How will America change the way it uses energy? Last month we offered a draft speech that would let the new US President to tell us how. Here’s the speech updated with the most excellent insights of our readers.
“Good evening, America. It is unusual for the President to launch a major initiative on Day One, but these are unusual times. Our energy situation, in fact our future, is precarious. We are dangerously dependent on oil. By importing two thirds of the stuff, we are overseeing the greatest transfer of wealth in history, and are thus mortgaging our children’s future. Our electrical grid is brittle and outdated. Our energy use impacts the planet we depend on for sustenance. This crisis did not happen overnight (we’ve been talking about it since President Eisenhower) but it has become clear to all that we are in crisis.
There is, however, a way forward. Imagine a world where you plug your car into your garage to recharge from renewable energy systems you own. It charges from quiet, low profile wind generators that tap the night breeze. You hardly ever pay an electric bill. Sometimes you even sell back energy you’ve produced to the electric utility. At the office twenty miles away, your car docks itself on a charging station. In an hour your battery is “topped off,” charging on a signal from a smart grid-car interface that electricity is cheap this morning. As demand peaks this summer afternoon, your car acts on a sell signal, releasing energy stored in its battery back to the grid, such that you actually made money off of your ride to work today. (By the way, your car was smart enough to leave you enough juice to get home). You are one of millions of citizens who buffer the electrical grid, helping us to defer building new power plants and electrical transmission lines; helping us make the energy we need here at home; helping us drop oil as the strategic national resource we too often go too far to secure.
For your services, the American government cut you a check to defray the cost of making your house energy efficient, and to defray your purchase of wind, solar and electric vehicle systems. The renewables and electric cars you buy are made by a revitalized American manufacturing economy. These technologies are real and available now or coming to market in the next year or so. The kicker is that the money the government spends in this future world is less than it now spends on military operations to secure access to petroleum, or to underwrite the health care costs that result from air quality issues. What’s more, each government dollar spent will be highly leveraged by the millions of Americans who will do the work of purchasing this new American Dream.
Even as we’ve developed a collective urge to do something, our energy choices are somehow still hostage to the partisan. To the crisis, let us bring an abundance mentality that recognizes that the problem is big enough and dire enough to make a place at the table for all of the solutions we’ve been talking about over the last two years. Let’s do something.
Both parties. Every American. Every reasonable solution.
We can drill for oil and create more nuclear power and transition to renewable energy as the basis for powering our country and rethink our electrical grid and rebuild our transportation infrastructure. In fact, we must. This slow simmering crisis we find ourselves in demands all hands on deck, it demands that we put aside our differences and come together to take control of our future, instead of gridlocking and bickering in a passive partisan standoff that begets year upon year of inaction.
Fortunately our problem comes bundled with a good number of solutions. Market-worthy technology is available to create the new energy order; business and the American citizen are ready to act. For the first time we have the collective will to attack our energy problem. It is time to unleash this will and do what needs doing. The first order of business is to wring more energy from our homes and businesses and vehicles; we must make them more efficient. Why? Because this is where the big, easy paybacks are. It is also the first step to transform buildings into energy makers instead of energy users.
Do you live with a vague unease because you know you’re paying for cell phone chargers and other vampire appliances that are sucking electricity from your outlets when they’re plugged in but not being used? The same smart grid that uses car batteries to buffer supply will also manage your utility bill, cutting electricity to these appliances when they’re not being used, as you tell it to (even with last minute instructions you provide from your cell phone, which twitters your home’s energy performance to you).
Within a decade, we can drive vehicles powered by buildings, where a smart grid has married the car and building together in ways that are greater than the sum of parts. We can make energy where we use it: at our offices and factories and homes. We can unburden our electrical grid even as we diversify and decentralize the production of power, even as we replace oil with electricity, even as we power vehicles cleanly and even as we do all of this for less cost. We can relegate oil to the heap of common commodities like coffee and paper and lumber, instead of letting it continue to overwhelm us as the Super-Commodity, overshadowing our relations with countries like Russia, Venezuela, China, India, Iran and Iraq.
All we have to do is pay the price of admission. The cost of the new energy order is in the transition, and I am asking you to consider making this sacrifice: to do the work and to bear the cost of the transition. For our nation, for our children and the generations that follow, for the community of nations, we must bear this cost now. As an example, we can transition our nation’s fleet to electrical vehicles, to include the charging stations they’ll need, for $700 billion, the amount we spend each year on oil. In the world beyond the transition, we will live and work in a cleaner way, in a more productive and gratifying way, for less cost, with improved energy reliability and national security, in a world that is more secure and respects America’s leadership on this issue. Along the way, we’ll garner a dividend in our secondary and higher educational systems, now flush with the purpose of preparing the next generation to bring about this change.To get to this place, however, we must pay the entry fee, and we must pay it now, while we can still afford to.
Congress and I have been working over the last month on a comprehensive energy bill that we will pass in February. The bill allows for immediate drilling offshore. In exchange, we will roll back oil subsidies. Oil is critical to us today, and it has given us a handsome stepping stone to the future, but it is not the future. Beginning today, we will invest in the future. The bill provides for $200 billion in funded initiatives, focusing on incentives for people and businesses to begin joining the transportation sector to the electrical grid.
The new energy order will be driven by our new Secretary of Energy Amory Lovins and by Mary Peters, who has agreed to stay on as Secretary of Transportation. They are creating task forces in areas where we need immediate impact. Among these are the Wind Group, to develop the Wind Belt in the mid-West and coastal wind power. Wind Group will be lead by Jerry Patterson, currently the Texas Land Comissioner. Another is the Mileage Fee Group. Jim Whitty will help automakers and states implement a national GPS-based mileage fee incentivizing clean, fuel efficient vehicles, disincentivizing rush hour traffic, and generating revenue to rebuild our transportation infrastructure. Google founder Sergey Brin has agreed to implement the Smart Grid, including a focus on building-sited renewables like vertical axis wind turbines, and legislation to make net metering easy, encouraging renewables and electric vehicles. Shai Agassi, founder of Better Place, will spearhead the electric vehicle intiative.
We will aggressively exploit the promise of urban wind power and enhanced geothermal energy. We will build nuclear power plants to augment renewables. We will electrify the most promising sections of our railways and make it easier to move goods by rail. We’ll use those railways as electrical transmission corridors to bring more wind and solar power to the cities. We will use the buying power of the United States government to prime the pump for energy conservation and renewable technologies. Government buildings will become models of energy efficiency and production, achieving gold certification under LEED, the green building rating system, phased in over the next five years.
Oil, coal, natural gas and nuclear energy have their place at the table. But to be clear, the focus of this effort will be to power America with renewable energy. There is enough sun and wind, enough motion in the water, enough heat within the earth to power America several times over. We have the technology to tap these clean, natural resources. We must address the problems arraying against us, and we must do it now, while we have the capital to do so; before the problems overwhelm us. We will borrow heavily from T. Boone Picken’s plan to create power in the mid-West wind belt. (By the way, Boone, I am outlining tonight the detailed energy plan you asked of the Presidential candidates). We will draw power from the bounty of the Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf Coast winds. We will harvest the sun in the Southwest as outlined by the Scientific American in their Solar Grand Plan.
America is at its best in crisis. Crisis concentrates our will, engaging a resilient fabric of decentralized power that is unique among nations. We are three hundred million individuals that will choose to rise to this challenge as one nation, to reap the benefits of our collective effort in our time, even as we create a vastly better place for the generations that follow. I ask each of you to join me in meeting this, the greatest challenge of our generation.
Good night, sleep well, because tomorrow we rise to begin the creation of the new energy order. ”
Chris Davis is a commercial construction project manager and Andy Bochman works at a software company. Both have a thing for new energy.