Obama’s Energy


 Happy New Year!

I have been away from this wonderful blog for far too long. Thanks to A.M., Ian and Jeet for carrying the ball in the latter half of 2008, and 2009 will see me blogging at Sans Everything once again.

Let me start by sharing some energy policy suggestions I offered to President-elect Obama recently on the Huffington Post.  What do you think? Am I missing some big  items? Do you agree or disagree with the ideas below – and if so, why? If you had to advise Obama on priority changes in energy policy, what would you say?


Transforming the Energy Economy 

by John Haffner

With volatile oil prices, growing global energy demand, and the spectre of catastrophic climate change, energy has become a front-page and household issue — not just in the United States, but around the world. The next president has the opportunity to lead a radical energy transformation towards a future based on low carbon, reliable and sustainable energy. There are seven steps the next administration could take that would help drive this transformation.

First, the United States must lead global climate discussions before and after the United Nations Climate Change Conference in late 2009. Carbon reduction targets for the period from 2012 to 2050 must be rooted in the latest scientific findings on the pace of climate change, and the successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol must include aggressive intermediate reduction targets so as to drive investment decisions.

Second, the United States should introduce a federal moratorium on new coal-fired plants that do not have carbon capture and storage (CCS), as well as an aggressive time frame for retirement or retrofit of existing coal-fired plants without CCS. It should challenge other countries to do the same.

Third, the United States should challenge every country to generate 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, and 30 percent by 2030. It should commit to underwriting global and regional financing and policy mechanisms that support this objective.

Fourth, as the global community prepares to expand the peaceful use of nuclear energy, the administration must undertake serious efforts to restore the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and to begin a discourse that looks beyond non-proliferation and towards disarmament. The president should review how to strengthen the oversight capacity of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and devise a plan, in collaboration with other countries, towards universal (or near-universal) adoption of key international legal instruments to be used against proliferation: the Additional Protocol, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty.

Fifth, the United States must adopt aggressive energy efficiency standards and codes nationwide, and the president must be willing to exercise strong leadership in challenging builders, cities and companies to adopt a wide array of visionary efficiency measures in homes, buildings, and transportation.

Sixth, the United States should reduce its domestic agricultural subsidy policies and apply sustainability criteria towards ethanol production — in comparison with other options — so that the United States will be able to expand the use of biofuels in a sustainable manner.

Finally, the next president of the United States should move away from the misleading rhetoric of “energy independence,” and instead embrace a new discourse of “energy interdependence,” a more enlightened language that recognizes that energy nationalism is dangerous for everyone, and global energy challenges will be solved together or not at all.