August 5, 2008

Barack Obama – New Energy for America?

Barack Obama gave a speech on Monday in Lansing Michigan, an area very familiar with the decline in the US automobile industry. He took the opportunity to outline his current energy policy, and he started out by laying his cards on the table:

Our changing climate is placing our planet in peril. Our economy is in turmoil and our families are struggling with rising costs and falling incomes; with lost jobs and lost homes and lost faith in the American Dream. And for too long, our leaders in Washington have been unwilling or unable to do anything about it.

Whilst he referred to the effects of the fuel crisis and the financial credit crunch on the US consumer, he didn't mention the global food crisis during his presentation. I guess this speech was intended solely for his domestic audience? Families around the world "are struggling with rising costs and falling incomes", but in the US at least the vast majority are not starving as a result.

Here's the video of Mr. Obama's speech:

The Obama campaign also released a factsheet about the prospective Democratic candidate's energy policy, which you can download here. This helpfully includes a list of bullet points about Barack Obama's "comprehensive New Energy for America Plan". Here they are:

  • Provide short-term relief to American families facing pain at the pump.
  • Help create 5 million new jobs by strategically investing $150 billion over the next ten years to catalyze private efforts to build a clean energy future.
  • Within 10 years save more oil than the US currently imports from the Middle East and Venezuela combined.
  • Put 1 million Plug-in Hybrid cars – cars that can get up to 150 miles per gallon – on the road by 2015, cars that we will work to make sure are built in America.
  • Ensure 10 percent of US electricity comes from renewable sources by 2012, and 25 percent by 2025.
  • Implement an economy-wide cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.

As you can see, Barack Obama's targets for "a clean energy future" are somewhat less ambitious than Al Gore's. He did mention one subject that is dear to my own heart, but for some reason it didn't make it into the bulleted list. Here is what he had to say about energy efficiency:

All of us will need to buy more of the fuel-efficient cars built by this state of Michigan [Loud cheers!], and find new ways to improve efficiency and save energy in our own homes and businesses.

There is also a brief discussion in the factsheet about the foreign policy implications of Barack Obama's new energy plan. There is no reference to the lack of action resulting from the recent meetings of the Group of Eight plus Five or the World Trade Organization, but it seems Mr. Obama would like to make "the US a leader on climate change", which would certainly be a refreshing change from the status quo :

Barack Obama understands that the only real solution to climate change requires all major emitting nations to join in the solution. While it is time for America to lead, developing nations like China and Brazil must not be far behind in making their own binding commitments. To develop an effective and equitable global program, Obama will re-engage with the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC (sic!)) – the main international forum dedicated to addressing the climate problem. He will also invigorate the Major Economies (MEM) effort and bring all the major emitting nations together to develop effective emissions reduction efforts.

As luck would have it the next chance for our democratically elected politicians to change things for the better is at the next UNFCCC climate change talks in Accra, Ghana, on 21-27th August 2008. Do you suppose that if Barack Obama does eventually get elected as the next "Leader of the Free World" we will finally begin to see some meaningful action on these issues, which are so vital to all our futures?

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