US energy future vague as Obama re-elected

Barack Obama was re-elected to a second term in the White House on Wednesday and it is a result that will be greeted warmly by renewable power interests in the US and beyond.

What it means for the entire power generation spectrum is unclear. During the campaign Mr Obama appeared to soften his approach to fossil fuel generation, and had mocked his rival, Mitt Romney’s attempts to champion coal power.

Barack Obama
The coal industry has suffered through increased regulation during the Obama administration, and with cheap, available gas power still abundant, coal may continue to decline as a power source.

Romney had said the EPA would loosen coal industry regulations under his presidency, but now that has not come to pass they will hope that Obama sees some role for coal in America’s security, and eases off on increasing regulation further.

Obama’s second term will begin on 20th January after he passed the 270 votes needed to win in the US Electoral College in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Energy policy will be dictated to a large extent by what goes on in the Senate and House of Representatives. While the Democrats retain control of the former, the Republicans again hold the upperhand in the latter.

Mr Obama’s mandate is not strong and the Republicans dominance of Representatives could present problems for the President in advancing his clean energy agenda

At the present moment there is no indication whether Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, the main drivers behind the expansion of federal government support for clean technology, and alternative and renewable energy under Obama, want to serve in a second term.

The victor had, during his campaign, expressed support for the both the wind production tax credit (PTC) and investment tax credit for offshore wind expire this year. Stating support would help save jobs.

Romney had vowed to discontinue the schemes so at first glance it looks like encouraging news for wind interests.

However it remains to be seen if Obama can persuade Congress to maintain these supports.

What energy mix Obama comes up with and what he is able to push through congress are, for now, imponderables.

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