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U.S. policy on energy and climate - May 18

Click on the headline (link) for the full text.

Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage


New Energy for America (Democrat proposals)

Robert L. Borosage & Katrina vanden Heuvel, The Nation
...In sum, Democrats call for a dramatic change of course from Bush's policies, and their rhetoric touts a compelling national mission. Their policies, however, are more cautious. Except for Edwards, Democrats still hew to fiscal discipline. They scrimp on spending and emphasize caps, regulations and taxes, thus giving traction to Republican gibes that Democratic policies will hurt the economy.

Worse, Democrats seem to belie their own rhetoric by treating the issue as simply one part of a broader policy agenda. No one has yet portrayed the scope and urgency of this national imperative. A bold leader would summon the nation to action. She or he would call for a crash drive for energy independence, spurring individual, business and government action. Public investment in research and development would galvanize the scientific community; investment in rebuilding our cities would create jobs and pay for itself in lower energy costs; aggressive support for renewables would secure our energy supply, lower trade deficits and free us from future resource wars. A green job corps could train workers and harness the idealism of the young. Contrast this vital investment in our future--and the economic growth it would stimulate--with the nearly $500 billion (headed toward $2 trillion) the Bush Administration has squandered on the Iraq War.

Around the globe, people are learning that we have no choice but to move rapidly to a new energy future. Corporations are getting the message. Al Gore is electrifying activists and the young. Americans will respond to a leader who inspires us to meet that challenge, unleashes our energies and imaginations, acknowledges the costs and wrenching changes required while demonstrating the benefits--new jobs and technologies, cheaper and more dependable power, cleaner air, lower trade deficits. The transition to clean energy is both an immense challenge and an immense opportunity. Under Bush, the right has failed the test, and so far the Republican candidates have punted. The public is looking for leadership. That job is still open.
(17 May 2007)
It's encouraging to see some movement on energy from the Democrats. Presidential candidate Bill Richardson just released his energy plan.

Some Republican figures can give Democrats a run for the money on energy: California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

From the greener side of the political spectrum, the Democrat's proposals look superficial (who is going to tackle the politically difficult issues of corn ethanol and a carbon tax?). For example, see the remarks by an activist on U.S. labor and global warming.


Richardson's energy plan

Gov. Bill Richardson, Richardson for President site
In order to make America a Clean Energy Nation, as I made New Mexico a Clean Energy State, we need a man-on-the-moon program to end our addiction to oil and abate our global warming crisis...

My Plan:

  • Cut oil demand: 50% by 2020
    We must reduce oil imports from around 65% to 10%. We can reach these goals in part by getting the 100 mile per gallon (mpg) car into the marketplace, push fuel economy standards to 50 mpg by 2020, and set a life-cycle low-carbon fuel standard that reduces the carbon impact of our liquid fuels by 30% by 2020, including increasing use of alternative fuels....

  • Change to Renewable Sources for Electricity: 50% by 2040
    ...my market-based cap and trade program for greenhouse gas emissions will create incentives for the electric and industrial sectors to make significant reductions in their carbon emissions.

  • Dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions: 80% by 2040
    20% by 2020, and 80% by 2040 -- ten years faster than scientists say is necessary because we must lead the world, and we can't afford the possibility of backsliding and inaction. We will start with a market-based cap and trade system....

  • Lead by example and restore America as the world's leader
    We must return to the international negotiating table and support mandatory world-wide limits on global warming pollution....

  • Get it all done without breaking the bank
    We will raise some revenue from the sales of carbon permits, for example. Further, I will get out the "green scissors" to cut back on wrongly-placed tax subsidies. Over time, this program will yield huge productivity increases in our economy, as well as significant budget savings and revenues. We will create more than ten times as much value in the American economy, by reducing our oil imports, as we spend to make this program happen.

(17 May 2007)
Richardson is the Democratic governor of New Mexico and a candidate for U.S. President.

Comments and links at Gristmill.


How to do nothing about global warming (Bush's new proposal)

Editorial, International Herald Tribune
Confronted with soaring gasoline prices, a Congress growing more restless by the day about oil dependency and a Supreme Court demanding executive action on global-warming emissions, President George W. Bush stepped before the cameras in the Rose Garden the other day and said, essentially, nothing.

He announced that he had ordered four federal agencies to "work together" to devise regulations reducing greenhouse gases. He also renewed his call for greater investments in alternative fuels. But neither he nor the cadre of designated briefers who followed him provided any detail, so nobody knows whether he will in fact end up asking for more efficient cars or what sort of alternative fuels he has in mind or, more broadly, what sort of reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions he hopes to achieve.

What we did learn was that he has chosen to make the process as cumbersome and time-consuming as possible. We also learned that nothing concrete will happen until the regulatory process is completed at the end of 2008 - a mere three weeks before Bush walks out the White House door. As Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, aptly noted, this "will leave motor-vehicle fuel economy stuck in neutral until Bush's successor takes office."

This is, in short, yet another of Bush's faith-based energy strategies, in which the operative words are "trust me." The White House says that good regulations need time to develop. That is true, but we would be more inclined to cut Bush some slack if not for the fact that speedier routes are readily available.
(18 May 2007)

Rep. Dingell on climate change legislation
Courtesy of Lisa Wright, Office of Rep. Bartlett
(original publication at Energy Bulletin)

Notes/Excerpts from speech by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell to the Detroit Economic Club on May 14, 2007, "Strengthening Our Economy & Protecting Our Environment: An Update from Capitol Hill"

Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell speech on May 14 laid out the parameters of climate legislation he intends the Congress to pass this session.

Bottom line:
They haven't assembled a detailed plan, but are committed to producing legislation to address climate change that will be passed this year. 15 hearings held so far by the Energy and Commerce Committee with 90 witnesses. Will write a bill from the center with an open door for participation to all interested parties - "participate in writing a bill they may not like -- or they can choose not to participate writing a bill they will surely hate...And those of you who know me, are well aware that when I sink my teeth into an issue, there's no letting go."

Elements that will be included/addressed:

  • An economy-wide cap and trade policy

  • Coal - Will resolve the tension between its environmental impact and domestic source - ie. U.S. is the Saudi Arabia of coal.
  • Nuclear - will reflect a vigorous discussion about its role
  • Every industry will have to tithe.
  • Must broaden, move beyond CAFÉ - because it's a de facto carbon cap - but only on ¼ of the auto fleet - and is assessed irrespective of the source of the fuel used - ie. domestic biofuel or imported oil.
  • Will encourage, even require new renewable fuels and technologies and new ways to reduce GHG emissions.
  • Examples of Michigan contributions, in addition to the auto industry:
    • Univ. of Michigan has submitted a leg. proposal for increased collaboration between policymakers, academic community and automotive industry.

    • Mich. State U. development of "Spartan corn" - a more cost-effective and efficient for ethanol production.
  • Will address international dimensions - but no excuse for inaction by the U.S.
  • Will encourage international participation and cooperation - by carrot/stick or combo. Concern by Labor to avoid driving jobs to countries without carbon constraints
  • Will include requirements for action by the Executive Branch but not acquiescence to it.

(14 May 2007)
Related:
Transcript of Dingell's speech

House energy chair pledges to pass climate change bill by 2008 (AP)

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