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The job-creating answer to global warming

By Joe Romm  

"The job-creating answer to global warming"


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energy_cover.jpgA major new report from the Center for American Progress (CAP) provides a detailed roadmap for avoiding catastrophic global warming and restoring our energy security, while maintaining economic development.

The report, Capturing the Energy Opportunity: Creating a Low Carbon Economy, is by CAP’s John Podesta, Kitt Batten, and Todd Stern. It is well worth reading, and I say that not because I am a senior fellow at CAP, but because the 88-page report lays out the most comprehensive set of plausible job-creating climate/energy policies I have seen.

The authors understand the scale of the problem:

The challenge we face is nothing short of the conversion of an economy sustained by high-carbon energy–putting both our national security and the health of our planet at serious risk–to one based on low-carbon, sustainable sources of energy. The scale of this undertaking is immense and its potential enormous.

The urgency of this issue demands a president willing to make the low-carbon energy challenge a top priority in the White House–a centerpiece not only of his or her energy policy but also of his or her economic program–to produce broad-based growth and sustain American economic leadership in the 21st century. This task is so encompassing it will demand that the incoming president in 2009 reorganize the mission and responsibility of all relevant government agencies–economic, national security, and environmental.

The report explores the crucial steps needed to meet the challenge:

  • Create a green-house gas emissions cap-and-trade program
  • Eliminate Federal tax breaks and subsidies for gas and oil industries
  • Increase vehicle fuel economy
    - 40 mpg by 2020, 55 mpg by 2030
  • Increase production and availability of alternative low-carbon fuels
    - 25% of our nation’s transportation fuels by 2025
    - Reduce life-cycle emissions from transportation fuels by 10% by 2020
    - 15% of fuel “pumps” (including dedicated electricity charging stations for plug-in hybrid vehicles) provide low-carbon alternative fuels in any county in the U.S. where 15% of vehicles can run on these alternative fuels.
  • Invest in low-carbon mass transportation infrastructure
  • Improve efficiency in energy generation, transmission and consumption
    - 10% energy savings through efficiency upgrades by 2020
  • Increase production of renewable electricity
  • Use carbon capture-and-storage systems for carbon emissions from coal
  • Create a White House National Energy Council
    - Create an Energy Innovation Council
    - Create an Energy Technology Corporation
    - Create a Clean Energy Investment Authority
    - Create a Clean Energy Jobs Corp
  • Lead efforts to advance international global warming policies

Fortunately, while the challenge is great, the opportunity is greater — and not just the benefits of avoiding catastrophic global:

Taking such action is not just good for our environment. Actions like these can provide a powerful charge to the economy. Our vision of a low-carbon economy includes vigorous private and public research pushing the envelope on technologies that will not only stabilize emissions at livable levels during the next 50 years but also create the clean-powered world that our grandchildren and their children will see at the dawn of the next century. Developing, deploying, and building at this scale recalls other great economic transformations in America’s past, like the laying of our railroads and the construction of the interstate highway system. But in many ways our new challenge is even more complex since energy powers every part of the economy. Yet that’s exactly why these advancements will drive economic growth and American leadership in a competitive global economy well into the 21st century.

Do we need to wait for breakthrough technologies, as Bush, Gingrich, and Lomborg argue? Of course not (in fact, we can’t afford to delay any longer if we want to save a livable climate):

The good news is that the technology we need to begin the transformation to a low-carbon economy exists and the investment dollars are available if the policy ground rules are properly established. A great deal of investment and effort will be needed to make this vision real, but the hard work of ushering it in can become a powerful engine for growth, competitive advantage and jobs.

For the details on how we can take advantage of the energy opportunity, read the report here. A video summary is here. An online interview with Kit Batten on the report is here.

And this report is just one chapter in a much longer document, — Progressive Growth: Transforming America’s Economy through Clean Energy, Innovation, and Opportunity — CAP’s economic strategy for the next Administration, with a summary here.

‹ The Vision Thing II: Where are the Giants?

Ice Ice Maybe (not) — update ›

6 Responses to The job-creating answer to global warming

  1. There is little that I would disagree with here. There are specific concrete steps that need to be taken to insure that goals will be meet. There are at present only three technologies that can at present can provide low cost low carbon base electrical power. They are geothermal power, solar thermal power, and nuclear power. The first two power sources can only provide power in geographically limited localities. We must adopt a national policy to focus on the production of a large numver of nuclear power plants. This means standardizing nuclear plant design, and develing a mass production system to build reactors quickly.

    The move to plug in electric cars with 50 to 100 mile battery (or capacitor) range would easily allow the gas millage targets to be meet, Urban trucking can be conducted using battery or capacitors for motive power. Interurban trucking should be eliminated and freight transfered to all electrified rail roads.

    We ought to engage in a national debate about the use of aircraft for inter city passenger traffic. High speed electrical passenger trains can move people very quickly between cities, and in many instances passengers would arrive at their destinations more quickly by high speed trains than they would be Jet aircraft.

    These measures would more than half out nation CO2 emission, while causing little disruption in our basic way of life.

    There would be plenty of oxen that would be “Gored” by such a plan. The electric power generating companies would be forced to scrap most of their power plants. EXXON and other oil companies would be either forced to go out of business, or find a new non-carbon energy source to sell. Coal companies would be forced to shut their mines. Interstate trucking companies would be forced out of business. Airlines might be forced to stop flying.

    At the same time millions of new jobs would be created. We would no longer have the burden of paying Arab potentates for imported oil, the air would be cleaner, and people’s health would be better, because they would no longer be breathin air polluted by the burning of fossil fuels.

  2. Earl Killian says:

    I haven’t read the report yet, but I would quibble with the one bullet Joe singled out: “15% of fuel “pumps” (including dedicated electricity charging stations for plug-in hybrid vehicles)”. I believe that plug-ins are an important component (of many) in the solution. But plug-ins will get charged in our garages at night, for the most part. It is one solution that requires almost no infrastructure (a very strong point in its favor). Charging is of course completely optional for plug-in hybrids, but the cost and greenhouse gas savings make it worthwhile.

    Pure battery electric vehicles (BEVs) could benefit in a small way from a charging infrastructure, if the 10 minute charging technology recently demonstrated by Phoenix Motorcars works out, but primarily this would be on highways, one every 75 miles or so. But battery EVs will probably follow plug-in hybrids in widescale deployment. BEVs can also benefit from chargers in places like shopping centers, but not at places like gas stations.

    Also, the “Increase production of renewable electricity” is pretty fuzzy. How about a date/percentage goal? California is targeting 20% by 12/31/2010. That’s a meaningful goal.

  3. Earl, while Plug in batteries requite overnight charging, rapidly developing ultracapacitor technology offer the potential that rapidly charging ultracapacitors, with a charge storage capacities that equal those of lithium ion batteries may be on the market within a few years. Capacitors offer many advantages over batteries. They are potentially cheaper to manufacture, and their useful lifetime is far longer than that of batteries.

    A 40 to 50 mile range for plug in batteries would cover most urban driving needs, GM plans to introduce the Volt, with a 40 mile plug in range in 2010. The Volt has a small 300 cc gas engine, for battery charging. The disadvantage of pure electric cars is that they are confined by battery range. A 50 mile range would not allow for a roundtrip between Dallas and Fort Wort, a common urban drive in North Texas. A 100 or 130 mile battery range would work however.

    The full potential for CO2 savings of plug in hybrids cannot be realized if electricity continues to be generated by burning fossil fuels.

    California is free to set what ever target it wishes for renewable energy, but they are not going to get anything like 20% by 2011. California assemblyman Chuck DeVore provides an analysis of the steps required to reach California’s energy goals by 2020. DeVore concludes that without new reactors, it will be impossible for California to reach its energy goals.


    DeVore describes the potential:

    “Really thinking out of the box, if California were to add eight 1,600-megawatt nuclear reactors, we could zero-out coal, cut our natural gas usage by more than a third, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 27 million metric tons below 1990 levels and see electrical costs rise by less than half of what they would without any new nuclear power plants. This bold plan would allow California to lead the nation in electrifying its transportation system as well as increasing its use of clean, electrically produced hydrogen to power vehicles. It also reduces our dependence on fossil fuels imported from the Middle East.”

    DeVore is that rarest of political animals, a Republican with vision.

  4. Earl Killian says:

    Charles, don’t bet on ultracapacitors. While there is some interesting recent work at MIT (http://spectrum.ieee.org/nov07/5636) they suggest it may be “many years” to go from 5% (today) to 50% the energy of lithium batteries of the same size. Moreover, getting 100 miles of battery charge in 10 minutes has been demonstrated (http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/nov07/5685). The problem is not whether a battery or ultracap is charged, but the power required. As the article mentions, the 10 minute charge required “250 kilowatts of power—five times as much as the average office building consumes at its peak.” The good news is that some battery chemistries can absorb this power level; the bad news is that few facilities will have breaker boxes with this power level.

    As for DeVore, California has already essentially ruled out coal without carbon capture for its future power (SB1368). The California Energy Commission is suggesting that the 20% by 2011 goal be followed by 33% by 2020. It is certainly a different vision.

  5. Joe says:

    I rather like ultracaps — don’t count them out!

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