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Obama Delivers a Real Energy Plan for America: Efficiency Now, 10% Renewables by 2012, One Million Plug-ins by 2015

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Senator Barack Obama has fulfilled the promise of his earlier climate plan with a detailed and comprehensive "New Energy for America" plan.

This is easily the best energy plan ever put forward by a nominee of either party. By comparison, the plan of John "Nothing but Nukes" McCain is a joke, with nothing on energy efficiency and a pointless $300 million battery prize and long-standing opposition to renewable energy. In contrast, Obama's plan has real depth and breath:
  • Increase Fuel Economy Standards: Obama will increase fuel economy standards 4 percent per each year while protecting the financial future of domestic automakers....
  • Invest in Developing Advanced Vehicles and Put 1 Million Plugin Electric Vehicles on the Road by 2015: As a U.S. senator, Barack Obama has led efforts to jumpstart federal investment in advanced vehicles, including combined plug‐in hybrid/flexible fuel vehicles, which can get over 150 miles per gallon of gas... [more details below]
  • Partner with Domestic Automakers: Obama will also provide $4 billion retooling tax credits and loan guarantees for domestic auto plants and parts manufacturers, so that the new fuel‐efficient cars can be built in the U.S. by American workers rather than overseas.
  • Mandate All New Vehicles are Flexible Fuel Vehicles
  • Develop the Next Generation of Sustainable Biofuels and Infrastructure
  • Establish a National Low Carbon Fuel Standard: ... The standard requires fuels suppliers in 2010 to begin to reduce the carbon of their fuel by 5 percent within 5 years and 10 percent within 10 years.
This is the only way to jumpstart an end to our addiction to oil in a climate friendly way. Indeed, an accelerated transition to plug-in hybrids and electric cars -- a core climate solution-- must be the cornerstone of any serious effort to dramatically reduce oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions (see "Why electricity is the only alternative fuel that can lead to energy independence"). That is the crucial litmus test for any presidential candidate's energy independence or clean transportation policy.

As for the test of a candidate's grasp of electricity policy, energy efficiency is obviously The only cheap power left and a limitless resource and THE core climate solution. Obama understands energy efficiency in a way few other major politicians do, as his plan makes clear:

  • Deploy the Cheapest, Cleanest, Fastest Energy Source--Energy Efficiency: Barack Obama will set an aggressive energy efficiency goal--to reduce electricity demand 15 percent from DOE's projected levels by 2020. Implementing this program will save consumers a total of $130 billion, reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 5 billion tons through 2030, and create jobs. A portion of this goal would be met by setting annual demand reduction targets that utilities would need to meet.
  • Set National Building Efficiency Goals: Obama will establish a goal of making all new buildings carbon neutral, or produce zero emissions, by 2030. He'll also establish a national goal of improving new building efficiency by 50 percent and existing building efficiency by 25 percent over the next decade to help us meet the 2030 goal.
  • Overhaul Federal Efficiency Standards: The current Department of Energy has missed 34 deadlines for setting updated appliance efficiency standards....
  • Reduce Federal Energy Consumption: ... He will make the federal government a leader in the green building market, achieving a 40 percent increase in efficiency in all new federal buildings within five years and ensuring that all new federal buildings are zero‐emissions by 2025. He will invest in cost‐effective retrofits to achieve a 25 percent increase in efficiency of existing federal buildings within 5 years.
  • Invest in a Smart Grid: ... Obama will pursue a major investment in our national utility grid using smart metering, distributed storage and other advanced technologies to accommodate 21st century energy requirements: greatly improved electric grid reliability and security, a tremendous increase in renewable generation and greater customer choice and energy affordability.
  • Weatherize One Million Homes Annually....
  • Build More Livable and Sustainable Communities....
  • Flip Incentives to Energy Utilities: An Obama administration will "flip" incentives to utility companies by: requiring states to conduct proceedings to implement incentive changes; and offering them targeted technical assistance. These measures will benefit utilities for improving energy efficiency, rather than just from supporting higher energy consumption. This "regulatory equity" starts with the decoupling of profits from increased energy usage, which will incentivize utilities to partner with consumers and the federal and state governments to reduce monthly energy bills for families and businesses. The federal government under an Obama administration will play an important and positive role in flipping the profit model for the utility sector so that shareholder profit is based on reliability and performance as opposed to total production.
Finally, a presidential nominee that really gets it (see "Energy efficiency, Part 4: How does California do it so consistently and cost-effectively?").The proposal has lots of other details on short-term solutions and promoting the supply of domestic energy. But let me focus on his low-carbon electricity supply plan:
  • Require 10 Percent of Electricity to Come from Renewable Sources by 2012 [and 25 percent by 2025]. Barack Obama will establish a 10 percent federal Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to require that 10 percent of electricity consumed in the U.S. is derived from clean, sustainable energy sources, like solar, wind and geothermal by 2012. Many states are already well on their way to achieving statewide goals and it's time for the federal government to provide leadership for the entire country to support these new industries. This national requirement will spur significant private sector investment in renewable sources of energy and create thousands of new American jobs, especially in rural areas. And Obama will also extend the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) for 5 years to encourage the production of renewable energy.
  • Develop and Deploy Clean Coal Technology....
  • Safe and Secure Nuclear Energy: ... It is unlikely that we can meet our aggressive climate goals if we eliminate nuclear power as an option. However, before an expansion of nuclear power is considered, key issues must be addressed including: security of nuclear fuel and waste, waste storage, and proliferation.... As president, Obama will make safeguarding nuclear material both abroad and in the U.S. a top anti‐terrorism priority. In terms of waste storage, Obama does not believe that Yucca Mountain is a suitable site. He will lead federal efforts to look for safe, long‐term disposal solutions based on objective, scientific analysis. In the meantime, Obama will develop requirements to ensure that the waste stored at current reactor sites is contained using the most advanced dry‐cask storage technology available.
He also repeats his climate pledge and his jobs pledge:
  • Implement an economy‐wide cap‐and‐trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.
  • Invest In A Clean Energy Economy and Help Create 5 Million New Green Jobs. Obama will strategically invest $150 billion over 10 years...

Finally, back to the details of the plug-in hybrid proposal:

As president, Obama will continue this leadership by investing in advanced vehicle technology with a specific focus on R&D in advanced battery technology. The increased federal funding will leverage private sector funds and support our domestic automakers to bring plug‐in hybrids and other advanced vehicles to American consumers. Obama will also provide a $7,000 tax credit for the purchase of advanced technology vehicles as well as conversion tax credits. And to help create a market and show government leadership in purchasing highly efficient cars, an Obama administration will commit to:
  • Within one year of becoming President, the entire White House fleet will be converted to plug‐ins as security permits; and
  • Half of all cars purchased by the federal government will be plug‐in hybrids or all‐electric by 2012.

This is an aggressive, achievable, and most important of all, a necessary energy plan. Kudos to Senator Obama and his energy team. Maybe he is The One.

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