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A closer look at Obama’s energy plan

Economy may slow it, but ‘green’ jobs may grow it.

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / November 12, 2008

Workers inspect one of two Mammoth Pacific geothermal power plants in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. Brine from the Casa Diablo Hot Springs powers the plants.

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If President-elect Barack Obama enacts the energy plan he laid out during his campaign, American taxpayers will each get a $500 rebate check – funded by a windfall profits taxes on big oil companies.

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But that’s just for starters. Besides taxing oil giants more, Senator Obama’s detailed 30-point energy agenda calls for big changes to address carbon emissions, fuel efficiency for vehicles, and domestic and renewable power and efficiency.

While many candidates’ platform promises are cast aside when political opposition looms, the Obama energy plan seems integral to his promise to get the economy restarted, some experts say.

“Obama’s energy plan is much more than a campaign laundry list,” says Bracken Hendricks, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a think tank chaired by John Podesta, who heads the Obama administration’s transition effort. “It really is a centerpiece of Obama’s economic development strategy for the nation, for energy security, and rebuilding our cities and infrastructure,” Mr. Hendricks says.

Among more than two dozen bullet points, Obama’s energy plan includes:

• Putting 1 million plug-in-electric hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) on the road by 2015 – cars that can get the equivalent of 150 miles per gallon.

• Creating 5 million new “green jobs” by investing $150 billion over 10 years to stimulate clean-energy infrastructure and manufacturing such as wind-turbine plants and solar panels carpeting the nation’s rooftops.

• Cutting US oil consumption, within 10 years, by the amount currently imported from the Middle East and Venezuela combined.

• Requiring 10 percent of the nation’s electricity to come from renewable energy sources like wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass by 2012. By 2025, raise that to 25 percent.

• Establishing an economy-wide cap-and-trade program that cuts US greenhouse gas emissions by charging for every ton of carbon dioxide that goes into the sky from coal- and natural gas-fired US power plants.

Can Obama do all that and more – or will political and economic obstacles ultimately turn the plan into a much more modest effort? How much was campaign window dressing, and how much energy transformation will the US undergo?

“Obama has enormous political support for his clean-energy agenda,” says Anna Aurillio, director of policy development for Environment America, an environmental group. “If you look at the regions that will be impacted by the changes – middle America and New England in particular – these are places that will benefit from clean energy and back him politically in making this change.”

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