Obama convenes private energy meeting at White House
March 8th, 2013
06:24 PM ET
9 years ago

Obama convenes private energy meeting at White House

Washington (CNN) - President Obama convened an unannounced energy-policy meeting at the White House on Thursday night with a group of leaders from the business, academic and green energy communities.

One participant characterized the off the record gathering as a chance for the president to talk with people who have different perspectives on energy issues, including the controversial process of natural gas development known as hydraulic fracturing, or 'fracking.'

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"The president spent a lot of time with us, he was very engaged," said Alex Laskey, president and founder of Opower, a software company aimed at helping increasing consumer energy efficiency. "He didn't do much talking. He asked a lot of questions, he asked follow up questions, and that's refreshing and confidence building when a leader is willing to spend the time asking questions with this kind of group."

The president said he was "deeply committed" to his "all of the above energy policy," on participant in the meeting said, which included acquiring "natural gas from unconventional sources," or in other words, fracking. The president included the caveat that this commitment came with a promise to make sure there are regulations in place that protect the environment.

The president didn't say that these regulations necessarily have to come from the federal government, the participant added, and he emphasized that each state should be encouraging the use of best environmental practices.

Talk of fracking took up less than a quarter of the meeting, according to a participant, and while attendees left the White House without any "specific promises" of new environmental legislation or regulations, Laskey nonetheless described himself as "optimistic."

"It was a content filled and fully engaged group of people and everybody including the president took it very seriously and I think we were all honored to be asked and to be asked for our thinking," Laskey said.

According to a participant, the meeting lasted over an hour and included an exchange of ideas on how best to pursue new sources of energy while mitigating environmental downsides. The group discussed corporate practices, procedures and the prospect of regulations to protect the environment that don't overburden the energy industry.

Among those present, former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter; Shirley Ann Jackson, the former Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission under President Clinton; FedEx President and CEO Fred Smith and former Obama Administration regulatory czar Cass Sunstein.

Also at the meeting were executives from leading oil, natural gas, electric and wind energy companies. One attendee called the group a "good mix" of nonpartisan energy producers and people who care about the environment.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest disclosed the meeting during his Friday press briefing, calling it a "a meeting with business and thought leaders from the clean energy sector" during which the president "reiterated his commitment to a cleaner and more secure energy future."

"The discussion covered a variety of topics, including the important role of natural gas in our domestic energy portfolio, new opportunities for renewables, like wind, solar and advanced biofuels, the importance of clean energy research and development, as well as the promise and potential of increased energy efficiency in our homes and businesses," Earnest said.

From the White House, the president was joined by Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Dr. John Holdren, Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Heather Zichal and Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Munoz.

- CNN National Political Correspondent Jim Acosta contributed to this story.

Filed under: Energy • President Obama
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. ghost

    I have full faith in the POTUS.

    March 8, 2013 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  2. TexasR

    The experts are at the CERAweek meeting in Houston. As usual, he met with puppets and "yes" men. When will he quit believing his own BS?

    March 8, 2013 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  3. rs

    I fail to understand the Republican obsession with the Canadian tar sands pipeline. First, it does nothing for America- that oil is destined for export; Second, it already moves by an existing infrastructure- rail. Why should Americans lose land to a pipeline that we don't need? Finally, it is really crappy oil. It is hugely dirty to refine, pipelines are prone to leakage, and the stuff is all but impossible to clem-up unless it dumps into a paved parking lot.

    Then again, the GOP also likes pumping waste chemicals into the ground to get natural gas. Who needs drinking water?

    These guys are bent on destroying everything- especially if it makes the rich- richer.

    March 8, 2013 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  4. jonnyg

    Let's figure out how we can regulate coal, natural gas and nuclear power out of business...Barry Sotero

    March 8, 2013 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  5. Ancient Texan

    Fracking is being treated as some new illegal or unethical tool in producting oil and/or Natural gas. It's been around for almost 100 years and is as close to perfect in it's use as can be done with the knowledge and technology acquired over that time. Solidly cased in pipe and concrete down to the level of the oil deposits, it is not going to hurt ground water that is in the first 250 feet in most areas.

    March 8, 2013 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  6. Gurgyl

    This nation needs energy indipendent–global warming is vivid.

    March 8, 2013 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  7. J.V.Hodgson

    The President has long been an advocate for clean energy. Or could I be challenging and say that he has attempted a " leadership role" on this matter. this meeting has all the hallmarks of a good audit maxim which always, hears, sees, considers and calculates the items being audited, then decides.
    The problem Obama was upaginst an opposition that disagreed with every word or action he does ( and still does so) and has so much allegiance to the oil industry its sickening
    Lets face reality, the cost of oil will rise either because the costs of extraction increases ( deep ocean wells) or it is a finite resource that will rise in price due to demand exceeding supply.
    What that means is the Oil companies will face (and they know it) an ever decreasing cost differntial advantage compared with alternative energy sources. Especially if the environmental risks and costs are also considered. for which see Beijing and the health costs that stupid level of carbon pollution will cost in terms of peoples health and lives.
    Clean energy is not a zero sum gain of this trye costs x+ polltion or it costs X no pollution... the cost plus less enviromentla and healt advantages may out wig the cost plus!?

    March 9, 2013 02:29 am at 2:29 am |
  8. Gonzo

    He needs to stop surrounding himself with academics who never worked a day in their lives in the real world, and talk to people from every energy industry out there! But then again, Obama wouldn't recognize a businessman if it hit him in the face!

    March 9, 2013 02:31 am at 2:31 am |
  9. Gonzo

    A "good mix" of people who care about the environment!! We know what kind of "green" people these are....

    March 9, 2013 02:33 am at 2:33 am |
  10. Rick McDaniel

    More squanderous spending initiatives coming down the pike, wasting more billions, on useless green energy programs, just like in his first term. Obama NEVER learns!

    March 9, 2013 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  11. GonzoinHouston

    The absolutely worst thing that we can do is assume that natural gas will solve all of our energy problems forever. We still need all the domestic energy production we can get. Face it, folks; we are an energy-dependent world.

    March 9, 2013 09:03 am at 9:03 am |