Thursday, May 1, 2008

Do We have a "Green" candidate?

Thomas Friedman, who's editorial style usually irks me , wrote an interesting piece in this week's NY Times, covering his usual topic, our energy policy, or in this case the distinct lack thereof.

It led to a simple question from this we have a "green" candidate? So in an effort to bring you our reading public the answer I did what anyone ducking work at his 9-5 does, I trolled the internet for answers....

Hillary Clinton's campaign website lays out her plan here. It's an interesting plan, the near-term center piece is a cap and trade system of carbon credits. It is the main bullet point, with good reason, it stands the most chance of actually being effective. There are several others but the devil is in the details. For example...

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;

The key phrase "20 percent from project levels by 2020." So the plan is to reduce electricity consumption by 20 percent of a projection higher than what we use today? That's not a reduction, that's stasis.

One more from Planet Hillary, then we'll move on.

  • 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;
Investing in green collar Is the government going to start building offices and homes? Turning on power grids? As long as private industry runs these things, as they well should, the government isn't going to invest in anything.

On to Barack Obama, his plan is also centered on a near-term cap and trade system. Sounds good. He's got lots of of bullet points too, but those pesky details seem to be getting in the way...

Invest $150 Billion over 10 Years in Clean Energy: Obama will invest $150 billion over 10 years to advance the next generation of biofuels and fuel infrastructure, accelerate the commercialization of plug-in hybrids, promote development of commercial-scale renewable energy, invest in low-emissions coal plants, and begin the transition to a new digital electricity grid. A principal focus of this fund will be devoted to ensuring that technologies that are developed in the U.S. are rapidly commercialized in the U.S. and deployed around the globe.

I LOVE this bullet point. As bullet points go its the best bullet point I've read so far. Unfortunately, it has no basis in reality. Exactly where is congress going to get $150 billion dollars? Perhaps raising taxes will solve the problem...congress just loves to raise taxes. While I applaud the idea, it's far from politically tenable.

So in review on the Democratic side, I see lots of bullet points, they all sound great, but I have no idea how they will actually get implemented. Details, details, details. Let's hop over to the Republican side of the ledger...

John McCain offers us his plan here. Well "plan" is generous, John McCain offers us his sense that "common sense stewardship" is important.

As John McCain said, "Americans solve problems. We don't run from them." He believes that ignoring the problem reflects a "liberal live for today" attitude unworthy of our great country, and poses a serious and unacceptable threat to our environment, our economy, and U.S. national security. He has offered common sense approaches to limit carbon emissions by harnessing market forces that will bring advanced technologies, such as nuclear energy, to the market faster, reduce our dependence on foreign supplies of energy, and see to it that America leads in a way that ensures all nations do their rightful share.

That's It! No bullet points! I LOVE bullet points! John McCain's website offers no policy meat. Just the idea that he will help us along. "The problem" unnamed and undefined was apparently caused by liberals, and by extension is threat to our national security. Forget details, give me something here Senator.

Sadly, it seems none of our candidates have an actionable plan for the environment. Why? Because the real answers to the climate crisis are not politically tenable. It's going to take bold (politically damaging) leadership to actually make a change.


Alex Lotorto said...


How about a carbon tax?! A crackdown on substandard rules by the World Bank and the EPA?!?!


JamesBedell said...

Ralph Nader wants to Tax Carbon. That sounds like a wonderful idea. Except he even acknowledges that unless there is a global price for carbon emissions it will be a meaningless standard that will only penalize the standard bearers.

Ralph Nader has never held elected office. I don't see how he has the clout to get the entire planet to set a meaningful price for carbon emissions.