"Building up reliance on wind and solar is not incompatible," she argued, pointing to other countries that have offshore wind farms while the U.S. has none.
"We can do better," she said. However, "it doesn't mean saying goodbye to fossil fuels. That's not how it's going to work."
David Kreutzer of the Heritage Foundation argued against subsidies and legislation that imposes energy efficiency standards. Market prices will drive customers' choices, he said. What saves them money is what they'll embrace.
"When the economics work out, people will switch," he said. "They're greedy."
The panel, which featured nearly two-dozen speakers, also debated whether the sequestration of carbon-based emissions has a role in a national energy plan when it's technologically feasible but not economically viable.
WVU geology professor Tim Carr said storing carbon emissions underground is possible for large, stationary sources such as power plants, but it raises the cost of producing electricity by about 75 percent. No one should expect widespread deployment without investment and support by the federal government, he said.
American Electric Power's Mark McCollough said retrofitting existing power plants would be expensive and would require the diversion of nearly a third of the plant's energy output. Utilities in some countries are reducing their emissions by using pure oxygen in the combustion process, he said, but that's not necessarily cheaper.
"The road map exists" for successful carbon capture, McCollough said. "The funding support for that road map does not."
Gene Trisko, an attorney for United Mine Workers of America, said that could change if Congress passed legislation allowing a small extra fee on customers' electric bills. For about $12 per year per household, he said, revenues of more than $1 billion a year could be generated for large-scale demonstration projects.
Trisko said federal regulations requiring carbon sequestration at new coal-fired power plants may ultimately be overturned in court, "but until that time comes, coal is facing an insurmountable hurdle."
Between that regulation and new mercury emission standards, "we're not in a position to even consider the inclusion of coal within a future national energy policy," Trisko said. "And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a situation that must change."