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The Inaugural Hans Landsberg Memorial Lecture with Robert G. Card: A Discussion of Two of the Key Energy Questions of the Day: Natural Gas and Greenhouse Gas Emissions
January 21, 2004

Robert G. Card
Under Secretary of Energy, U.S. Department of Energy
Wednesday, January 21, 2004

John Anderson

RFF Journalist-in-Residence

Possible reduction of greenhouse gases now constitutes the greatest long-term uncertainty in energy markets, U. S. Under Secretary of Energy Robert G. Card said on January 21.

Card made the observation as he delivered the first Hans Landsberg Memorial Lecture at Resources for the Future. Greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide generated by burning fossil fuels, contribute to global warming.

High demand for natural gas will keep prices up in the present range, Card predicted. That will result in a significant rise in imports of liquefied natural gas brought in by ship, some of it from the Middle East. Like transportation, the heating and electricity-generating sectors of the energy economy will be dependent on imports, he said.

Politically motivated embargoes on gas, like the Arab countries’ embargo of oil to the United States in the early 1970s, seem unlikely, Card observed, because of the suppliers’ need for revenue.

“But if you look at the reliability of the suppliers, it’s not altogether comforting,” he added. Some of the future imports will presumably come from the Persian Gulf region, especially Qatar, where the reserves are vast.

The Bush administration believes that the emphasis in the 1990s on using natural gas as a cleaner-burning fuel was unhealthy, Card said, and encouraging a diversity of fuels is wiser policy. But that means greater reliance on coal and oil, fuels that produce more greenhouse gas per unit of heat than natural gas does.

In making policy to reduce greenhouse emissions, Card warned, it is essential to remember, “we have to bring the American public along.”

The Clinton administration helped draft the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, a treaty that would require most of the developed countries to reduce their emissions by 2012. But President Clinton never sent it to the Senate for ratification, and, in 2001, President Bush withdrew administration support from it on grounds that it would damage the economy.

If the world decides to regulate emissions, Card asked, who decides on the reduction target, and by what process? There are “huge philosophical issues here,” he said.

The Bush administration is relying chiefly on technological innovation to reduce emissions. But those innovations have to be applicable worldwide, Card observed. “Our coal program is really focused on China and India,” he said.

In answer to a question, Card said that the administration would like an energy bill with “a lower financial impact,” although it is not calling for specific changes. The energy bill now in the final stages of congressional passage is heavily loaded with subsidies and tax breaks that have run up its cost substantially.

Event Videos

Paul Portney
President and Senior Fellow, Resources for the Future

Robert G. Card
Under Secretary of Energy, U.S. Department of Energy


The Hans Landsberg Memorial Lecture is an annual event dedicated to the memory of Hans Landsberg, a pioneer in energy and mineral economics who was a devoted member of the RFF staff for nearly 40 years.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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