Sunday, December 12, 2004

Sam Bodman for Energy Secretary

This announcement was a pleasant surprise on Friday. I had the opportunity to be in a few meetings with Sam while he was the Deputy Secretary at Commerce, mainly about pension issues. I would characterize him as very smart. How would I define "smart" in this context?

Many of the meetings that senior officials (like Sam) have with junior officials (like I was) involve the junior officials presenting complicated issues that are in their areas of expertise. There is no presumption that the senior official is an expert in every single area on which s/he might be briefed. I measure smart as how quickly the senior official is able to figure out the issue from the briefing. Sam is very smart.

I wasn't the only one who was surprised on Friday. Via Outside the Beltway, I find this Reuters story with a great quote:

"Sam who? I've never heard of this guy," said one energy industry lobbyist, who added Bodman was virtually unknown to Washington energy policy insiders.
Even better--unconnected to the energy industry lobby in addition to being very smart. In his nomination speech, the President made the following remarks (with my highlights):
During the next four years, we will continue to enhance our economic security and our national security through sound energy policy. We will pursue more energy close to home, in our own country and in our own hemisphere, so that we're less dependent on energy from unstable parts of the world. We will continue improving pipelines and gas terminals and power lines, so that energy flow is reliable. We will develop and deploy the latest technology to provide a new generation of cleaner and more efficient energy sources. We will promote strong conservation measures.
There are two things I like about the highlighted sentence. First, he did not say that we should pursue energy independence. There is no reason to insist that energy imports are zero--only that we do not continue our excessive reliance on fuel from unstable parts of the world (which corrupts our broader policy and theirs). Second, he said "in our own hemisphere" in addition to "in our own country." Okay, I could do without the reference to drilling in ANWR. But I like the idea of other sources of energy in our hemisphere--particularly ethanol made from Brazilian sugar. Let's hope that this is what they have in mind.

In addition to the post at Outside the Beltway, see this comprehensive post at Trolling in Shallow Water.

Other blogs commenting on this post


Jake said...

I once asked my Senator Rod Grams what would he do in Washington if he was allowed to do one thing.

He said he would eliminate the Department of Energy. It chews up billions of dollars and it does its best to deprive America of needed energy.

If Sam Bodman is not going to shut down the Energy Department, I hope he protects America from the bureaucrats in that department. His goal should be to allow the free-market to supply America with the energy it needs.

M. Simon said...

Ethanol has 60% of the energy content of gasoline. That means a doubling of fuel tank size for similar range as current vehicles.

The energy multiplication ratio is less than 2. Which means the costs are very likely to exceed the benefits. At this time.

Any viable source at this time has a multiplication ratio of 10. Wind turbines for example. Or a coal burning plant.

marjo moore said...

I'm sure I won't win a voxy award for unbiased journalism, LOL... but I'd love to know what you think!

my blog's

Andrew Samwick said...

I like that Sam's very smart. I like that Sam is not beholden to the traditional energy lobby.

I think your article isn't really about Sam, except for the Podesta remark and the stuff about Cabot's problems. But policing the environment seems to me to be EPA's job more than Energy's.

His main job at Energy is to make sure the nukes are secure. If he thinks his next priority is ANWR instead of renewable energy, then I'll be very disappointed.