Friday, November 7, 2008

Obama Clean Energy and Fuel Policy

Barack Obama doesn't think much of John McCain's $300 million Clean Car Challenge, treating it as if it's some new reality show on the Discovery Channel masquerading as energy policy, his energy policy and greenhouse credits policy will serve to enable us to swap our cars and air conditioners with China and India for thier bicyles, horses and carts.

Over the longer term, we know that the amount of fuel we will use is directly related to our land use decisions and development patterns, much of which have been organized around the principle of cheap gasoline. Barack Obama believes that we must move beyond our simple fixation of investing so many of our transportation dollars in serving drivers and that we must make more investments that make it easier for us to walk, bicycle and access other transportation alternatives.

He will “launch” the energy policy that before he began his on off-shore drilling. Interestingly, he’ll push it in Lansing, Michigan, where the oil supply crisis has created dark times for auto manufacturers. According to the AP, Obama’s plan looks long on redistribution and short on real solutions, especially those that will help Michigan’s biggest industry.

Obama says he wants to tax oil companies’ windfall profits and use some of the money to help motorists pay for more expensive gasoline. He says he also wants to use $50 billion to help jump-start job creation and help local communities struggling in the economic downturn.

Obama already has an energy policy on his website, one that has been part of his campaign for months. The word “drill” does not appear anywhere in this policy, even today. The word “oil” never appears in the context of increased domestic production. Instead, Obama refers to “big oil” and the need to reduce our use of oil by 35% over the next twenty years.

How do we get there? Keep inflating those tires, folks:

  • Increase Fuel Economy Standards
  • Invest in Developing Advanced Vehicles
  • Build Biofuel Distribution Infrastructure
  • Build More Livable and Sustainable Communities
Any strategy for reducing carbon emissions must also deal with coal, which is actually the most abundant source of energy in this country. To keep using this fossil fuel, I believe we need to invest in the kind of advanced coal technology that will keep our air cleaner while still keeping our coal mines in business. Over the next two decades, power companies are expected to build dozens of new coal-fired power plants, and countries like India and China will build hundreds. If they use obsolete technology, these plants will emit over 60 billion tons of heat-trapping pollution into the atmosphere. We need to act now and make the United States a leader in puting in place the standards and incentives that will ensure that these plants use available technology to capture carbon dioxide and dispose of it safely underground.
But of course, one of the biggest contributors to our climate troubles and our energy dependence is oil, and so any plan for the future must drastically reduce our addiction to this dirty, dangerous, and ultimately finite source of energy.

Increasing the production and use of locally grown, renewable fuels such as biodiesel and ethanol offers us an opportunity to produce and use fuels within our region, enhance our nation's security by reducing dependence on fossil fuels and foreign oil, strengthen the Southeastern agricultural economy, and help slow global warming.

Emissions for E85 relative to gasoline:
  • 15% reduction of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
  • 40% reduction of Carbon Monoxide
  • 20% reduction of Particulate Matter
  • 10% reduction of Nitrogen Oxides
  • 80% reductions of Sulfates
  • Lower toxics and hydrocarbons
  • Increased acetaldehyde and ethanol emissions
(Source: EPA 2002)

A Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) was passed as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 requiring $7.5 billion gallons of renewable fuels to be produced in the United States by 2012. However, the industry has grown at an unprecedented rate. In 2007, the Energy Independence and Security Act was passed which expanded the RFS to 36 billion gallons by 2022. The new RFS significantly expands the required production of fuel from cellulosic feedstocks and outlines lifecycle greenhouse gas reduction requirements?a critical element to ensure that the industry develops sustainably and without further advancing global warming.

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