OBAMA CALLS FOR CLEAN ENERGY
An Energy Plan Derailed by Events Is Being Retooled
John Broder, March 30, 2011 (NY Times)
"…President Obama has seen the major elements of his energy and climate-change strategy demolished by a succession of economic, political, technical and natural disasters…[He wanted a] market-based [cap-and-trade] system to combat global warming and encourage development of alternative energy sources…The plan’s complex structure depended on an expansion of offshore oil drilling and nuclear power generation, creation of a trillion-dollar market in carbon pollution credits, billions of dollars of new government spending on breakthrough technologies and a tolerance for higher energy prices by consumers and businesses…But one after another the pillars of the plan came crashing down…Huge Republican gains in the midterm elections also dashed hopes…
"Cap and trade has morphed into a 'clean energy standard,' under which 80 percent of electricity in the United States would be generated from clean sources by 2035…In a speech at Georgetown University…the president went further to try to recapture the initiative on energy policy…Mr. Obama set a new goal — to reduce American oil imports by one-third over the next decade…He called for producing more electric cars, converting trucks to run on natural gas, building new refineries to distill billions of gallons of biofuels and setting new fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks. He also said that the United States would continue to rely on nuclear power for decades and would have to find a way to burn coal with fewer climate-altering emissions…"
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"The president acknowledged that his energy proposals would require legislation and new money for innovative technologies and that getting either would be difficult…Some early efforts toward the president’s plans are now under way in Congress…Senate Democrats are trying to write legislation to meet part of the president’s goal, but the Republican majority in the House seems determined to thwart any energy policy that does not begin with a major expansion of domestic coal production and oil and gas exploration…[T]he administration has fallen back on a two-pronged strategy of discouraging dirty, old energy sources through regulation and encouraging clean, new technologies by heavy spending on innovation…
"…[Secretary of Energy] Chu, a Nobel laureate in physics, is a technology enthusiast and says the nation can produce the innovations in clean energy necessary to meet the president’s goals if the right incentives are in place…[First is] legislation that will require utilities to produce a growing proportion of electricity through clean sources — nuclear, natural gas, hydropower, wind, solar, geothermal and new technology players to be named later…[Second] is a robust federal research and development program…"
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"The president’s plan includes $36 billion in new loan guarantees for building nuclear power plants, in addition to the $18.5 billion for the program left from the Bush administration…[though] the rules of the game for nuclear power in the United States might change, just as regulations for offshore drilling were tightened after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill…
"The other part of the strategy, federal regulation of greenhouse gases and other pollutants from conventional power sources, also faces a tough challenge. Most Republicans in Congress are skeptical about the science of global warming, some even declaring it a hoax perpetrated by a coterie of self-interested scientists. Hefty Republican majorities oppose virtually any form of federal regulation of the greenhouse gases that contribute to the problem…The House Energy and Commerce Committee has already passed a bill that would forbid the Environmental Protection Agency from imposing any nationwide standard on emissions…The full House is expected to endorse the measure soon, although it is unclear whether Republicans can muster the 60 votes needed to overcome a Democratic filibuster in the Senate…"