John Kerry

John Kerry — approaching full campaign mode — delivered a major energy speech yesterday. It blahs on and on toward the beginning, but finishes strong. (Here’s an mp3 of the speech.)

Even reading his text, I imagine him delivering it and drift to somnolence. But this ‘graph is choice:

For evidence, look no further than the fake energy bill Congress enacted over bipartisan objections — a monstrosity with no guiding national goal, no tough decisions, no change in priorities — just a logrolling, back-scratching collection of subsidies for any industry with the clout to get a seat at the table and a share of the pork. A few good ideas, a lot of bad ideas and ugly ideas — Washington smiled equally upon all of them.

Fun stuff. Almost every speechwriter or rhetorician gets more eloquent when they’re gripped with righteous fury. Not sure why that is.

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Here’s the mission statement:

Today I want to focus on the three big steps that are imperative to addressing global warming and transitioning to dependence on homegrown sources of energy. First, I believe we need to establish an oil goal and implement an aggressive set of policies to reach it. Second, I believe we must immediately expand the availability, production, and distribution of renewable fuels to run our cars. And third, we need to get serious about climate change and take measures to freeze and reverse our greenhouse gas emissions.

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All right — let’s get to it!

First, the oil targets:

To start: We must establish mandates for reducing U.S. oil consumption by 2.5 million barrels of oil per day by 2015 — an amount equivalent to the oil we currently import from the Persian Gulf.

That’s not nothing, but it isn’t the promised “revolution” either. Surely we can do better than 1/8?

As for the “renewable fuels to run our cars,” this is horse poop:

To change that we must require — not just recommend — that an increasing percentage of new cars can run on E85 and that by 2020 all new cars will have the capacity to run on E85.

You can mandate E85 capacity til you’re blue in the face, but you can’t mandate ethanol into existence.

Of course, you can if you wave the magic wand:

To ensure we have enough ethanol to meet our demands, we must also invest in the kind of ethanol produced from plant wastes and energy crops like switchgrass.

Sigh. It’s like an incantation.

Then again:

Believe me, if we’re spending 2 billion in Iraq in one week, we can commit $2 billion in funding for cellulosic biofuels over the next ten years!

Is that a promise, Mr. Kerry?

This grabbing of the “third rail of energy politics” is good:

The United States can’t have a serious policy for oil security until we leave the 1980’s behind — entering the 21st century by demanding a major increase in the fuel economy of our cars.

He never says CAFE, so consider my eyebrow still skeptically raised.

And finally, on climate change, the doozy of the speech:

I will be introducing in the Senate the most far-reaching proposal in our history. … I propose establishing an aggressive economy wide cap and trade program to reverse emissions growth starting in 2010. After that, we will progress to more rapid reductions and end at 65 percent below 2000 emissions by the year 2050.

Damn. I don’t know if that’s the “most far-reaching proposal in our history” — down boy! — but it’s the first thing I’ve heard out of D.C. that’s even in the neighborhood of having a chance in hell of actually making an impact on the problem.

Here are some random other proposals from the speech:

  • We need to create a new security and conservation trust fund to guarantee the resources to move the nation towards energy independence.
  • … let’s provide an aggressive set of tax incentives and grants to ensure that by 2020, 20 percent of all passenger cars and trucks on the road will be fuel efficient, low emissions hybrid vehicles.
  • We will provide tax incentives for good behavior and increased funding for research, development and deployment of clean energy technologies.
  • … we should double the federal government funding for research and development to support private sector energy research, demonstration, and deployment.

Conservatives will of course denounce this (if they pay any heed to it at all) as a “tax and spend” speech. There are lots of big financial promises, at least implied.

But as Kerry says, “just by rolling back the tax breaks for big oil which even President Bush opposes, and by renegotiating oil leases, we can invest in a fund for energy security.” There’s all kinds of money sloshing around — it’s just a matter of priorities.