What’s In Store For Alternative Energy With Obama’s Cabinet?

Spread the love

As the Obama inauguration nears and his cabinet picks are made public, the impact of his presidency on the alternative energy sector is becoming more tangible. During the campaign, we heard plenty on Barack Obama’s views on environmental regulation, climate change and alternative energy. But what about the people who will be advising him day-to-day on these matters, and who will be ambassadors both inside and out of the country for the administration’s policies?

One thing is for certain: Obama’s picks so far for positions with influence on energy and environmental matters mark a clear break from the Bush administration. I was doing some reading on the matter and put together the table below, along with certain stock categories that could see some upside as a result of these individuals’ influence on the incoming administration’s policy agenda.

Name Position Responsibilities On The Record Stocks
Rahm Emanuel Chief of Staff Top administrator in the White House. Controls the flow of people and information in and out of the President’s inner circle. Strong proponent of natural gas-powered cars; History of voting for clean energy initiatives and against measures favorable to the oil & gas industry Clean Energy Fuels (CLNE); Alternative energy ETFs and MFs
Hillary Clinton Secretary of State Strong foreign policy responsibilities. As far as the environment and energy goes, will be largely responsible for communicating and defending the administration’s policies abroad. Get tough with OPEC; Wants "gas price manipulation" investigated; Favors cap-and-trade Emissions trading stocks  
Ken Salazar Secretary of the Interior Responsible for policies related to land management in the US. Tighten controls over oil royalties; Expand the use of renewable energy on public lands; Modernize the interstate electric grid; Cautious on oil shales and off-shore drilling Electric grid stocks; Wind power ETFs
Lisa Jackson Head of the EPA Responsibility for enforcing various pollution laws and regulations, and for setting pollution standards. Commitment to making decisions based on science rather than politics; Unveiled New Jersey’s carbon emissions reduction strategy; Commitment to fighting pollution and climate change  Emissions trading stocks
Nancy Sutley Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality Main advisor to the White House on environmental policy. Oversaw a program to retrofit buildings in L.A. to increase energy efficiency; Views the roles of cities as important in fighting climate change Building retrofit stocks
Carol Browner Energy Coordinator This is a position that does not yet exist. Its main function will be to advise the President on climate policy. Record of enacting pollution standards Emissions trading stocks
Stephen Chu Secretary of Energy Broadly responsible for the domestic energy file. Strong belief in the urgency of fighting climate change; Proponent of energy efficiency; Very cautious on coal                          Emissions trading stocks; Energy efficiency stocks

To be sure, not all of these individuals will have the same degree of influence on the President, and past opinions or actions may not be an indication of future ones. Nevertheless, two main things emerge from this table, in my view.

First, few if any of these individuals have a history of cozying up to the fossil fuel industry, whether oil & gas or coal. This is markedly different from what people got used to under the Bush administration and while I wouldn’t say this is grounds for shorting O&G or coal stocks, these industries should not expect energy policy to be as favorable as it has been over the past eight years.

Second, in most cases, these individuals have openly stated that they view climate change as a significant problem that should be addressed. It is therefore nearly certain that greenhouse gases will be regulated at the federal level.

Obama made his views on alternative energy and climate policy known a long time ago. His appointments confirm that he intends on carrying through with his promises. While I continue to believe that the White House won’t seek to have tight climate regulations enacted as long as the economy remains soft, such regulations, likely in the form of a cap-and-trade system, will almost certainly be brought forward before this presidential term is over. 



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.