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Breaking news — A real energy plan for America: Efficiency now, 10% renewables by 2012, and one million plug-in hybrids by 2015

By Joe Romm  

"Breaking news — A real energy plan for America: Efficiency now, 10% renewables by 2012, and one million plug-in hybrids by 2015"

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Senator Barack Obama has fulfilled the promise of his earlier climate plan with a detailed and comprehensive “New Energy for America” plan. He will be giving a major speech on this plan at 11 a.m. EST. in Lansing, Michigan.

This is easily the best energy plan ever put forward by a nominee of either party:

  • Increase Fuel Economy Standards: Obama will increase fuel economy standards 4 percent per each year while protecting the financial future of domestic automakers….
  • Invest in Developing Advanced Vehicles and Put 1 Million Plugin Electric Vehicles on the Road by 2015: As a U.S. senator, Barack Obama has led efforts to jumpstart federal investment in advanced vehicles, including combined plug”in hybrid/flexible fuel vehicles, which can get over 150 miles per gallon of gas… [more details below]
  • Partner with Domestic Automakers: Obama will also provide $4 billion retooling tax credits and
    loan guarantees for domestic auto plants and parts manufacturers, so that the new fuel”efficient
    cars can be built in the U.S. by American workers rather than overseas.
  • Mandate All New Vehicles are Flexible Fuel Vehicles
  • Develop the Next Generation of Sustainable Biofuels and Infrastructure
  • Establish a National Low Carbon Fuel Standard: … The standard requires fuels suppliers in 2010 to begin to reduce the carbon of their fuel by 5 percent within 5 years and 10 percent within 10 years.

This is the only way to jumpstart an end to our addiction to oil in a climate friendly way. Indeed, an accelerated transition to plug-in hybrids and electric cars — a core climate solutionmust be the cornerstone of any serious effort to dramatically reduce oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions (see “Why electricity is the only alternative fuel that can lead to energy independence“). That is the crucial litmus test for any presidential candidate’s energy independence or clean transportation policy.

As for the test of a candidate’s grasp of electricity policy, energy efficiency is obviously The only cheap power left and a limitless resource and THE core climate solution. Obama understands energy efficiency in a way few other major politicians do, as his plan makes clear:

  • Deploy the Cheapest, Cleanest, Fastest Energy Source–Energy Efficiency: Barack Obama will set an aggressive energy efficiency goal–to reduce electricity demand 15 percent from DOE’s projected levels by 2020. Implementing this program will save consumers a total of $130 billion, reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 5 billion tons through 2030, and create jobs. A portion of this goal would be met by setting annual demand reduction targets that utilities would need to meet.
  • Set National Building Efficiency Goals: Obama will establish a goal of making all new buildings carbon neutral, or produce zero emissions, by 2030. He’ll also establish a national goal of improving new building efficiency by 50 percent and existing building efficiency by 25 percent over the next decade to help us meet the 2030 goal.
  • Overhaul Federal Efficiency Standards: The current Department of Energy has missed 34 deadlines for setting updated appliance efficiency standards….
  • Reduce Federal Energy Consumption: … He will make the federal government a leader in the green building market, achieving a 40 percent increase in efficiency in all new federal buildings within five years and ensuring that all new federal buildings are zero”emissions by 2025. He will invest in cost”effective retrofits to achieve a 25 percent increase in efficiency of existing federal buildings within 5 years.
  • Invest in a Smart Grid: … Obama will pursue a major investment in our national utility grid using smart metering, distributed storage and other advanced technologies to accommodate 21st century energy requirements: greatly improved electric grid reliability and security, a tremendous increase in renewable generation and greater customer choice and energy affordability.
  • Weatherize One Million Homes Annually….
  • Build More Livable and Sustainable Communities….
  • Flip Incentives to Energy Utilities: An Obama administration will “flip” incentives to utility companies by: requiring states to conduct proceedings to implement incentive changes; and offering them targeted technical assistance. These measures will benefit utilities for improving energy efficiency, rather than just from supporting higher energy consumption. This “regulatory equity” starts with the decoupling of profits from increased energy usage, which will incentivize utilities to partner with consumers and the federal and state governments to reduce monthly energy bills for families and businesses. The federal government under an Obama administration will play an important and positive role in flipping the profit model for the utility sector so that shareholder profit is based on reliability and performance as opposed to total production.

Finally, a presidential nominee that really gets it (see “Energy efficiency, Part 4: How does California do it so consistently and cost-effectively?“).

The proposal has lots of other details on short-term solutions and promoting the supply of domestic energy. But let me focus on his low-carbon electricity supply plan:

  • Require 10 Percent of Electricity to Come from Renewable Sources by 2012 [and 25 percent by 2025]. Barack Obama will establish a 10 percent federal Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to require that 10 percent of electricity consumed in the U.S. is derived from clean, sustainable energy sources, like solar, wind and geothermal by 2012. Many states are already well on their way to achieving statewide goals and it’s time for the federal government to provide leadership for the entire country to support these new industries. This national requirement will spur significant private sector investment in renewable sources of energy and create thousands of new American jobs, especially in rural areas. And Obama will also extend the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) for 5 years to encourage the production of renewable energy.
  • Develop and Deploy Clean Coal Technology….
  • Safe and Secure Nuclear Energy: … It is unlikely that we can meet our aggressive climate goals if we eliminate nuclear power as an option. However, before an expansion of nuclear power is considered, key issues must be addressed including: security of nuclear fuel and waste, waste storage, and proliferation…. As president, Obama will make safeguarding nuclear material both abroad and in the U.S. a top anti”terrorism priority. In terms of waste storage, Obama does not believe that Yucca Mountain is a suitable site. He will lead federal efforts to look for safe, long”term disposal solutions based on objective, scientific analysis. In the meantime, Obama will develop requirements to ensure that the waste stored at current reactor sites is contained using the most advanced dry”cask storage technology available.

He also repeats his climate pledge and his jobs pledge:

  • Implement an economy”wide cap”and”trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.
  • Invest In A Clean Energy Economy and Help Create 5 Million New Green Jobs. Obama will strategically invest $150 billion over 10 years…

Finally, back to the details of the plug-in hybrid proposal:

As president, Obama will continue this leadership by investing in advanced vehicle technology with a specific focus on R&D in advanced battery technology. The increased federal funding will leverage private sector funds and support our domestic automakers to bring plug”in hybrids and other advanced vehicles to American consumers. Obama will also provide a $7,000 tax credit for the purchase of advanced technology vehicles as well as conversion tax credits. And to help create a market and show government leadership in purchasing highly efficient cars, an Obama administration will commit to:

  • Within one year of becoming President, the entire White House fleet will be converted to plug”ins as security permits; and
  • Half of all cars purchased by the federal government will be plug”in hybrids or all”electric by 2012.

This is an aggressive, achievable, and most important of all, a necessary energy plan. Kudos to Senator Obama and his energy team.

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33 Responses to Breaking news — A real energy plan for America: Efficiency now, 10% renewables by 2012, and one million plug-in hybrids by 2015

  1. Albert says:

    On page five he mentions promoting mining in two shale formations (the Bakken Shale and the Barnett Shale). Can you explain what that is about?

    I hope I can safely assume that he is not talking about the Bush/McCain plan with the “energy density of a baked potato.”

  2. Tom G says:

    Drilling, not mining…..

  3. Felix Kramer says:

    Thanks for your assessment on this. It’s so far ahead of what we might have hoped for not long ago. On plug-in hybrids, at Calcars-News http://www.calcars.org/news-archive.html , we’ve been tracking the race between the candidates for who has the best policy (with the Senate Gang of 10 now jumping in as well). The more competition the better.

    Importantly, Obama and the Senate both incentivize conversions, which if extended beyond retrofits of hybrids to “green-tuning” internal combustion engine cars could have a far bigger impact. Joe, I remember around 2006 talking to you about how long it would take best-case for PHEVs to penetrate in numbers significant enough to make a difference. Now I hope we’ll get a chance to find out!

    – Felix Kramer, Founder, CalCars.org

  4. Saint says:

    Where to begin with Obama’s speech? He wants to raise the fuel economy standard for vehicles 4% a year, which is what the Bush Administration proposed in its 20-in-10 plan and which was essentially codified in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

    [JR: I believe he is going to continue this through 2030.]

    He wants to increase the amount of renewable energy to 10% by 2012 (the speech is a little unclear on this goal, but the plan on his website says electricity). We currently produce about 9% of our electricity from renewables, and depending how you measure it, EIA is forcasting 9.5% to 10.5% from renewables by 2012, so this part of his plan is essentially business as usual. (And where did he come up with the line that this 10% would more than double the current share from renewables?)

    [JR: He said it would double current renewables. I imagine hydro isn't included.]

    And he wants 6 billion gallons of renewables fuels by 2022. Someone needs to tell his campaign that EISA 2007 (you know, the bill Bush signed into law) already mandates 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2022–16 billion gallons in cellulosic alone.

    Who’s doing his fact checking?

    [JR: There are mandates, and then there is reality.]

  5. Anonymous says:

    As a non-US reader of this blog, I am quite disappointed. Everything about the speech is US-centric (yes, there is a whole world out there…) – the US has been instrumental in delaying action on CO2 emissions for 20 years and I was hoping that “making the US a leader on climate change” would have amounted to more than bullying other countries with much lower per-capita emissions into making binding committments (page 3). The US should get down to their levels before preaching anything to anyone.

    On the subject of oil the approach is just terrible. It is just “drill, drill, drill” rephrased. – empty out the SPR, redistribute leases that are not being exploited (“Use it or lose it” – page 5), develop oil shale (surely not!!!!), drill in Alaska.

    What Obama SHOULD do it this: send teams of people out to each of the advanced developed nations to learn how they do it. Then copy them. Have the humility to admit that the US wastes energy on a collosal scale and put US citizens on a strict “energy diet” based on what people in Europe and Japan get by on.

    Why is this blog entry so one-sided and uncritical of the speech? On a blog where the main focus is supposed to be climate change there is LOTS to be critical about.

    [JR: This is a U.S. energy plan. Duh. How could we have an energy plan for other countries? I gave the link to the climate strategy. Try reading it. There has never been a US presidential candidate with an energy plan even remotely as good as this. If you want to be unhappy, try studying the energy plan from the other guy.]

  6. Robert says:

    As a non-US reader of this blog, I am quite disappointed. Everything about the speech is US-centric (yes, there is a whole world out there…) – the US has been instrumental in delaying action on CO2 emissions for 20 years and I was hoping that “making the US a leader on climate change” would have amounted to more than bullying other countries with much lower per-capita emissions into making binding committments (page 3). The US should get down to their levels before preaching anything to anyone.

    On the subject of oil the approach is just terrible. It is just “drill, drill, drill” rephrased. – empty out the SPR, redistribute leases that are not being exploited (“Use it or lose it” – page 5), develop oil shale (surely not!!!!), drill in Alaska.

    What Obama SHOULD do it this: send teams of people out to each of the advanced developed nations to learn how they do it. Then copy them. Have the humility to admit that the US wastes energy on a collosal scale and put US citizens on a strict “energy diet” based on what people in Europe and Japan get by on.

    Why is this blog entry so one-sided and uncritical of the speech? On a blog where the main focus is supposed to be climate change there is LOTS to be critical about.

    [JR: This is a U.S. energy plan. Duh. How could we have an energy plan for other countries? I gave the link to the climate strategy. Try reading it. There has never been a US presidential candidate with an energy plan even remotely as good as this. If you want to be unhappy, try studying the energy plan from the other guy.]

  7. Robert says:

    I’d vote Richard Heinberg for President!

    http://www.energybulletin.net/node/46122

    This quote sums up Obama’s policy:

    “Today, as energy scarcity cripples national economies with pain that is both palpable and growing, there is likely to be a greater tendency to discount the future costs of Climate Change in favor of satisfying immediate demand for fuel, no matter how carbon-intensive it may be. There is abundant evidence that this is indeed occurring.”

    [JR: Try reading Obama's energy plan and his climate plan before making such an absurd claim.]

  8. nataraj says:

    Disappointing.

    “Require 10 Percent of Electricity to Come from Renewable Sources by 2012 [and 25 percent by 2025]. ”

    And Gore thought we could do 100% in 10 years. So do I.

    What we need is a mega plan that completely remakes America – not marginal stuff that dooms the planet.

  9. mike says:

    What experts are involved in analyzing and developing Obama’s plan?

  10. mike says:

    Establish a National Low Carbon Fuel Standard: … The standard requires fuels suppliers in 2010 to begin to reduce the carbon of their fuel by 5 percent within 5 years and 10 percent within 10 years.

    I’d like to challenge the person who wrote the following Any help is appreciated?

    I he going to change the laws of physics so that the ratio of carbon to hydrogen atoms in hydrocarbon based fuels is altered such that liquid hydrocarbon based fuels have a greater hydrogen content?

    This is a totally ludicrous statement which shows his ignorance on this subject. There is a possilbility of “carbon-neutral” fuels, but there is no way that carbon can be reduced by 5% or 10% as a component of hydrocarbon based fuels, and since he used the term “fuels suppliers” it can be assumed that he means existing fuel manufacturers, which all make hydrocarbon based fuels. They can’t just make a new fuel, they have to pretty much stick to the ones that engines will run on. Alternatives such as methane, propane, LPG, ethanol, methanol, biodeisel, etc, all have pretty much the same ratio of hydrogen to carbon, some compounds are more energy dense than others, but for a given amount of energy they usually have a similar amount of carbon, typically H=2*C+2.

  11. Saint says:

    “And then there is reality?” So a speech from a candidate–a Democrat, no less–is more real, more credible, than an actual law? Really Joe, that’s a bit much, even for you.

    The larger point is, the President you enjoy deriding has proposed or instituted many of the same things you are now praising because they come from the mouth of some lefty Democrat.

    You’d be more interesting if you didn’t spend so much of your time criticizing the Bush Administration, which has done a far better job of limiting GHG emissions and commercializing renewable technologies–e.g., wind was 35% of new generating capacity in 2007–than the administration for which you toiled. (BTW, how much higher were U.S. GHG emissions after 8 years with your crew in charge?)

  12. Joe Galliani says:

    Two key points to add to Joe Romm’s right-on analysis:

    To those who are disappointed that Obama did not go far enough or that he didn’t present Al Gore’s plan – you need to understand the reality of our political climate along with the reality of global climate change. The United States voters are easily swayed by dumbed-down talking points like – “Barack Obama’s energy plan is all about getting your car tuned and putting air in your tires.” Or: “We have to fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here.” Or “If we don’t drill off shore and build more nuclear plants then the terrorists win.” At some point you need to legitimately understand the broader market beyond the people who read and comment on blogs like Climate Progress.

    The fact is, Obama’s energy plan is light years ahead of anything the carbon collaborators like Bush, Cheney and John McCain would offer or do. John McCain is nothing short of being a ballwasher for the oil industry. You can tell exactly what you’ll get from McCain because for 7.5 years now he hasn’t opposed a single element of the Bush Oil Industry Support Plan for Continued Global Warming. He’s as much an independent maverick as the son of an admiral is a non-elitist. When he’s not ballwashing he appears to be greenwashing based on the gulf between his deeds and his actions.

    The other point is how important the Congressional races are going to be this year. It won’t be enough to elect Obama and expect to see this ambitious plan passed and enacted. Unless we work hard to get a filibusterer proof majority of Senators and Congresspeople who understand the urgency of responding to climate change and cutting our CO2 output then we’ll just witness gridlock that has lethal consequences. If you want to see “mega plans” and sweeping change in America then vote in a mandate that can overwhelm the big money carbon interests who have won every other battle they’ve waged against us to fore.

    Obama’s plan and McCain’s camp’s mocking, old school, snark-filled reply draws the line as clearly in the sand as it’s ever been etched. You can vote for an intelligent, progressive future with Obama or you can vote for the jingoistic sell-out who will ask you to BOHICA for another 4 more years as he attempts to burn every carbon producing product on the planet.

  13. John Hollenberg says:

    Joe, what is your opinion about Hansen’s latest recommendation for a target of 350 ppm CO2 rather than 450 as discussed in this paper:

    http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/2008/TargetCO2_20080407.pdf

    If 450 ppm has too great a risk of passing irreversible tipping points, should we be aiming for a much lower number?

  14. Ronald says:

    There’s a question that always go thru my mind.

    The United States spends some 3 to 3.5 billion a year on low and non carbon energy sources. Many have complained that is not enough and we should be spending more.

    The United States also spends research money is all sorts of other areas, whether medical, certainly defence, but much of general research as well.

    Are these scientists who get this funding for their personnal research willing to take less for what they are doing so more can be put to energy research and thus help secure ‘ the next 50 generations.’ Scientists would be the ones who are aware of Global Warming, the truth of it and the consequences of it. Are scientists willing to forgo some funding in their chosen area of research for the greater good, or does everybody else has to sacrifice and not them?

    I’m always curious how some groups, including science organizations, will have some statement about how bad Global Warming will be, but then don’t put any resources to attempting to fix it. I think we need more leadership and outspokenness from scientists and those that should and do know better.

  15. Paul K says:

    Joe,
    You should be outraged by this thin soup of a plan. There’s no change agenda here. Most of what Obama proposes is already in place or actually a step backward. I do like the proposal (I’ve made it in several previous comments) to have half of all cars purchased by the federal government will be plug‐in hybrids or all‐electric by 2012. Of course this assumes plug-ins will be widely available by then. Seems we’ve been two years away from plug-ins for almost ten years now.

  16. AnttiK says:

    I’m afraid I’m also slightly disappointed by the actual numbers. It’s not that this isn’t a step in the right direction, but is this amount of minuscule twiddling really all that the American voters and businesses are willing to stomach?

    If so, then (insert your favorite deity here) help us all.

  17. I want to like Obama. I really do. He’s young, dynamic, eloquent. Many of my best friends and nicest relatives support him. He sounds like he might be a “New Democrat,” looking for innovative, market-oriented, small government solutions.

    But he is just not.

    Take a look at his energy plan. The most striking aspect of the Obama plan is what it does NOT include: not a single kind word for all the various existing tax incentives that have spurred along the development of hybrid cars, solar power and other clean technologies. These incentives have been hugely successful in convincing millions of Americans to buy cleaner, more efficient hybrids, or put solar panels up on their roofs. Expanding these successful programs is key to moving America over to green energy. But not a single mention of these in the Obama plan. No commitment to either expanding or even maintaining these policies.

    [JR: Factually incorrect.]

    That omission should be profoundly disturbing to any serious environmentalist.

    Anyone interested in keeping government lean and efficient should also be disturbed, because these tax incentives are the one extremely effective solution that does not require new taxes, spending or regulation, that does not grow the government.

    By contrast, McCain’s energy plan is way ahead of Obama’s in his support for a wide array of existing and new tax incentives for green energy. But even McCain does not go as far as he should in supporting complete tax freedom for green energy — but for now, back to Obama.

    [JR: The opposite of the truth. McCain consistently voted against all existing tax incentives for green energy. I am deleting the rest of this post for repeated disinformation.]

  18. Obama’s plan is a nice comprise between ambitious and realistic. One could see it as the minimum where Gore sets the maximum. What happens in between is up to the American people. But surely, achieving the minimum could be the kickstart needed to build momentum toward the maximum. It’s enough to start and build energy around a meaningful transformation, rather than just playing at the edges indefinitely so oil companies can put pictures of windmills on their annual reports and call themselves “green.”

    I think more important than anything — do you believe Obama will drive toward getting it done? I’m not American, but from the sidelines I surely believe him. Just the fact that his harsh comments aren’t making him any friends in the oil industry makes me a believer.

  19. Sen. Barack Obama, the U.S. next president, is on point and on target with his Energy Plan. He is definitely the only candidate who can successfully lead this nation into the 21st century.

    McCain’s plan is incomplete, childish, and inexperienced – lacking good judgment!

    ” You won’t hear me say this too often, but I couldn’t agree more with the explanation that Senator McCain offered a few weeks ago. He said, “Our dangerous dependence on foreign oil has been thirty years in the making, and was caused by the failure of politicians in Washington to think long-term about the future of the country.”

    What Senator McCain neglected to mention was that during those thirty years, he was in Washington for twenty-six of them. And in all that time, he did little to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. He voted against increased fuel efficiency standards and opposed legislation that included tax credits for more efficient cars. He voted against renewable sources of energy. Against clean biofuels. Against solar power. Against wind power. Against an energy bill that – while far from perfect – represented the largest investment in renewable sources of energy in the history of this country. So when Senator McCain talks about the failure of politicians in Washington to do anything about our energy crisis, it’s important to remember that he’s been a part of that failure. Now, after years of inaction, and in the face of public frustration over rising gas prices, the only energy proposal he’s really promoting is more offshore drilling – a position he recently adopted that has become the centerpiece of his plan, and one that will not make a real dent in current gas prices or meet the long-term challenge of energy independence. ” – Barack

    It’s time for REAL change in Washington, it’s time to elect Barack Obama for president !

  20. Ken Brosky says:

    Great post! I put the beef of the article on my blog so more people can check it out.

  21. Robert says:

    Joe

    “[JR: Try reading Obama’s energy plan and his climate plan before making such an absurd claim.]”

    The fact is that Obama’s plan includes several key elements which are exactly the opposite of what we should be doing to curb emissions, namely:

    1. Subsidising consumer energy prices
    [Incorrect. Please cite your source.]
    2. Draining the SPR
    [Incorrect. Please cite your source. BTW, it would be a great idea if he did support draining the SPR, as I have argued, to jumpstart the transition to a clean energy economy.]
    3. Forcing oil leases to be used (Not using them is called carbon sequestration in some circles)
    [Incorrect. Please cite your source.]
    4. Developing oil shale
    [Incorrect. Please cite your source. I will say I almost got fooled by this too, until I actually read the plan. I suggest you go back to the plan and read it and then come back here and technology made a mistake.]

    If Obama becomes president you can be assured that these will all happen. Meanwhile, all the good stuff about “going green” will be quietly dumped. People really aren’t interested in following up that stuff when they have the mother of all recessions to deal with.

    I do wonder who funds Climate Progress. Irrespective of context it is 100% blindly pro-Obama and 100% blindly anti-McCain.

    [McCain has gone in the tank for the oil industry and sold his soul for a chance to win this election. No person who cares about the nation's energy or client problems can possibly support him.]

  22. David B. Benson says:

    But it ain’t enough… :-(

  23. Cyril R. says:

    Yes, it ain’t enough. Make that at least 10 million plugin hybrids by 2015. at least 100 million by 2025. This can be done, but requires serious effort.

    And a massive effort towards mass transit. Light rail, efficient hybrid city busses etc.

    And tax the carbon, damnit! Do what Gore says. Tax what we burn, not what we earn. The extra revenue that’s earned by the carbon tax will be lowered in the income tax, making it a budget neutral tax regime. With increasingly greater equity – polluter pays principle is fair and works excellent, because performance (efficiency) is rewarded.

  24. Rob Jacob says:

    Hi Joe,

    Is Obama’s plan better then Gore’s when he was the nominee in 2000? (I wasn’t paying attention to this back then.)

    Rob

  25. Robert says:

    Joe,

    Thanks for your responses to my last post and sorry for not replying to them sooner.

    The dominant force which drive US consumption patterns is “market forces”. Any US citizen should understand this – they have lived by the mantra since the year dot.

    Hence, anything which reduces the price of burning fossil fuel will tend to increase consumption (i.e. putting more oil on the market, subsidising prices, etc.). I don’t need to cite a source. Its just basic economics and common sense.

    Conversely, shortages will raise prices and crimp consumption. This is the best mechanism for encoraging non-carbon sources of energy and, most importantly, conservation.

    In our house we reduced overall gas and electricity consumption by 50% more or less overnight by doing a long list of fairly simple if tedious things – insulation, low energy appliances and lights, line-drying washing, log burning stove, turning things off when not in use… No real reason why the world could not do the same if given the right economic signal.

  26. Ted Glick says:

    Comments on Joe Romm’s Piece on Obama Energy Plan

    Overall comments: This is not a critical analysis of Obama’s plan. There is literally not a single critical word in the entire piece. It reads as if written by a member of Obama’s campaign team, honestly. If you are looking for a piece which puts the most positive face possible on Obama’s plan, this is it.

    Notwithstanding this reality, I agree with Romm when he says that “this is easily the best energy plan ever put forward by a nominee of either party.” The problem is that it is an energy plan that in no way meets the 1Sky test of matching the solution with the science.

    There are without question a number of positive aspects to the Obama plan, specifically the call for 1 million plug-ins by 2015, his commitment to energy efficiency, investing in upgrading the national utility grid, weatherizing one million homes annually, a 100% auction of carbon credits under cap-and-trade and a goal of 5 million new green jobs. These seem to me to be the best of his proposals.

    But let me do a critical analysis of points that Romm puts forward as positive:

    -He says that an increase of fuel economy standards by 4% a year is good. That’s questionable. The energy bill passed in December last year already mandated that cars and light trucks get 35 mpg by 2020, which is just about what 4% a year will get us to. China and Europe are already at or slightly above that figure as of 2008.

    -He projects Obama’s commitment to 60 billion gallons/year of biofuels and building the infrastructure for it as a good thing. There is growing and widespread concern about the effect of biofuels on food prices, agriculture and the economy, and there are serious questions about the extent of ghg emissions reductions from many biofuels. A whole-hog commitment to making this a major element of a program to address the climate crisis seems premature, at least.

    -Requiring a 1% a year reduction in the carbon content of fuel is certainly not a bad thing but, given the urgency of the crisis, sure seems to be a case of much too little, much too slow.

    -A question: is a 15% reduction of electricity demand from DOE projected levels—not a 15% actual reduction of electricity demand but, instead, 15% less than projected by 2020—really all that is possible? I don’t think so.

    -Romm thinks that getting 10 percent of electricity from renewables by 2012, and 25% by 2025, is very good. Yet Al Gore has called for 100% of our electricity to come from renewables by 2018 as a way of really matching the urgency of the crisis with an appropriate response. Gore is on target here, not Obama.

    -Romm quotes the Obama program when it says “Develop and Deploy Clean Coal Technology” but says nothing about it, apparently seeing this as an important part of his program. Given the calls by 1Sky, Al Gore, James Hansen, Lester Brown and many others for a coal moratorium and the fact that Obama makes absolutely no mention of this idea—or any criticism of coal–anywhere in his document, this is a definite problem.

    -It could be a positive thing, as Romm may be implying by his quoting Obama at length on the problems with it, that Obama is not making any specific commitments to nuclear power. It would certainly be better if he took nukes off the table as any kind of any answer to climate change, a colossal waste of government resources that are needed to advance genuinely clean and safe energy and energy efficiency.

    -Romm does not apparently see a problem that the only goal for emissions reductions by Obama is an 80% by 2050 goal, 42 years from now. There is no 2020 goal anywhere in Obama’s document. This is a problem.

    Here is how Romm concludes his article: “This is an aggressive, achievable, and most important of all, a necessary energy plan. Kudos to Senator Obama and his energy team. Maybe he is The One.”

    I align myself with 1Sky, Al Gore, James Hansen, Lester Brown, Ross Gelbspan, Bill McKibben and others when it comes to what I think is necessary if we’re to avoid catastrophic climate change, and because of that I don’t agree at all with Romm’s conclusion. Besides the points made above, I would also say this about Obama’s plan:

    It is questionable, at best, that Obama makes no reference to the Kyoto process while at the same time supporting the Major Economies Meetings process initiated by Bush for the explicit purpose of trying to undercut the negotiations among Kyoto partners for a stronger international treaty post-2012.

    Romm says nothing about Obama’s Section 5: Promote the Supply of Domestic Energy, where Obama advocates active support for drilling for oil and natural gas in the U.S., drilling in oil shale areas, the construction of the Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline and pumping carbon dioxide into oil wells “to produce more oil from existing fields.”

    Let me be clear: there is no question that Obama’s energy plan is better than McCain’s and a very big improvement over Bush. But I am convinced by my close reading of his energy plan that it is essential that efforts like the 1Sky campaign in particular need to keep ramping up the pressure for a truly science-based program to deal with the climate crisis in the short time-frame we have to do so. Obama (and McCain) need to be pushed now and pushed if he is elected to revise a number of elements of his program to be much more what is urgently needed.

    [JR: You might try reading the link to Obama's climate plan, which I included, before attacking his energy plan. You might also try reading some of my other posts before attacking me.]

  27. Ted Glick says:

    Joe,

    I’ve read Obama’s climate plan, and there’s virtually no difference as far as policy between it and his energy plan, as one would expect, so I don’t know what you’re referring to by your comments.

    I’m sorry you feel attacked. I don’t think I did so. I criticized a number of elements of Obama’s plan and your support of them. It seems to me that this is the kind of policy-oriented debate we need and that, indeed, Obama talks about as distinct from personal attacks and “Washington politics as usual.”

    Ted

    [JR: You wrote "Romm does not apparently see a problem that the only goal for emissions reductions by Obama is an 80% by 2050 goal, 42 years from now. There is no 2020 goal anywhere in Obama’s document. This is a problem." Had you read Obama's climate plan as I said, then you would see that it clearly states "he'll also implement a mandate of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2020." This is the California target and it is perfectly reasonable. You are entitled to believe that Gore's unattainable (politically and, I'm afraid, practically) 100% renewables target in 10 years is what we need to save the climate, but no one, including Gore, has presented a factual basis for that assertion. Obama's renewables target is a huge stretch given what has been achieved to date at the federal level (which is, of course, zilch). I stand by my analysis.]

  28. Sparky says:

    Efficiencies, renewables, smart grid, electrify transport…amen to these.

    Clean coal, IMO == oxymoronic pipe dream, buts let’s do the R and D to provide the facts.

    Still looking for a Dem to come out strong for nuclear. So many options available to vastly reduce generated waste, reduce construction costs, ease proliferation concerns. Even designs that consume current waste. Do the R&D and get the pilot plants built…just like we should have done in 92/93 when we instead canceled Argonne’s EBR II.

    The nuclear bogey man mindset of the 70s needs to end.

  29. Tom G says:

    Agreeing with Sparky, –the electric car will come in time but there a hundred million plus autos plus ships,farm tractors,heavy and light trucks,industrial equipment that will need oil/carbon based energy for many many years to come. Nuclear power no doubt will be necessary as the grid will need larger systems to recharge those electric autos.

    This will all come in time but don’t expect the green energy to be the answer to all.

  30. erotik says:

    It is questionable, at best, that Obama makes no reference to the Kyoto process while at the same time supporting the Major Economies Meetings process initiated by Bush for the explicit purpose of trying to undercut the negotiations among Kyoto partners for a stronger international treaty post-2012.

  31. sikiş says:

    Sen. Barack Obama, the U.S. next president, is on point and on target with his Energy Plan. He is definitely the only candidate who can successfully lead this nation into the 21st century.