Amidst all the inflated rhetoric about the war in Iraq, health care and new taxes, you’ll be forgiven if you’ve had trouble separating one candidate from the next on environmental technology issues. But one of these people might become the next president, and billions in funding (as well as the fate of the planet) hangs in the balance. So who — among the Democrats — is looking out for you? (Later in the week we’ll look at the Republicans). Read on…
1. John Edwards: We crown him the most cleantech friendly.
Yes, he’s still in the race, and he came out early and set the bar on energy policy at a height none have yet matched. Highlights of his New Energy Economy include reducing carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050. By ending tax breaks for big oil and charging polluters for emissions permits, Edwards proposes a $13-billion-a-year New Energy Economy Fund that would create a million jobs in the cleantech sector.
And don’t get him started on cars — not only does he propose requiring gas station chains to have 25 percent E85 pumps by 2025, he wants to require all new cars after 2010 be flex fuel. To help achieve this, he’s proposing $1 billion a year to help U.S. automakers modernize. Not even farm equipment is safe — Edwards wants to impose strict fuel economy standards on them, too. And to top it off, he wants to create a GreenCorps of young volunteers to install solar panels, weatherize homes and plant carbon sinks in urban areas. It almost brings a tear to the eye.
2. Barack Obama: A close second.
Obama gave a policy speech this week in New Hampshire that outlined a set of proposals to “phase out the carbon-based economy.” He largely echoes Edward’s plan, with a notably larger price tag for biofuel investment — $150 billion over the next decade — and more frank talk about breaking down barriers between startups and the marketplace. He is also frank about the weaknesses of corn-based ethanol and stresses cellulosic (moving towards 2 billion gallons of it by 2013, to be exact). He favors passing a law phasing out incandescent light bulbs, and one requiring new buildings to be 50 percent more energy efficient.
3. Hillary Clinton: Third but still strong on energy.
Senator Clinton calls for an “Apollo-like project” to create energy independence. Like her fellow Democrats, she wants to create a strategic energy fund from the profits of oil companies. They’ll have to invest in green energy or pay the fund, and she’d also repeal any subsidies. Clinton’s estimated $50 billion over ten years would go to clean energy research, especially clean coal.
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of reports looking at the candidates and cleantech.