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Top Ranking U.S. Energy Official Hears Comments In Capital Region

Lucas Willard

Wednesday in Schenectady leaders of local companies, educational institutions, and other stakeholders met with government leaders to discuss opportunities through energy efficiency. 

New York Congressman Paul Tonko, a Democrat from the Capital District, and Dr. David Danielson, Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, met on the campus of Union College with leaders of local businesses, educational institutions, non-profits, and others. They were there to hear comments and suggestions on how the federal government, through Congress, can better work with the private sector to advance local efforts to improve energy policy.

The meeting came a day after Congressman Tonko, a ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce committee subcommittee on the Envirornment and the Economy, joined staff from the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Council on Competitiveness, and others at General Electric’s Global Research Center in Niskayuna, where conversation centered on keeping America’s advanced manufacturing competitive on a global scale.

Tonko said that he’s awaiting a wish list by the parties he’s meeting with to find new ways to drive innovation.

"We're anxiously awaiting what they develop as a wish-list," said Tonko. He added that what the parties are seeking could include "statutory change or resource advocacy."

Dr. Danielson said that the U.S. is in a race with other countries, particularly China, to develop clean energy manufacturing technology. He stressed the importance of finding ways the government at all levels can work with the private sector.

"We've been talking about the importance of effective private-public partnerships that are really led by the private sector, but where the government comes in and really provides whatever support is need so that companies like G.E. and the small businesses in this region can compete on the global playing field," said Danielson.

Congressman Tonko said that increasing federal investment in clean energy research will lead to the next breakthrough to put the nation ahead.

Throughout his tour, Dr. Danielson said that the conversation with business and academic leaders has focused on new technology and President Obama’s “All of the Above” energy strategy.

"So we've had conversations about solar, wind, hydropower, geothermal...but we've also had conversations about more efficient lighting like LEDs that are 80 percent more efficient than today's lightbulbs, next generation air conditioners that are more efficient," said Danielson.

Danielson added that the conversation also focused on natural gas and how industries can use the resource to become more efficient and competitive.

As New York awaits the results of a long-term study on the potential health risks associated with hydraulic fracturing, expanding natural gas production has become a highly controversial subject in the Empire State. Danielson said that the federal government must play a role in ensuring the safety of natural gas development.

"It's been shown that you can do unconventional natural gas in an environmentally safe way but you have to do it very carefully," said Danielson. "But we're also looking at next generation technologies at the Department of Energy for new ways of exploring natural gas that may be even safer in the future."

Congressman Tonko said that he would like to see any decision the state makes on hydrofracking backed up by accurate, scientific information. He added that he supports the idea that the country is moving from an economy based on oil to one based on water.

"And so we're poised for great opportunity and anything that we do - water-based or with hydrofracking and natural gas - needs to be done with the upmost certainty of protection and public safety and the embracing of technology," said Tonko.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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