Once again, the U.S. is missing out on an opportunity to solve this country’s current energy woes. President Obama has indicated that he would like for the U.S. to reduce our dependency on foreign oil. In his latest speech on March 30, 2011 at Georgetown University, he described how we will reduce oil imports by a third by 2035. In order for this to happen, the focus will be put on producing more electric cars and trucks that run on natural gas, and developing refineries to process billions of gallons of bio fuels. There was brief mention of using alternative energy to help with reducing our oil dependence, but nowhere was building efficiency mentioned. Research report after research report has indicated that building efficiency could be looked at as the next fuel.
Our current President is no different than the Presidents before him. President Nixon declared his intent to get us off foreign oil after the Arab Embargo; and President Carter looked to get us off foreign oil after the Iran hostage situation. President Bush made the same statements after the first Iraq war too. We have been saying this for decades but not doing anything about it.
I can’t put the blame solely on our President; look at the opposition he has had to deal with over his last two years. He killed Cap and Trade due to public pressure from the Republicans as it would cost too much. He tried to develop more offshore drilling, but the rig Deepwater Horizon had its accident. Lastly, he has been pushing nuclear production but, with the last episode in the earthquake/tsunami tattered nation of Japan, the public is now skittish and wants to close nuclear plants and never reopen them.
We have been doing a lot of talking, especially my favorite Senator from Michigan who feels we need to increase electrical capacity by 40-50% to meet the needs of electricity demand for the next decade. He is shooting for a long range plan. I don’t blame him for shooting. Maybe, Mr. Chairman, you can start on developing programs for energy efficiency in buildings which constitutes for 60% of our total consumption in this nation.
We need to set our political agenda aside and come up with a realistic plan. It is my humble opinion that this plan must start with being energy efficient, which is something we could all be doing now, without waiting for further technologies to be developed and implemented.
I am deeply concerned over the battle in California involving carbon and greenhouse gas emissions. According to an article in the NY Times (California Braces for Showdown on Emissions), Californians will go to the polls on November 2 to vote on whether or not to suspend A.B. 32, the law which mandates cutting carbon and other greenhouse emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. This ballot initiative (Proposition 23) would suspend tight emissions standards from going into effect.
Proponents of Proposition 23 believe that the government should not be spending money on carbon reduction; that our focus should be on putting Americans back to work. They believe that the bill would cost the state jobs and raise energy prices.
Last time I checked, oil company profits just set record highs. If Proposition 23 is passed, I am not sure how this measure would create jobs. If the battle is over jobs, I would think retrofitting their plants to reduce their emissions and energy consumption would create more jobs than would be lost. I also find it hard to believe that if a person had to pay an additional $2 a week on gasoline, he would be forced into bankruptcy.
The bigger issue for me is the fundamental reason why they are trying to defeat A.B. 32 in the first place. Is cleaner air and reduction of global warming not important enough? Or, will the people that are making money hand over fist in this industry by having their pockets lined by special interest groups triumph again? If they took the money they are pouring into defeating A.B. 32 and put it towards reducing emissions, oil companies would spend a lot less, and more savings would be passed on to the customer.
In a recent NY Times article (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/26/science/earth/26climate.html), it was noted that the idea of ‘Cap and Trade’ has all but fizzled out as a potential energy policy for the current administration. President Obama, who supported the program in his initial budget, no longer supports it. The reason for this loss of momentum is the combination of opposition from the oil industry, several conservative groups and the recent Wall Street collapse. So, now what? We have no climate change policy.
‘Cap and Trade’ created a structure to gradually decrease, or cap, the amount of carbon emissions allowed by major emitters of pollutants (such as power plants). These companies would need to report the amount of carbon emissions they put into the atmosphere. Each company is given an allowance (i.e.: credit) of emissions they are permitted to release. Those who released less carbon emissions would keep their credits. However, those who exceed their cap must purchase carbon credits from those who have spare ones; in effect, paying for the right to pollute.
Our lawmakers have now decided to put together a program that is more economically diverse. Once again, Washington has done their job of creating more bureaucracy to yet another item this country so desperately needs. Global climate change needs to begin with the United States. Our success is key to getting other countries to buy-in on the idea.
Letting ‘Cap and Trade’ fall apart is wrong. Yes, the program was not perfect and was one more way of taxing our businesses. But, it was something and right now we have nothing. Now we get to wait until lawmakers determine which special interest groups they can serve, instead of doing the right thing and curbing emissions.