HOUSTON — Two top Capitol Hill aides took their partisan bickering outside the Beltway and onto a stage at a major energy conference that kicked off here this week.
In front of a packed crowd at the IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) annual conference on Monday, Maryam Brown, chief counsel of the Republican-controlled House Energy and Power Subcommittee, blasted President Obama’s adoption of the GOP mantra for an “all of the above” energy policy. Sitting beside her was Bob Simon, longtime staff director to Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M.
“We have found that the president’s ‘all of the above’ means all of the above except nothing from below,” Brown said, drawing muffled laughter from the crowd of hundreds of mainly fossil-fuel experts. Brown went on to say that Obama’s policies are hindering development of any energy that comes from the ground or uses resources from the ground, including oil, natural gas, and nuclear power that relies on uranium mining.
“It’s no natural gas. We’re not very comfortable with the progression of agency activities and regulations,” Brown said. “It’s no nuclear—I think Yucca [Mountain] says it all on nuclear,” she said, referring to the planned nuclear waste repository in Nevada that Obama put on ice soon after he took office in 2009.
Brown’s comments seemed to agitate Simon. “No nuclear?” Simon said with a touch of incredulity. “Isn’t this the president who just gave a huge multibillion-dollar loan guarantee to build two nuclear power plant reactors in Georgia?”
Brown interrupted to say the administration has not finalized that loan yet, which is true. Simon continued, unfazed. “Isn’t this the president whose Nuclear Regulatory Commission just approved permits?” he asked. “How can that be antinuclear?”
After Simon finished a rebuttal of Brown’s comments, CERA Chairman Daniel Yergin said: “I think we have to give Maryam equal time.”
And then the partisan pendulum swung back to the GOP side of the fight. “Let’s take it from the top,” Brown said. Despite “modest progress” in some areas of nuclear power, she said, “most would concede that the key problem we have with nuclear policy in this country is long-term storage with nuclear waste.”
“I don’t see how you can characterize him as a pronuclear president when he’s short-circuited long-term storage,” she concluded.
This article appears in the March 7, 2012, edition of National Journal Daily.