspiring tone by endeavoring to rise above the partisanship that has plagued our politics of late and find common ground,” Darga added. “With this, he established himself as the leader of this country. I can only hope that Congress, on both sides of the aisle, doesn’t squander this opportunity to get something constructive done.”

John Robortella was impressed with Obama’s to-do list – and his timetable.

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard a president establish so many goals and hope to achieve them in so short a time,” said Robortella, of Canandaigua. “The economic recovery, alternative energy, health care this year, education and cutting the deficit in half – all in his four-year term.”

Though the goals are ambitious, Robortella said, he is optimistic.

“Whether you voted for Mr. Obama or not, the nation has committed itself to him, and it’s too late to turn back,” he said. “Every day finds our economy in worse shape with millions out of work, millions who have lost their homes and millions who have lost their savings in the financial markets. We’re out of time and someone has to do something. I agree with him on that.”

Energy highlights
Thomas Drennen is an associate professor of economics and chairman of environmental studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva.

Drennen said Obama’s call for doubling clean renewable energy and investing in a smarter electricity grid to allow for efficient distribution of renewable power – by putting a market-based cap on carbon emissions – “would effectively increase the cost of producing power from coal, oil and natural gas, thereby making renewable more competitive.”

Now, wind and solar provide less than 1 percent of our energy needs and are not competitive without federal and state subsidies,” said Drennen. “However, the Obama plan could change that by using market-based principles to increase the cost of power generated by carbon-based sources, such as coal.”

Drennen also pointed to Obama’s plan to increase efficiency of homes by investing in insulation, windows and energy-efficient lighting.

“Not only will this reduce energy consumption, but it should create thousands of jobs in the construction business,” he said.

Regarding the president’s plan to invest an additional $15 billion in research and development aimed at renewable and clean coal technology, “the latter has long been controversial as ‘clean coal’ technology is something of a misnomer,” said Drennen. “However, our nation today relies heavily on coal, as do countries such as China, and future technologies could sharply reduce the environmental effects of consuming coal.”

Sam Casella, former Canandaigua town supervisor and a beef farmer, said he was impressed with Obama’s grasp of the problems and how he communicated specifics of how to solve them.

“He did a good job of explaining” what he wants to see happen, said Casella. “He brought clarity … to the mortgage crisis (and the) auto industry plight.

“He may have built some bridges tonight,” said Casella. “If (Congress) can accomplish half of what he said, a lot can get done in this country.”

Partisan cheers
Obama’s partymates in Congress, not surprisingly, lauded is remarks as well.

“President Obama has made a commitment to cut our federal deficit in half during his tenure and I applaud him for this commitment,” said newly minted Rep. Eric Massa, D-Corning. “Now as a member of Congress, I look forward to holding him to his pledge and helping him obtain it.”
Sen. Charles Schumer called the address realistic yet optimistic.

“Barack Obama did not shy away from giving a realistic view of the troubles our nation and world face,” he said. “His thoughtful, comprehensive approach gives people optimism and confidence that, guided by his leadership, we will get through this crisis.”

Newly appointed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand applauded Obama’s efforts at non-partisanship.

“I am so pleased that we have a President that will work with Congress and work with both parties to forge solutions,” she said.