Finding the Right Balance on Energy—A CERA Week Discussion with Karen Harbert and Current, Former Administration Officials

By Matt Letourneau

IHS Markit’s annual CERAWeek energy conference brings together some of the top minds in business and policy to reflect on the current state of energy and what the future may hold for the industry at large.  With the energy renaissance still in full swing and the Trump Administration’s numerous initiatives, this week’s conference is particularly timely.

Among the highlights of the first day was a panel discussion titled “U.S. Energy Policy: Where Markets, Deregulation and Geopolitics Meet” featuring our own president and CEO, Karen Harbert, as well as Kate MacGregor,  Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management at the Department of Interior, Jason Bordoff, a former energy policy advisor to President Barack Obama who currently leads the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, Meghan O’Sullivan from Harvard University’s Kennedy School, Frank Verrastro of the Center for Strategic & International Studies, and a surprise appearance by George Bankes, former Special Assistant to the Preisdent for International Energy and Environment. The panel was moderated by IHS Markit’s Carlos Pascual. 

Regulatory reform and the question of balance was a theme for many of the panelists. Harbert framed the issue this way: 

I represent American businesses, and it’s important to understand what we’re asking for. We’re not asking for a hand-out. We’re not asking not to be regulated. We’re just asking to have the opportunity to do what we do best, and to leverage this great advantage we have to its greatest possible potential.”

With the panelists mostly in agreement that energy has become a strength for the United States on the global stage, the discussion moved into specific actions that could be taken to further utilize the strategic advantage. 

On this front, Harbert pointed to the need to relieve permitting-related infrastructure bottlenecks that were still making it easier to import foreign energy sources in some places than delivering homegrown oil and gas. She also noted that activists that have shifted their attention to energy infrastructure, understanding that halting needed projects is a way to achieve their ‘keep it in the ground’ goals. 

Finally, on the question of global emissions goals, Harbert noted that regardless of government policy and the level of participation in global accords, business and industry continue to lead the way, by becoming more efficient, reducing emissions, and investing in technology and R&D for tomorrow’s technologies. 

MacGregor, representing the Trump Administration’s viewpoint, emphasized the priority that the Administration is placing on permitting reform and the need to be able to access more energy resources. Bordoff, from the Obama Administration, cautioned that the pendulum shouldn’t swing too far, and observed that much of the action will be centered in the states. 

GEI is uniquely positioned to lead dialogue with policymakers, industry, and consumers.  We will continue to work with the Administration and Congress on an approach to energy policy that reflects our new era of energy abundance, and allows us to flourish as an energy superpower. 


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