Hillary does Energy … and gets a lot right

Earlier today, Hillary Clinton gave a speech entitled ENERGY AND CLIMATE CHANGE: Comprehensive Strategy to Address the Climate and Energy Challenge.   It is, let me say, an excellent speech to read.  Powerful in multiple ways.  In the speech, Hillary put Hillary put energy and global warming central to her agenda

In my campaign, I have defined the four big goals for our country: restore our leadership in the world, rebuild a strong and prosperous middle class, reform our government and reclaim the future for our children. Meeting the energy and climate change challenge is essential to reaching every one of those. I do not want to be part of the first generation to leave America and the world in worse shape than when we found them. It will not happen on my watch.  

The bottom line objectives, three goals:

One, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050, the amount necessary to avoid the most dangerous and destructive consequences of climate change.

Two, to cut foreign oil imports by two thirds from projected levels by 2030 to move America toward energy independence.

And three, to move us from a carbon-based economy to an efficient, green economy by unleashing a wave of private-sector innovation in clean energy and energy efficiency. I believe that will create at least five million good new jobs from clean energy over the next decade.

These are real objectives, that should be taken seriously.

With this speech, the campaign released Powering America’s Future (pdf), a 16 page detailing of the energy concepts that support those three objectives.

For awhile, I have felt that I have owed myself and, well, those who choose to read my thoughts, an examination of the Presidential candidates concepts and platforms when it comes to energy.  Hillary’s speech and release of this plan (summarized here) goads me to start this process and, well, share my own journey of examination with you.

Upfront, based on first look analysis, this plan has quite of few extremely good features, material that should truly push the dialogue forward, and, writ large, is a very strong, leading forward program.  With this, on the issues of Energy and Global Warming, Hillary’s plan/substance has gone from back of the pack to serious contender for best of the bunch, certainly with elements are in front of the pack. 

The plan makes a clear call for engagement by all sectors of American society and economy.

  • Our government has a responsibility …
  • Oil companies must help
  • Utilities have a responsibility …
  • Auto companies need to
  • Businesses … should strive
  • Individuals have a responsibility

Words like this thrill me coming from the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination.  This is a challenge for all, everyone and every organization has a role and responsibility in meeting the challenge.

But, this is not about cost, but about opportunity. One section title “Turning the Challenges of Energy Depndence and Global Warming Into an Economic Opportunity”. It is not the economy or (against) the environment, it is the economy and the environment.

What are some of the key items in the plan

  • A new cap-and-trade program that auctions 100 percent of permits alongside investments to move us on the path towards energy independence;

This is important, the 100 percent auction. An interesting question, this is candidate Hillary’s position. Will Senator Clinton demand that the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act be amended away from its current massive permit giveaways (worth $100s of billions in give-aways)?

  • 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;  

This is a good, solid objective.  Honestly, I believe that the nation can achieve far more than this but setting the objective might create momentum.  As people (institutions) discover that the savings are real, as the market for efficiency expands, this 20 percent target might be left in the dust.

  • A $50 billion Strategic Energy Fund, paid for in part by oil companies, to fund investments in alternative energy. The SEF will finance one-third of the $150 billon ten-year investment in a new energy future contained in this plan;

The plan creates an option for oil companies: either invest seriously in “renewable energy technology or pay into a Strategic Energy Fund.”  The fund is intended to “jumpstart a clean energy future ..”

  • Aggressive action to transition our economy toward renewable energy sources, with renewables generating 25 percent of electricity by 2030 and with 60 billion gallons of home-grown biofuels available for cars and trucks by 2030;

Actually, within the plan is 25% by 2025, which is a more attractive target that is well within reach. 

Now, by the way, can our water and other systems support an eight-fold increase in biofuels over the next 20 years?   Well, this speech was in Iowa …

  • 10 “Smart Grid City” partnerships to prove the advanced capabilities of smart grid and other advanced demand-reduction technologies, as well as new investment in plug-in hybrid vehicle technologies;

This is an innovative concept linked to a critical element of transforming America’s energy system.

  • 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;

55 by 2030. 40 by 2020. Forget that battle over 35 miles per gallon, lets set some real targets. And, well, Hillary’s plan demands things from people, but holds out many carrots.  Thus, the Green Vehicle Bonds to help car companies meet these targets.

  • A plan to catalyze a thriving green building industry by investing in green collar jobs and helping to modernize and retrofit 20 million low-income homes to make them more energy efficient;

This will create real jobs, meaningful jobs, in disadvantaged communities while providing paths to save money in lower-income households throughout the nation.

  • 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;

Again, a good idea but, looking at the plan, one has to wonder whether $1 billion is enough.

  • A requirement that all publicly traded companies report financial risks due to climate change in annual reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission; and  

An excellent step that will make this an element of discussion in every board room in the nation.

  • Creation of a “National Energy Council” within the White House to ensure implementation of the plan across the Executive Branch.

This is an important concept for coordinating federal policy and action.

  • A requirement that all federal buildings designed after January 20, 2009 will be zero emissions buildings.

 What can I say?  Bravo on this one.

This discussion doesn’t do the plan justice, there is much more material there, and, well, I plan to return to it for further examination.

Just to be clear, not everything in this plan is perfect, some things are missing, and there are some things that are concerning.  For example, as mentioned above, is $1 billion for CONNIE MAE for home energy efficiency per year anywhere what the market will bear? Would funding for 100,000 homes per year represent more than drop in the bucket in terms of requirements and demand? Similarly, is an additional $1 billion per year for intercity rail and $1.5 billion annually for public transit enough to put on the table?

Two potentially serious issues within this:

  • “And she will require all new coal plants to be capable of adding capture and storage technology when it becomes commercially available.”

What if we build many plants and this technology is never commercially viable?  Will there be new coal plants grandfathered in without ability to cap their CO2 emissions?

  • “Hillary will use a portion of the auction revenue from the cap and trade program to provide tax benefits to energy-intensive industries.”

Okay, the reason to auction is to avoid subsidizing high polluters.  Is this a backhand route to provide those very subsidies?

Finally, for tonight, an editing whine: Why are all “Hillary” policy statements and plans written in the third person? Are these her plans? If not, well, okay, then why are we reading them? If yes, is this use of the royal we?  I, for one, simply don’t get this.

But, I will return to this plan, study and consider it seriously, because it deserves to be taken seriously. 

Hillary might just have it right when it comes to “Powering America’s Future”.

4 responses to “Hillary does Energy … and gets a lot right

  1. Pingback: 10 Steps to a Low-Carbon Economy? « Energy Smart

  2. Pingback: “Is Global Warming Overblown? « Energy Smart

  3. Pingback: Energy and the D Presidential Candidates « Energy Smart

  4. Pingback: Energy Dumb, Dumber, Dumbest … « Energy Smart

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