Thursday, November 6, 2008

Barack Obama and Energy Policy

Here's a quote from an interview this week between Joe Klein and President-Elect Obama:
I think that the immediate economic crisis and the consequent decline in oil prices has led us to a dangerous point where maybe we start thinking in terms of business as usual again.

The biggest problem with our energy policy has been to lurch from crisis to trance. And what we need is a sustained, serious effort. Now, I actually think the biggest opportunity right now is not just gas prices at the pump but the fact that the engine for economic growth for the last 20 years is not going to be there for the next 20, and that was consumer spending. I mean, basically, we turbo-charged this economy based on cheap credit. Whatever else we think is going to happen over the next certainly 5 years, one thing we know, the days of easy credit are going to be over because there is just too much de-leveraging taking place, too much debt both at the government level, corporate level and consumer level. And what that means is that just from a purely economic perspective, finding the new driver of our economy is going to be critical. There is no better potential driver that pervades all aspects of our economy than a new energy economy.

I was just reading an article in the New York Times by Michael Pollen about food and the fact that our entire agricultural system is built on cheap oil. As a consequence, our agriculture sector actually is contributing more greenhouse gases than our transportation sector. And in the mean time, it's creating monocultures that are vulnerable to national security threats, are now vulnerable to sky-high food prices or crashes in food prices, huge swings in commodity prices, and are partly responsible for the explosion in our healthcare costs because they're contributing to type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease, obesity, all the things that are driving our huge explosion in healthcare costs. That's just one sector of the economy. You think about the same thing is true on transportation. The same thing is true on how we construct our buildings. The same is true across the board.
For us to say we are just going to completely revamp how we use energy in a way that deals with climate change, deals with national security and drives our economy, that's going to be my number one priority when I get into office.

Obama also pointed to a speech made early on in New Hampshire which laid out the blueprint for his energy approach. The full text of that speech, made October 8, 2007 in Portsmouth, NH, can be found here.

Obama discussed numerous points including raising fuel standards on cars and supporting research for energy efficient transportation and other technologies.

He discussed the need to reduce carbon emissions and said: "[A]ll polluters will have to pay based on the amount of pollution they release into the sky. The market will set the price, but unlike the other cap-and-trade proposals that have been offered in this race, no business will be allowed to emit any greenhouses gases for free. Businesses don't own the sky, the public does, and if we want them to stop polluting it, we have to put a price on all pollution. It's time to make the cleaner way of doing business the more profitable way of doing business." (my emphasis)

Obama urged use of ethanol, but also warned of limitations to that techonology. He supports clean coal technology and safer nuclear energy. He added, "We'll also invest in clean energy sources like wind power and solar power, so that by 2025, America can meet a new standard that will require 25% of all our electricity to come from renewable sources." He wants to lauch a fund to see that American inventions in these areas can be produced in the U.S. rather than overseas and imported.

Obama supports efficiency measures to reduce consumption significantly. He supports efforts to make American buildings more energy efficient, and to reduce household use. He also vows to reach out to nations around the world to make these efforts collective.

Here is the first part of that speech:

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