Tuesday, April 08, 2008


Comparing the Candidates Part 1: Energy/Environment

Beginning today, I will be writing on where the three remaining candidates for president stand on the issues.

The first issue covered will be Global Warming, arguably the greatest scam of our time. Let's see how much damage the candidates will do in order to save our country (and the world) from nothing (all quotes are from the candidates' websites linked to their names below):

To take the steps necessary to transition to a clean and renewable energy future, Hillary will urge all of the nation's stakeholders to contribute to the effort. Automakers will be asked to make more efficient vehicles; oil and energy companies to invest in cleaner, renewable technologies; utilities to ramp up use of renewables and modernize the grid; coal companies to implement clean coal technology; government to establish a cap and trade carbon emissions system and renew its leadership in energy efficient buildings and services; individuals to conserve energy and utilize efficient light bulbs and appliances in their homes; and industry to build energy efficient homes and buildings.
Sounds lovely, doesn't it? But as usual with anything Clintonian, the devil is in the details:
An aggressive comprehensive energy efficiency agenda to reduce electricity consumption 20 percent from projected levels by 2020 by changing the way utilities do business, catalyzing a green building industry, enacting strict appliance efficiency standards, and phasing out incandescent light bulbs
Read: more government regulation, which you will pay for at the pump and in your electricity bills.
A $50 billion Strategic Energy Fund, paid for in part by oil companies, to fund investments in alternative energy.
Read: more oil company taxes, which you will pay for at the pump.
An increase in fuel efficiency standards to 55 miles per gallon by 2030, and $20 billion of "Green Vehicle Bonds" to help U.S. automakers retool their plants to meet the standards
Once the automakers retool their plants, how is this investment paid back? If this operates as a loan to the automakers, what if they don't take the loan? It is still an intriguing idea, but I am not sure how it will work, or if it can work.
A new "Connie Mae" program to make it easier for low and middle-income Americans to buy green homes and invest in green home improvements
Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae work so well, why not do the same thing for green houses? In the middle of a housing crisis which was brought on by loans to people who shouldn't have been buying houses in the first place, is adding more government loans a good idea?
A requirement that all publicly traded companies report financial risks due to climate change in annual reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission
A new reporting requirement for ALL public companies which we can all pay for in the higher cost of goods! I can't wait!

What does she think companies do when they are impacted by "climate change"? They increase their prices to cover their costs. So we need companies to comply with a new government regulation for what reason?
Creation of a "National Energy Council" within the White House to ensure implementation of the plan across the Executive Branch.
A new government agency! Woohoo!

Seriously, there isn't an existing government agency to handle whatever it is she wants the NEC to do?

One thing I like about McCain's issues statement on the environment is that it is light on details. He basically says we have to maintain a strong economy first, which I agree with 100%. He also mentions using more nuclear power, with which I also agree.

A speech he made on April 23rd of last year provides a lot of the details his issue statement is missing:
Alcohol fuels made from corn, sugar, switch grass and many other sources, fuel cells, biodiesel derived from waste products, natural gas, and other technologies are all promising and available alternatives to oil. I won't support subsidizing every alternative or tariffs that restrict the healthy competition that stimulates innovation and lower costs. But I'll encourage the development of infrastructure and market growth necessary for these products to compete, and let consumers choose the winners. I've never known an American entrepreneur worthy of the name who wouldn't rather compete for sales than subsidies.

...I want to improve and make permanent the research and development tax credit. I want to spend less money on government bureaucracies, and, where the private sector isn't moving out of regulatory fear, to form the partnerships necessary to build demonstration models of promising new technologies such as advanced nuclear power plants, coal gasification, carbon capture and storage, and renewable power so we can take maximum advantage of our most abundant resources.
It is safe to say he plans to leave it up to the free markets to decide how we handle this problem, with a little bit of help from tax breaks.
The barriers to nuclear energy are political not technological. We've let the fears of thirty years ago, and an endless political squabble over the storage of nuclear spent fuel make it virtually impossible to build a single new plant that produces a form of energy that is safe and non-polluting.
Cutting BACK on government regulation? Can he do that?

Probably not, but it is refreshing to hear a politician say it.

All three candidates promote "cap and trade" systems. Obama's is a little different:
Some of the revenue generated by auctioning allowances will be used to support the development of clean energy, to invest in energy efficiency improvements, and to address transition costs, including helping American workers affected by this economic transition.
In other words, a tax on companies which sell their allowances. It is unclear how much the tax will be.
Obama will invest $150 billion over 10 years to advance the next generation of biofuels and fuel infrastructure, accelerate the commercialization of plug-in hybrids, promote development of commercial-scale renewable energy, invest in low-emissions coal plants, and begin the transition to a new digital electricity grid. A principal focus of this fund will be devoted to ensuring that technologies that are developed in the U.S. are rapidly commercialized in the U.S. and deployed around the globe.

...Obama will double science and research funding for clean energy projects including those that make use of our biomass, solar and wind resources.

...Obama will also create an energy-focused Green Jobs Corps to connect disconnected and disadvantaged youth with job skills for a high-growth industry.

...Obama will establish a federal investment program to help manufacturing centers modernize and Americans learn the new skills they need to produce green products.

More government spending. He has more ideas of different ways to spend government money in a lot of different areas, but no specific energy direction. From biofuels to solar to wind to others, he hits all of them with our tax dollars.
Obama will create a Clean Technologies Venture Capital Fund to fill a critical gap in U.S. technology development. Obama will invest $10 billion per year into this fund for five years. The fund will partner with existing investment funds and our National Laboratories to ensure that promising technologies move beyond the lab and are commercialized in the U.S
Aside from the spending aspect of this, is he SURE we can get this done in 5 years?
Obama will establish a 25 percent federal Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to require that 25 percent of electricity consumed in the U.S. is derived from clean, sustainable energy sources, like solar, wind and geothermal by 2025.
I will give Obama some credit for mentioning geothermal as a possibility. Of all possible energy sources, we really don't hear much about geothermal.
Obama will significantly increase the resources devoted to the commercialization and deployment of low-carbon coal technologies. Obama will consider whatever policy tools are necessary, including standards that ban new traditional coal facilities, to ensure that we move quickly to commercialize and deploy low carbon coal technology.
This sounds good on the surface, but is a lot more difficult in practice.

Coal energy is derived from the carbon in coal. Low carbon coal provides less energy. Therefore, you have to burn more low carbon coal in order to get the same amount of energy as you would from high carbon coal.

The problem is NOT the coal, but HOW we burn it to produce energy.

The three candidates show some marked contrasts in energy/environmental policies. As expected, McCain is the farthest from the other two, in that he plans to leave most of it to the free market. Obama wants to spend, spend, spend. Clinton wants to spend too, but she seems to rely on government regulation a bit more than Obama.

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