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Energy Week 2012 / ENERGY

Utility Exec: White House Needs New Adviser

photo of Amy Harder
March 8, 2012

HOUSTON—The head of the main lobbying arm for electric utilities is concerned that President Obama is not getting enough advice on energy issues at a time when Congress is doing nothing to address the nation's energy needs.

Thomas Farrell, chairman of the Edison Electric Institute and CEO of the Virginia power company Dominion, told hundreds of energy executives at a global conference here that the White House should have a national energy adviser who would be in constant contact with the president on energy issues.

“If there is a small office, perhaps right off the Oval Office—some place the president has to pass by on his way to work every day—that would be good,” Farrell said at the IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates annual conference known as CERA Week. “The important thing is to keep this issue front-of-mind in the presidential mentality, so that it never becomes a lesser thought.”

 

President Obama appointed former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol Browner as his energy and climate “czar” early in his term, but Browner left the post early last year after Republicans won control of the House and prospects for environmental and energy legislation seemed diminished by the likelihood of partisan gridlock. Farrell suggested that a new energy adviser at the White House should have a more elevated role. 

He said such a position in the White House is key because Congress is so gridlocked. “Congress, quite simply, has failed to get the job done—over and over and over—whoever is in charge,” Farrell said. “And the intensely partisan atmosphere on Capitol Hill does not bode well for the future.”

During a discussion with CERA Chairman Daniel Yergin, Farrell said Yergin should fill such a position. Yergin responded, “I love my current job.”

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