UN: US needs energy czar

Michael Bastasch | Contributor

The United Nations’ climate chief thinks President Barack Obama should build on his global warming initiative by recruiting an energy czar.

“Finally the United States is putting out a menu of very concrete measures,” Christiana Figueres, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, told Reuters. “But I think the fact remains that compared to what the science demands … no country is doing enough.”

“I do think that an energy czar in the White House would be extraordinarily helpful,” she added. “There has to be someone at a high level in the White House that can actually coordinate all of this and ensure that it gets done.”

This week, Obama announced his new plan to curb carbon dioxide emissions, largely through executive orders to impose emissions limits on new and existing power plants. The coal industry cried foul.

“President Obama has made it his mission to shut down an affordable, reliable source of energy,” said West Virginia Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito. “The president’s actions and his advisers’ comments further highlight how out of touch he is with reality. President Obama failed to get his environmental agenda through Congress for a reason. Despite common sense and the voice of Congress, it appears he will unilaterally forge ahead with his partisan agenda.”

Figueres said that countries were on track to reach a new global emissions agreement and approve funding for poor countries to adapt to the effects of global warming. However, climate talks broke down last year as countries fought over how much should be given in climate aid to poorer nations.

“That is why it is very important over the next 18 months that there is enough political space opened in every country so that federal governments can actually take the decisions that they need to take,” said Figueres.

Reports suggest that only 37 countries out of 194 backed an extension of the Kyoto Protocol last year, and the developed nations of Canada, Japan, New Zealand and Russia opted out of the second phase of Kyoto.

The International Energy Agency took advantage of Obama’s new efforts to curb carbon emissions and announced that power generation from renewable energy would exceed that of natural gas and nuclear power by 2016.

“As their costs continue to fall, renewable power sources are increasingly standing on their own merits versus new fossil-fuel generation,” said Maria van der Hoeven, IEA’s executive director.

Critics argue that this projection fails to recognize the limitations of renewable energy and the government’s ability to manage the economy.

“Whether or not IEA’s projections are accurate, this is a perfect example of why the government should step out of the way and allow the free market and consumers to determine the energy source that best meets their needs,” said Katie Tubb, research assistant at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

“Government simply isn’t good at centrally planning and dictating our energy choices,” she added. “Just look at Japan and Germany. They’re learning this reality the hard way; their push for wind and solar in the wake of closing nuclear plants has resulted in incredibly high electricity costs.”

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