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Sen. Alexander targets energy subsidies, says political furor over climate might ease

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who is leaving his Senate leadership post, has energy subsidies in his crosshairs as he plots his next steps.

Alexander laid out his energy goals for the next two years in an interview with the online environmental magazine Grist.

“First, I would try to swap the money we’re spending on permanent subsidies for energy and invest it instead in research. Second, I’d like to focus these funds on the most promising areas of clean energy. I’ve devised a plan for seven mini-Manhattan Projects for energy independence: solar, batteries, green building, capturing carbon, fusion, making fuels from crops we don’t eat and finding better ways to deal with nuclear fuel,” said Alexander, who praised Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s energy innovation “hubs.”

Alexander said he has identified $20 billion annually in energy subsidies that could instead be funneled into clean energy R&D. Alexander is no fan of wind energy, and said he would begin by targeting that sector’s tax breaks. “I also believe the oil companies don’t need subsidies beyond those that other manufacturing and producing companies have,” Alexander said.

Alexander bucks a GOP trend with his belief in human-induced global warming. He opposes cap-and-trade but is open to some kind of emissions limits on power plants – eventually.

“At some point we might require a certain limit of carbon on coal plants, just as we limit tailpipe emissions. But before we do that, we have to start with research and development to try to figure out a technological means to capture carbon,” he said.

But Alexander isn’t expecting agreements on climate anytime soon.

“Maybe in two to three years I think some of the politicizing which is on both sides will have died down a little bit. But it will be very difficult to get consensus on climate change in the next two to three years,” he said.

Click here to read the whole interview, which also addresses Alexander’s advocacy for electric cars and other matters.