Obama Sets Ten Year Benchmark

Last night was Barack Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. This is not the place for partisan politics, but it is this author’s opinion that the speech was refreshingly bold, eloquent, and very enlightened. The boldest part of the speech, and the one we will be discussing is that on energy.

“And for the sake of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, I will set a clear goal as President: in ten years, we will finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East.

“Washington’s been talking about our oil addiction for the last thirty years, and John McCain has been there for twenty-six of them. In that time, he’s said no to higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars, no to investments in renewable energy, no to renewable fuels. And today, we import triple the amount of oil as the day that Senator McCain took office.

“Now is the time to end this addiction, and to understand that drilling is a stop-gap measure, not a long-term solution. Not even close.

“As President, I will tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power. I’ll help our auto companies re-tool, so that the fuel-efficient cars of the future are built right here in America. I’ll make it easier for the American people to afford these new cars. And I’ll invest 150 billion dollars over the next decade in affordable, renewable sources of energy – wind power and solar power and the next generation of biofuels; an investment that will lead to new industries and five million new jobs that pay well and can’t ever be outsourced.

“America, now is not the time for small plans.” [from marketwatch.com]

At first, your mind might boggle at the idea of doing that much in ten years. It would be difficult of course, especially given how long Americans keep our automobiles, but it is not impossible. Remember, that he did not promise a country independent of all fossil fuels. The country would presumably still make use of a meager amount of oil, one that could be obtained from areas of the world not so politically objectionable. That, along with our supplies of coal and natural gas would be used as we transitioned to more sustainable energy sources. Plus, based on the science involving Peak Oil, the United States and the World must make huge leaps forward in the next ten years, and it is refreshing to hear this sort of talk. Although he was once criticized by Mrs. Clinton for an alleged lack of specifics, the ten year number is one of a number of really exciting details interspersed throughout the speech.

Obama bravely mentioned nuclear energy in front of a crowd that has historically been much too harsh towards it. Nuclear power will have to be part of the solution. Even more important than what he said is what he omitted. Mr. Obama derided drilling as a stop-gap measure, and it is. However, he never said that there will be no new drilling, we do need some oil to sustain ourselves during the switch to renewable energy. He mentions “the next generation of biofuels” but he wisely leaves traditional corn ethanol out of his plan, since it will not do anything to reduce our appetite for oil in its current incarnation.

In short, Obama calls for wind, solar, and nuclear to play an increasing role in how we generate energy, this echoes the sentiments that we’ve been expressing on this blog all along. Along with that, he reminds us that we can make use of cleaner-burning natural gas to ween the country off of oil, and he includes the obligatory nod to “clean coal”. His 10-year timeline may raise some eyebrows, as will the $150 billion he is allocating, but the lofty goal should get the rest of the government talking about sustainability, and the money, properly distributed, will go a long way towards encouraging some progress. Private investment is a key, but the government can act to provide incentives for collaboration, rather than redundant work on patent races and other inefficient, rent-seeking behavior.

There is a long way to go: only time will tell if Mr. Obama gets a chance to implement his plan, and if he does, only time will tell if it is done efficiently and creates results. However, this speech is reason for cautious optimism or, if you prefer, “hope”.

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One Response

  1. Check out my blog on wordpress entitled “Introducing Profitable Renewable Energy”, it outlines a plan to pay for the transition to renewable energy without requiring the government to provide incentives. I’ve spent the better part of a year searching for another plan that could pay for the trillions required to build an entirely new infrastructure and found none.

    There are three issues facing the U.S. and the world that are about to hit us like a freight train, the U.S. national debt ($10 trillion), energy and all its many problems, and global warming. Each of those three are interrelated. With the current national debt and as T. Boone points out, nearly a trillion dollars flowing out of the country every year, and a desperate need to stop burining all fossil fuels to reduce the impact of global warming, we’re in a bad situation. The plan I offer allows every one of us to contribute to the solution and profit at the same time. Check it out at my blog or at ProfitableRenewableEnergy.com

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