Saturday, February 9, 2008

Candidates' Energy Policies Lack Energy

At long last, here’s an overview of the remaining candidates’ views on energy policy, with specific emphasis on alternative energy. Why focus on alternative energy? Largely because none of the candidates are advocating for the status quo (at least not outwardly). I have included Hillary Rodham Clinton, Mike Huckabee, John McCain, Barack Obama, and Ron Paul as the last of the remaining candidates.

One thing that is kind of amazing (to me) is that, with Mitt Romney’s campaign "suspension,” the candidates don’t look that different. (Okay, maybe Ron Paul, but his numbers, beyond fundraising, do not indicate that much support.) All the candidates support biofuels, for example, although McCain and Ron Paul openly oppose ethanol subsidies, which I applaud. All are open to nuclear power as an option, although Clinton and Obama note that storage must be resolved before nuclear power would be a viable option, another point with which I agree.

Clinton, Huckabee, McCain, and Obama support a cap-and-trade program, which would cap greenhouse-gas emissions from a defined set of polluters, e.g., fossil-fuel electricity generators, and allow permit holders to sell or trade the permits it holds allowing pollution in excess of the plant’s emissions. Clinton and Obama want to cut emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. McCain’s plan would seek to reduce emissions to about 30% of 2004 levels by 2050. Huckabee says he supports such a program, but has not mentioned any specific targets. Ron Paul does not support cap-and-trade programs.

All but Ron Paul support some increase in fuel-economy standards for automobiles. All of the candidates support clean-coal initiatives (Ron Paul supports all coal use).

So what does all this mean?

Well, I am not a one-issue voter anyway, but even if I were, no one currently in the mix stands out as having a particularly unique view of or approach to energy. Before he dropped out of the race, Bill Richardson’s plan was probably the most comprehensive. His plan indicated an understanding of the issues that far outweighs that of the other candidates, not shocking given that he was Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy in the Clinton Administration. Richardson’s plan was very aggressive, and would have faced some big fights on a number of fronts. But that’s not all bad.

As it stands, I reserve judgment. The remaining candidates are engaging in the energy debate and talking about many of the issues that, in my view, must be addressed for U.S. energy policy. None are stepping too far out of the mainstream in their proposals, which is also not shocking at this stage. The energy policies of the front-runners (read: not Ron Paul) are acceptable to me, at least as far as they have been developed. So I will be looking at two main issues moving forward: (1) Have the candidates started to develop a real proposal to advocate or are they still talking only about goals?; and (2) How committed is the candidate to implementing their new energy policy?

Politicians have been talking about energy independence since at least 1975. I hope to find that the candidates are committed to moving beyond mere talk. We shall see.

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