On Thursday night, Barack Obama appeared on the (highly rated) Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC. Continuing his comprehensive effort to say things that make me really happy, he had a long exchange with Maddow about … the electrical grid. Seriously!
He says, “we’re going to have to have a smart grid — if we want to use plug-in hybrids, then we want to be able to have ordinary consumers sell back the electricity that’s generated from those car batteries, back into the grid.”
Are you kidding me? I think it’s safe to say that this is the most a presidential candidate has ever talked about the grid during a campaign. It’s certainly the first time a presidential candidate has explicitly tied together economic stimulus spending, infrastructure, national security, smart grids, and plug-in hybrids. Just like my op-ed! Is Obama reading Gristmill? Inquiring minds want to know.
Here’s the excerpt from the transcript:
MADDOW: There may be some policy fights ahead, particularly in responding to the economic crisis that will have both a practical and an ideological component. If we are looking at economic stimulus, is there a possibility that you could see in your first term, if you are elected, that we’d need an economic stimulus program that felt to Americans a little bit like a public works program, a little bit like an FDR-style infrastructure building program?
OBAMA: Well, I’ve actually talked about this. And I haven’t been hiding the ball on this. I think we have to rebuild our infrastructure. Look at what China’s doing right now. Their trains are faster than us, their ports are better than us. They are preparing for a very competitive 21st century economy and we’re not.
One of the most frustrating things over the last eight years has been the ability of George Bush to pile up debt and huge deficits and not have anything to show for it, right? So, if you’re going to run deficit spending, then it better be in rebuilding our roads, our bridges, our sewer lines, our water system, laying broadband lines.
One of, I think, the most important infrastructure projects that we need is a whole new electricity grid. Because if we’re going to be serious about renewable energy, I want to be able to get wind power from North Dakota to population centers, like Chicago. And we’re going to have to have a smart grid if we want to use plug-in hybrids then we want to be able to have ordinary consumers sell back the electricity that’s generated from those car batteries, back into the grid. That can create 5 million new jobs, just in new energy.
But, it’s huge projects that generally speaking, you’re not going to have private enterprise would want to take all those risks. And we’re going to have to be involved in that process.
MADDOW: Also an issue on something like the electrical grid, that’s an issue of American resilience, even against the threat of terrorism. A lot of times when you look at counter-terrorism, officials think that they came out, or an al-Qaeda attack on the electrical grid.
OBAMA: That’s exactly right.
MADDOW: Well you know, at this point, a snow storm is an attack on our electrical grid.
OBAMA: That’s exactly right.
MADDOW: Are there Homeland Security vulnerabilities that you think are fixable in ways that would also be good for the economy?
OBAMA: Well, you mentioned one. The electricity grid I think is important.
Sigh. He talks so purty …
Here’s the video — the relevant bit starts about 7:15 in: