Some disappointments in Obama’s new energy proposal
Joe Romm isn’t off the wagon in calling Barack Obama’s latest energy policy outline [PDF], “easily the best energy plan ever put forward by a nominee of either party,” particularly given its release during a general campaign targeted at purple state voters. All the same, I found the plan to be … a little meh.
There are good things in there to be sure. I’m particularly happy that climate change features prominently and that he remains committed to cap-and-trade. The goodness of other proposals depends upon exactly how they’d be implemented. And the whole thing suffers from kitchen sinkism, which makes it difficult to know where his priorities actually lie. None of this should be taken as praise for McCain, of course, whose energy policy, such as it is, is much more vague and generally awful.
I’m irked, however, by the fact that it’s not until the very last paragraph of his summary, on page eight, after he’s trotted out clean coal and safe nuclear, that we get to read this:
Build More Livable and Sustainable Communities: Over the long term, we know that the amount of fuel we will use is directly related to our land use decisions and development patterns. For the last 100 years, our communities have been organized around the principle of cheap gasoline. Barack Obama believes that we must devote substantial resources to repairing our roads and bridges. He also believes that we must devote significantly more attention to investments that will make it easier for us to walk, bicycle and access other transportation alternatives. Obama is committed to reforming the federal transportation funding and leveling employer incentives for driving and public transit.
Now maybe, having just faced down the buffoons in the Republican Party over the tire pressure thing, he’s unwilling to focus too heavily on something the GOP loves to ridicule. Or maybe he’s content to let the Congress take leadership on this issue, which they’ve certainly done. Whatever the cause, it’s incredibly frustrating to see this little dedication to a bottom line change in the way we build our cities. The more so because it seems to demonstrate that the Obama campaign has not yet grasped the connection between our urban structure and policies and a host of other priorities — crime and education, economic vitality and environmental responsibility, energy security and insurance against fuel price shocks. I don’t understand it. I’d wager that better urban planning and transit poll way better than clean coal, even among many of the fence-sitting voters now in Obama’s sights.
An American energy policy needs to do three things: one, reduce the environmental impact and carbon-intensity of our energy, two, get us off oil, and three do the first two in manners that aren’t too economically damaging or regressive. A good carbon policy satisfies these three criteria. Transit investments overwhelmingly do; not only do they reduce oil use and carbon emissions, but also they’re pro-growth and progressive. And they’re in demand.
Obama wants to put 1 million plug-in hybrids on the road by 2015. That’s great; so do I. What about the other 150 million or so drivers out there, struggling with gas and seeking to reduce their carbon footprint?