“We can’t solve global warming because I f—ing changed light bulbs in my house. It’s because of something collective.”
Taken from Newsweek’s special “How He Did It, 2008” behind-the-scenes election report, the above quote makes it clear that Barack Obama understands the scale of his ‘new energy economy‘ campaign promises – but will he deliver? Can the US become a leader in climate change control?
Can Obama save our planet from the crapper?
The New Energy For America Plan
Short term relief to American families
Obama plans to issue $1000 tax rebate checks to Americans, funded by a windfall tax imposed on oil company profits, and continue those relief credits every year.
Some view the windfall tax as unfair – Exxon, Chevron, Shell, and other leading gasoline manufacturers have a right to the hundreds of billions of dollars they profited in 2007. I personally agree with the tax, unless the major oil companies agree to invest that money into more research on biofuels and other alternatives – my concerns…
- Is this tax really going to be enough to supply a rebate to 138 million taxpayers, especially considering the last windfall tax program generated less than a quarter of the funds projected?
- If gas prices go down, oil companies profits will drop. Where are the funds for this continued tax credit going to come from?
- Will the oil industry cut jobs or raise prices to recover the tax loss – sending the economy into more turmoil?
To reduce gas prices NOW, Obama plans to draw from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve – where there’s currently about a month’s worth of gas…definitely short term relief in my opinion!
Eliminate imports from Venezuela and the Middle East within 10 years
The US currently imports about 10 million barrels of oil each day. Nearly a quarter of this supply comes from Venezuela and the Middle East (the rest originates in Canada, Mexico, South America, and a small percentage in Africa.)
Professor James Sweeney at Stanford says the only way to make this happen in such a short time frame is to shut down the oil industry and tell Americans they can’t drive. Some think this plan means more oil from Canada’s oil sands -where production is projected to increase “from 1.3 million barrels a day to 3.5 million barrels over the next decade.”
Isn’t shutting down the oil industry the idea here, Mr. Sweeney? Our fossil fuel supply is obviously not going to last forever. The Obama administration plans to save this amount of oil according to the report by introducing a million new plug-in hybrids, increasing fuel economy standards, advancing biomass production, and employing carbon caps.
My personal concerns here:
- Where is all this money coming from?? $4 billion for automakers to make cars more efficient; $7,000 tax credits for alternative fuel vehicles; research and development funding for renewable energy sources. If carbon caps and fuel taxes are providing the cash, will consumers not suffer? (Guest contributer Peter Barnes offers some great points on carbon caps and renewable energy funding at Grist.)
- Are plug-in hybrids really a feasible solution to eliminating our oil needs – especially in just 10 years? Plug-in hybrid technology is growing in leaps and bounds, but still – an average size family vehicle only operates on an electric charge for about 40 miles, PHEVs are a more costly initial investment, and recent studies have found that – without cleaner energy – plug-in hybrids create more greenhouse emissions than standard hybrid vehicles. In my opinion, efforts should be concentrated on hybrids and biomass fuel while green energy plants are still under development – then we can move along to electric vehicles (maybe then the technology will be more advanced and cost a little less.)
Green collar jobs, energy efficiency, and fewer emissions
At our present rate, the supply of natural gas will be depleted in 35 years and the petroleum supply is estimated to be gone within 70 – if consumption continues to increase as rapidly as it has over the past 40 years, those numbers drop to just 14 and 20 more years. The supply of coal is suspected to last possibly 300 years. (source)
The New Energy for America plan addresses these facts with an intense look at becoming more energy efficient – weatherizing homes, phasing out traditional light bulbs (something already planned in New Zealand),and carbon neutral buildings by 2030. The Obama administration also plans to develop and put to use clean coal technology. Research and development is also planned for solar, wind, and geothermal energy projects.
Again, my personal concerns begin with the amount of funding these projects will require. I also wonder if clean coal technology is truly worth the expense – shouldn’t we develop wind farms or more cost efficient solar cells instead?
Can it work?
If military funding can be reallocated to fund a large percentage of these initiatives, I believe the New Energy plan could work. Going back to the quote at the beginning of the post – if the US is to become a leader in climate change control, if we really reduce greenhouse emissions by 80% over the next 40 years, it will be “because of something collective.”
To me, the real question is – is America ready to make a conscience effort to pull together to make this happen? It’s not our job to dream of a president that will save us – but to unite and make sure those plans are put into action and that we each do our part. Are entrepreneurs, inventors, and scientists ready to step up and pitch in? Can consumers make personal changes in their lifestyles to create a more efficient economy?
In my opinion, we have a workable plan with a leader willing to carry it out – now its up to us all to make the change. What are your opinions?