The Whitehouse’s Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future

Today, the Whitehouse released President Obama’s plan for securing the future energy requirements of the US.

All in all, it’s a good document.  I know why some of the material about efficient natural gas and clean coal are in there (there’s no such thing as clean coal), but the rest of it makes a lot of sense and he seems to cover all the bases.

Of course, this is a plan… more of a wish list really.  Each part will have to go through congress and right now the Republicans would probably object if Obama said he wanted more oil drilling… oh wait, he did say that.

One thing REALLY caught my eye though.  Both on pages 15 and 18 he mentions phasing out the subsidies for fossil fuels.  Personally, if that’s the only thing that comes out of this entire paper, I’d be pretty happy. 

There are two other aspects to this paper that I like.  The first is that there is information about where we are now and what we’ve done recently and what the plan is moving forward.  The second is an entire section devoted to how the federal government will ‘lead by example’ purchasing hybrid and electric vehicles and making federal buildings more energy efficient.

The sections of the report are as follows:

Develop and Secure America’s Energy Supplies
Expand Safe and Responsible Domestic Oil and Gas Development and Production
Lead the World Towards Safer, Cleaner, and More Secure Energy Supplies
Provide Consumers with Choices to Reduce Costs and Save Energy
Reduce Consumer Costs at the Pump with More Efficient Cars and Trucks
Cut Energy Bills with More Efficient Homes and Buildings
Innovate Our Way to a Clean Energy Future
Harness America’s Clean Energy Potential
Win the future through Clean Energy Research and Development
Lead by Example: The Federal Government and Clean Energy

Like I said, there are some really nice things in this document, and even if only a few of them come to light, I would be really happy.

I’m not a fan of the emphasis placed on new drilling on public land and federal waters.  I’m certainly not a fan of clean coal and more natural gas.

But the high points that I really like are:

  • The already mentioned removal of subsidies on fossil fuels
  • More efficient cars and trucks (including mandated CAFE-like regulations for trucks for the first time ever).
  • An emphasis on efficient housing
  • 1 million electric vehicles by 2015
  • at the register rebates for vehicles and home improvements instead of tax breaks
  • 80% of electricity from clean energy sources by 2035 (note that this ‘clean energy sources’ includes nuclear, efficient natural gas, and clean coal)
  • an emphasis on research and development of improved energy and storage systems

You can read the whole thing, it’s not that long.  I hope he gets most of it.

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2 Responses to The Whitehouse’s Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future

  1. Ned Ford says:

    Matt Damon (or Clint Eastwood) in Hereafter raise a profoundly important question about why we do not examine the science which exists regarding life-after-death experiences. I point this out to suggest we attempt to find a different perspective on the much more glaring and obvious blind spot which we have towards fossil fuel dependence. I’m not a conspiracy theorist – I have been promoting money-saving energy efficiency for over twenty-five years as an environmental advocate. Policies I have promoted along with a handful of other people have alreadys saved more than a billion dollars, and yet we can’t get the nation’s leaders to have an adult conversation about how to build on this success.

    Energy efficiency has achieved what the nuclear crowd never managed – it is too cheap to meter. By comparing this year’s passenger car fleet with the fleet in 1974, we can argue for several trillion dollars in savings due to efficiency in this decade alone. More current is the five or six billion dollars we spent on utility efficiency programs in 2010, which nominally save fifteen to eighteen billion dollars, at a national average rate which is about a quarter of the rate demonstrated by the best states today, and about a tenth of the rate of the six or seven strongest historical programs. (Trick to understanding efficiency – the programs installed hardware in 2010 but the savings will take five to fifteen years to accrue – by which time the savings will be much larger than the three dollars per dollar spent I indicate, but it is hard to quantify the cost of avoided power plants and pollution controls in the future, when you don’t even have a Federal Government energy agency which is willing to track the progress being made).

    Why are we just talking about oil dependence now as if it hasn’t been periodically setting our economy into nosedives for 39 years? Why does the public dialogue completely ignore our parallel dependence on natural gas imports? Why do we think there is enough domestic resource available when the industry is openly quantifying its prospects and they are indeed to small to allow sustained growth at any price?

    My local newspaper gave TWO editoral articles space on the Tea Party’s spewing over the light bulb standard yesterday – neither of which ackowledged that the Tea Party’s leaders don’t even know what the standard actually requires, and of course neither article acknowledged that a single compact fluorescent light bulb will save over $40 worth of electricity plus three to five dollars worth of lightbulbs. This in spite of the fact that the paper’s own utility just announced having saved several million dollars with those light bulbs…

    I deeply admire Obama, not because of what he says about energy, but because of what he says about us having failed to address it before, and how that doesn’t mean we can’t. In Copenhagen he told my environmental peers that he needed us to give him the grounds to do something meaningful on climate. Of course it’s not the environmentalists who should be doing this – every national leader who can calculate the lifecycle energy cost of a car or lightbulb should be demanding that we build our clean energy future on economic savings produced by efficiency.

    If you want to solve global warming it is possible to map out a path that gets us to 100% carbon-free electricity and building space conditioning for less money than it would cost to attempt to meet that future need with coal, nuclear power and natural gas. Petroleum is the hardest of the three fossil fuel sectors to map out a replacement technology base. Efficiency savings cannot provide cleane energy, but they most certainly can pay for the clean energy we need, and by doing the efficiency actions first we can reduce the amount of renewable resources needed, saving more money while paying for it.

    We appear to be a nation at risk of leading a “jack-ass” response to the energy crisis. I’m even stunned that there are no responses to this post before mine, three or four days after the speech. Our national psyche is glazing over, looking for the next trivial distraction to justify failing to pay attention to something that is beyond serious.

    Someone recently suggested to me that the nation ended slavery because it became socially unacceptable. I have a lot of respect for the time it takes to change perceptions, but we really don’t have a couple of decades to figure out how to end climate change. We need to be doing everything we can to save money with energy efficiency now, in order to have a chance to finish the job with technologies or practices we haven’t quite figured out yet.

    Can we change the public dialogue so that Obama’s ideas are more important than his policital party? Can we talk about solving problems instead of why we don’t like other people’s solutions? When you have done this as long as I have you know that for a nation which is preoccupied with money, we do a pitiful job of actually planning accordingly. Utility efficiency programs work because industry and citizens universally fail to capture investment opportunities which guarantee a twenty, forty, even 100% annual return. The opportunities are so abundant that utilities can easily create hundreds of millions of dollars in total lifetime savings within a year or two, in every part of the nation and within every customer class, except the handful of utilities which are already doing it.

    If we can couple the savings from electric and natural gas efficiency programs with the Federal Appliance Standards and a sensible new zero energy building policy we can end the recession, solve global warming in the electric and natural gas sectors, and develop a host of technologies and industrial practices which will help us get off petroleum and replace the aging nuclear fleet without bankrupting ourselves.

    Renewable energy technology is more expensive than putting coal in an old plant, but it is so much less expensive than building a new coal plant or a new nuclear plant that we can also pay for some less well known technologies like compressed air energy storage, ice storage cooling, pumped hydro, and other technologies which will solve the time of use problem for wind generation. In three or four more years the current price trend for photovoltaic panels will make PV cheaper than new coal or natural gas plants.

    The sustainable energy future is by definition one which we all will prefer to what we have today. It will be considerably more affordable than what we have today. It will allow us to do a lot of things we can’t do today. It will allow us to keep lots of real estate which will otherwise be under water some time in the future. It will help us prevent ocean acidification due to accumulating fossil fuel carbon in the surface waters from becoming a devastating change to the global biosphere.

    As I said, I don’t think the oil or coal companies are preventing us from thinking about these things. I don’t believe conspiracy theories hold water most of the time. If there were great ways to convert water into fuel or make 150 mpg cars the Asian markets would have embraced them, no matter what the oil producing and consuming nations wanted. And if we wanted to solve global warming we have the technology and the economic justification, regardless of what the old guard would prefer. I think there is something deeper in our psyche which is dangerously obstructing our vision. Can we talk about it?

  2. ogremkv says:

    Ned, to answer your last question, of course we can talk about it. I think I can tell you what it is though and there are two issues.

    1) Easy ‘solutions’ are great talking points, but rarely ever work. Real solutions are difficult and sometimes painful, especially to groups that are entrenched in a particular mode and that have the money to influence others.

    2) Those groups that I’m talking about, conspiracy theory or not, are making huge amounts of money. Money talks. They are so powerful that they have the US government (and other governments of the world) giving them over 300 billion dollars over the last ten years, even though those companies were making profits (not gross income, but profits) of several billion dollars per quarter.

    I agree with you. Even if you take global warming totally off the table, it still makes sense to go with renewables. I’m much less a fan of nuclear power, mainly for the pure inefficiency of it.

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