The Point of Inquiry Weekly Wrap-up: Michael Levi

May 17, 2013


With yet another study released this week confirming the vast acceptance of human-caused climate change by the scientific community, it’s important to remember that acknowledgement is only the beginning. More important is the means by which to convince governments and their citizens to take the steps necessary to combat climate change. With that in mind…

On this week’s episode, Chris Mooney interviewed energy expert Michael Levi, author of a new book that is looking to strike the middle ground in the ongoing climate wars, The Power Surge: Energy, Opportunity and the Battle for America’s Future.

Levi is currently the David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment and Director of the Program on Energy Security and Climate Change for the Council on Foreign Relations, a nonpartisan think tank focused on generating discussions and solutions for international issues across the globe. Here are some highlights from the interview.


Levi on what it means to be an energy moderate:

“…I talk about a most-of-the-above strategy. You want a broad portfolio. You want options. You want to be able to produce more oil when oil is expensive. You want natural gas to be able to push aside coal, strengthen the economy, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. You want zero-carbon technologies, whether that’s renewable energies or nuclear power or carbon capture and sequestration, to give you ways to decarbonize the power sector. And you want tools that you can use to transform our cars and trucks so that we use less oil. Now that’s not everything, and while we broaden our set of options, we also need to make sure we get rid of the really bad ones.”

On what we should be worried about when it comes to fracking:

“The biggest environmental issue in some ways around fracking though is how it transforms communities and towns. It’s tough to sit in a town around natural gas development without seeing a time of day where massive numbers of trucks are coming though, when there is an influx of people really shaking things up. Good for some people, some people getting jobs, tough for other folks. And it’s all pervasive. And you need to manage that impact.”

And lastly, on what to avoid about being too moderate on energy:

“And as I see it, the biggest risk here is actually political. Is that we get complacent. That we tell ourselves that climate change is too hard, we can’t pass legislation. Natural gas will save us. Let’s focus on something else with our lives. It turns out if you do that, if you don’t put the policies in place, you are not going to get close to a zero-carbon energy system.”


And now for our comment of the week, this one coming right from our Facebook page, courtesy of Pam Maples. Pam takes issue with some of Levi’s conclusions:

“He dismisses the grouting of fracking wells as if they are easy to make last for ever; because that is how long the cement grout has to last. The oil drilling industry itself admits that 6 to 7 percent of oil wells grout fails the day the well is completed and the failure rate goes up steadily with age. He also doesn’t know about or doesn’t understand that old oil wells and other wells drilled in the 1800’s and early 1900’s are also culprits for allowing methane to migrate up into groundwater. About the pipeline, he completely did not address the obscene environmental destruction and contamination of rivers and lakes that results from mining the tar sands. Not only does this wanton destruction of the arboreal forest result in the addition of carbon into the atmosphere when the trees are cut down it also removes great vast sections of trees that used carbon from the atmosphere.”

Far be it for our fans to leave any stone unturned.

If you’d like to put in your own two cents, you can always do so both on our Facebook and the POI site itself. And don’t forget that with every weekly wrap up, there’s a chance your feedback might get featured so feel free to chip in your own thoughts on the latest episode.

As always you can check out Levi’s full interview, as well as buy his new book, through Point of Inquiry.

Keep in touch with us here at POI through our Facebook and Twitter and with our co-host Chris Mooney though his Mother Jones column and Twitter.

Thanks for tuning in.

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