Today, Hillary Clinton addressed the Apollo Alliance to introduce some new legislation that would call for a Strategic Energy Fund. Here’s where the fund would get its money:
The legislation eliminates oil company tax breaks and ensures that they pay their fair share of royalties for drilling on public lands. The legislation also places a temporary fee on major oil company profits that exceed a 2000-2004 profit baseline. The fee would be in place for two years, and companies could offset their fee by investing in alternative energy technologies such as ethanol and wind power. The Strategic Energy Fund would raise $50 billion to fund research, development and deployment of energy technologies that will reduce America’s oil dependence and greenhouse gas emissions.
This is a decent pot of money, certainly more than Bush is coughing up, though nothing like the fundamental reorienting of federal spending priorities we need. I don’t think taxing oil company profits is particularly wise — why not just tax carbon? — but as a temporary measure I can live with it.
What this bill doesn’t offer, and what we desperately need in the energy world, is predictability: predictable, stable sources of funding, predictable, progressively tightening emissions standards, and predictable, long-term tax incentives. Dumping $50 billion into the energy market is fine, but it’s a drop in the bucket of fossil profits.
Here’s where the money would go:
• Deliver Clean Coal Technology. $3.5 billion in tax incentives and grants to build 5 clean coal plants that can capture and store carbon dioxide and reduce global warming.
• Invest in Renewable Energy. Move America towards the goal of producing 25 percent of electricity from renewable sources by extending the production tax credit for generating electricity from wind and other renewable sources for five years.
• Transform America’s Vehicles. Put more efficient vehicles on the road by quadrupling consumer tax breaks for hybrids, clean diesel, and other advanced vehicles, creating incentives for auto manufacturers to retool their facilities, and putting $500 million towards advanced battery research to speed development of "plug-in" hybrid vehicles.
• Accelerate Homegrown Biofuels. Extend the ethanol tax credit until 2012, and speed the development of cellulosic ethanol by providing loan guarantees for the first billion gallons of commercial production capacity, and providing $2 billion for research.
• Improve Efficiency. Increase incentives to make homes and offices more comfortable and cheaper to operate by improving energy efficiency.
• Unleash American Ingenuity. Accelerate energy research by creating a $9 billion "Advanced Research Projects Agency" for energy.
If it were me, I’d shuffle the money around a bit. I’d take the $3.5 billion for coal and put it toward renewables and battery research instead.
This seems to me quite Hillary-esque: decent, about in the middle of what other Dems are offering, could be worse, but not all that inspiring.
(Sarah Wheaton at the NYT’s political blog thinks Hillary’s speech was good politics. I guess I’ve heard the Apollo message enough now that it no longer dazzles me, but I’m hardly representative.)