I personally would have liked more specifics about how the NEPA delays compare the other delays. Lots of the discussion felt fairly hand-wavy, particularly compared to the typical Volts podcast. I don't have any reason to doubt the claims that NEPA is not the primary blocker, but I'd have loved to get better detail regarding these rebuttals.

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Sep 5, 2023·edited Sep 5, 2023

I mean, NEPA tends not to be "the primary blocker" _of the stuff that even gets submitted_, but it certainly is _a_ major reason why things take a long time and cost a lot (because you have to fund the various studies, do re-designs, etc), and it's hard to value the stuff that _doesn't get submitted at all_ because people look at it and decide the project, while useful, wouldn't be profitable enough to support the fixed costs to jump through all the hoops.

NEPA reform is going to be necessary for the IRA roll-out to not end up wasting a large portion of the allocated money. California is now actively pursuing CEQA reform because they realized that all that IRA money was flowing to other jurisdictions. Fortunately we have a relatively-functional legislature, and I feel confident that folks like Asm. Laura Friedman will help craft language that helps the executive agencies streamline where appropriate. (If David wanted to interview somebody who's really in the trenches working on the details of permitting reform, she'd be a great person to contact.)

It was political malpractice for progressives to not reach a deal with Manchin back before the Repubs got the majority in the House. We needed, and still need, a reform, but with Repubs in a majority it's hard to see how anything happens -- they're fine with the status quo, and they don't have to let anything reach the floor for a vote. Progressives were ragging on Manchin, insisting that he was acting in bad faith and secretly just loved profiting from coal, but in fact his voting record seems pretty well aligned with his public statements. (He tanked the BBB plan, which scored as inflationary, and said he wanted something that could be interpreted as anti-inflationary. The IRA kept a lot of big long-term investments while focusing on ensuring it had near-term pay-fors and could be scored, due to improvements in supply, as bending costs down over time. And he voted for it. So how was he in bad faith?)

He wanted his dumb pipeline for West Virginia, and we should've just _given him the one dumb pipeline_, to get what was a pretty good deal on NEPA reforms. Who knows how long it'll be til we have a Dem trifecta in DC again?!

And note I say the pipeline is dumb not because I'm particularly worried about its emissions -- though those aren't great, and methane leakage is a serious problem that could use some stepped-up attention -- but because I think in the long run it will likely be less profitable than its proponents expect. Renewables are going to keep getting cheaper. Fossil fuel focused companies are going to go bankrupt, or at least will have to find markets for their reserves as feedstocks for other industrial processes rather than burning them for energy. As the saying goes, "the stone age didn't end because we ran out of stones."

n.b.: I work for Tesla Energy, on utility-scale batteries, so you want to accuse me of "talking my book", fine. But it is _absolutely true_ that the US's insanely fragmented and adversarial regulatory regime is slowing down or preventing good projects. Read Paul Sabin on how Nader-ite "public interest" lobbying started out trying to prevent government from doing bad things, but ultimately led to preventing government from doing _anything_, much to the delight of the Reaganites.


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Sep 3, 2023·edited Sep 3, 2023

I'm disappointed you did not push harder on the conflict between doing lots of lengthy studies, and building enough fast enough. I mean look at There is a LOT of research on this. The federalized structure of the US where any dinky local jurisdiction can de-rail a project, and the permitting system where anyone can litigate things to death, just _is_ a major cause of high costs.


We see CEQA deployed to prevent converting a flat parking lot into infill housing. We see "historic preservation" used to protect a "historic gas station". And isn't the stat that federally we have as much potential renewable generation in the NEPA queue, as everything that already has been built?

Yes, if we adjust the rules and streamline things, probably some stuff will get built that we don't like. And sure we should try to adjust the rules in a way that minimizes that. But there really is a tradeoff between control and speed. If you optimize for preventing anything we won't like from ever getting built, you 100% are going to slow down the good stuff beyond what is acceptable if we want to meet our climate goals. The "abundance progressives" like Ezra Klein, Noah Smith, and Matt Yglesias, are just _substantively correct_ about this stuff.

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1. Proponents of an energy transition should not be saying "Wind and solar take more space up than one natural gas plant." That plant is just the proverbial "tip of the iceberg." There are those pipelines, the compressor stations, driers and separator mini-refineries, etc., but most crucially the hundreds of production wells, injection wells, gathering lines, roads sprawled over hell and gone. And these are 80% depleted in a decade, so the whole shit show needs to be repeated up the next holler or plateau.

And each well has a mile of pipe and grout left in the ground in addition to the astounding quantity, in the thousands of tons, of frac sand for each.

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I thought that Johanna Bozuwa did a great and thorough job of telling us the ins and outs of NEPA, as well as all of the other entities, such as States, Feds, and local, who are in the mix of delegating their authorities to putting solar, wind et al., available in a pretty fast manner. She also gave examples of the CA and TX cases where they are really accelerating.

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I was struck, listening to this in March 2024, that you didn’t follow up on the claim about “only 5% of the projects are challenged with a NEPA challenge.” The immediate question that needs asking: Is that just 5% of the total number specific project applications or 5% of the proposed green energy generating capacity? Because it makes a huge difference — if 19 small projects sail through without a hitch but the one big one that has twice the generating capacity of the other 19 is hogtied by challenges, your guest’s point is undone and it becomes “We can build as much as we want that doesn’t make a dent but we can’t help ourselves from stopping the projects that matter.”

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IRA and its finding strategy is intended to "intervene" on federalism approach by funding and building capacity at the community level which is intended to change (through the climate pollution reduction grants and associated State and MSA state climate action plans) how local government work with community and each other as a way to experiment and enact local policies (as part of programs) that include land use planning (that is a local government responsibility) that can be scaled to states as a way to work from community level up and support as the speaker referenced do what is called presumptive NEPA reviews and other assessments with state or regional coalitions including environmental interest groups and etc. Feds have a limited role but can be a convenor in addition as a land owner. Also - feds to a lot of this is supporting water and water ways that the Army Corp of Engineers have authority to do which could be an equivalent model. Also another and new agency worth looking into to accelerate permitting across agencies -- the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council -- https://www.permits.performance.gov/

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Aug 31, 2023·edited Aug 31, 2023

It’s interesting that Texas is the state producing the most total renewable energy. And boy is it cheap! Isn’t that why all the crypto-dudes who got kicked out of China moved to TX? Regulatory Heaven…No problem with permitting there! But then, surprise!, BigOil&Gas just spit on the federal offshore wind lease sale on the Gulf Coast. Pumping shale oil in West TX must use just a bleep-load of wind power. Looks like they must have so much surplus onshore wind, they aren’t ready to embrace their massive surplus offshore resources, not to mention geothermal, they’ll one day be using to make synthetic jet fuel & ammonia.

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Another great podcast and interview. Thanks, David.

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