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Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Green Wishlist for Obama

Renewable energy trade groups came together on a conference call last week to submit their wish lists for the Obama administration. Here is the summary courtesy of the Green Wombat blog:

  • A five-year extension of the production tax credit for the wind industry (it currently has to be renewed every year) to remove uncertainty for investors.
  • A major infrastructure program to upgrade the transmission grid so wind, solar and geothermal energy can be transmitted from the remote areas where it is produced to major cities. Obama advisor Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google (GOOG), recently joined with General Electric (GE) chief Jeff Immelt to launch a joint initiative to develop such smart grid technology as well as push for policy changes in Washington to allow the widespread deployment of renewable energy by rebuilding the nation’s transmission system.
  • Impose a national “renewable portfolio standard” that would mandate that utilities obtain a minimum 10% of their electricity from green sources by 2012 and at least 25% by 2020. Two-thirds of the states currently impose variations of such requirements.
  • Mandate that the federal government - the nation’s single largest consumer of electricity - obtain more energy from renewable sources.
  • Enact a cap-and-trade carbon market.
I am supportive of all of the above, but here are a few things I would add to that list:
  • A green bailout for the auto industry. If we're not building cars here in America then that means we no longer build anything - period. If all it takes is $25 billion of the remaining $350 billion that the Treasury dept. will have left to its disposal in 2009 then I say we bail out the big 3 with the following conditions: they must manufacture enough plug-in electric hybrids to meet President-elect Obama's goal of 1 million plug-in hybrids on the road by 2015. They must also raise the average fuel economy of the fleets and they must do so by 2020. Joseph Romm of Climate Progress, and a former employee of the Dept. of Energy, lists some additional reasons for the green bailout over at Salon.com. The following is his bottom line for the bailout:
If we are going to bail out Detroit, the deal has to be based on meeting the new fuel economy standards of 35 mpg by 2020, and meeting them increasingly with hybrids. The deal has to be for multiple plug-in hybrid car models. And most important, the deal has to include a management team that is wholly committed to that inevitable transition, a team that will not waste a penny of the taxpayer-funded bailout lobbying against the even tougher standards and regulations that will be needed to avoid the harsh consequences of global warming and peak oil.
  • The introduction of feebate system for all new automotive purchases from 2010 and beyond. Allow people to purchase 10 mpg SUVs but only with a gas guzzler fee attached to it. The gas guzzler fees will go towards paying incentives in the form of rebates to purchasers of hybrids and other fuel efficient vehicles. For more information on recent legislation please read this article on the bill proposed in California.
  • A new New Deal - a massive infrastructure program for new roads, bridges, and network of high speed rail. If we have to spend $200 billion then great, spend $200 billion, but the total cost of current infrastructure needs has been estimated to be in the trillions of dollars. China is planning on spending close to $600 billion on infrastructure projects over the next 2 years.
  • A National Infrastructure Bank like the one proposed by Senators Chris Dodd and Chuck Hagel, so we have a systematic way of awarding taxpayer money for roads and rails to somewhere and not bridges to nowhere.
  • Is clean coal for real or are we going to continue to waste billions on research and pilot CCS plants? If clean coal is viable then let's go for it, but if its BS then let's stop wasting our time and money and move on.

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