A closer look at Obama’s energy plan
Economy may slow it, but ‘green’ jobs may grow it.
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Some elements of Obama’s energy plan are costly, but also vital to the rest of the plan. For instance, sales of pollution permits from the cap-and-trade program to limit CO2 emissions across the economy are key to helping fund the plan’s $15 billion per year (for 10 years) expenditure on renewable energy research and development.Skip to next paragraph
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But some say rising electric rates – the result of costs involved with greenhouse-gas emissions – could stir political opposition and derail implementation, especially given the economic crisis.
“In times of economic stress, the last thing you want to do is increase peoples’ energy costs with something like cap-and-trade,” says Anne Korin, cofounder of the Set America Free Coalition (SAFC) of energy-security hawks and environmentalists. SAFC calls for policies that would disconnect the US from imported oil. “There’s a lot of talk about that, but a congressman who wants to be reelected would be very wary of that,” Ms. Korin says.
While no one has recalculated the cost-benefit for Obama’s official energy plan, some earlier calculations for similar – albeit rosy – plans
suggest that the net effect would still be a plus for green jobs and the economy.
The Apollo Alliance, a labor-environmental coalition, has put forward a proposal that contains proposals similar to those in the Obama plan. The alliance calls for a federal investment in clean-energy technology and green building that’s twice as large ($300 billion) as Obama’s. Their analysis calculates more than $1.4 trillion in savings and economic growth.
The pedigree of Obama’s plan also suggests that it is more, not less, likely to be implemented, Mr. Hendricks says.
Much of the Obama plan follows the National Commission on Energy Policy’s (NCEP) 2004 plan, a consensus document in which – as in the SAFC plan – energy-security hawks joined environmentalists and industry. In fact, NCEP director and plan coauthor Jason Grumet is a likely candidate for an energy post in the new administration.
Besides the advantage of having been pre-vetted by energy, foreign policy, and industry experts, the plan also has something of a mandate. Obama often touted the need for a new energy equation during the campaign. Renewable-energy tax credits were stymied regularly in the US Senate this year. So an Obama mandate could help win over a Senate in which Democrats are now just three votes short of a filibuster-proof majority – with three races still in contention.
“There’s a lot of good stuff here, but like any campaign platform, they’ll be fortunate to implement half of it,” says Steve Nadel, executive director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. “Still, I have been hearing through the grapevine that they [Obama’s camp] are quite serious about it. The question is whether Congress will go along. There’s a good chance that a significant fraction [of the plan] will go through.”