Now that the Democratic Party has a presumptive nominee, it’s time to take a closer look at Sen. Barack Obama’s energy plan and how he intends to use the office of the president to accelerate our transition to a greener economy. We profiled Sen. John McCain’s […]

Now that the Democratic Party has a presumptive nominee, it’s time to take a closer look at Sen. Barack Obama’s energy plan and how he intends to use the office of the president to accelerate our transition to a greener economy. We profiled Sen. John McCain’s energy plan earlier, and since energy will almost certainly not get as much debate time as Iraq, health care or the economy, we encourage you to compare McCain’s and Obama’s plans and comment below. (The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article on the comparison this morning.)

Obama has compared his plan for renewable energy to both the Manhattan Project and the Apollo Space Program in terms of financial, intellectual and notably entrepreneurial scope. But what are the specifics of Obama’s proposed energy plan?

Cleantech Venture Capital Plan: Obama’s cleantech venture capital plan entails doling out $150 billion over 10 years to fund projects in a broad swath of cleantech sectors, including biofuels, plug-in hybrids, clean coal, smart gird and “renewable energy.” The fund would be aimed at later-stage opportunities with the expressed goal of developing technologies for rapid commercialization in the U.S. and deployment globally.

Cap and Trade on Carbon: Obama’s overarching environmental goal is to reduce America’s greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below our 1990 levels by 2050. To achieve this, Obama wants to institute a cap-and-trade system to manage carbon emissions. Unlike the cap-and-trade system proposed by McCain, Obama insists that 100 percent of the credits be auctioned off, ensuring that all polluters pay for all of their pollution. Funds generated by this new carbon market would be reinvested in clean energy and energy efficiencies and be used to smooth the transition for American workers to a carbon constrained economy, Obama says.

Clean Coal Optimist: “We’re also going to need to find a way to use coal, America’s most abundant fossil fuel, without adding harmful greenhouse gases to the environment,” Obama told the Detroit Economic Club last year. Illinois has a nearly $1 billion coal industry and Obama has voted several times in favor of clean coal research and lists the development and deployment of clean coal technologies as its own initiative. However, some estimate that clean coal is a decade away, beyond the reach of even a two-term president.

Automobile Standards: Obama wants to improve vehicular greenhouse gas emission standards by 5 percent in 2015 and 10 percent in 2020. He says that by boosting the corporate automobile fuel economy (CAFE) standard to 43 miles per gallon we could cut out the need for all of the oil we import from the Middle East. Speaking in Detroit, Obama did not shy away from telling auto execs that the dire situation they now find themselves in is partially their own doing, but he says he wants to work with them to rebuild a cleaner American car industry.

Gas Tax Holiday: Obama is adamantly opposed to a gas tax holiday, an issue that has set him apart from Clinton as well as McCain. McCain called for a summer-long suspension of the federal gasoline tax, a nixing a 18.4 cent federal gas tax and 24.4 cent diesel tax from Memorial Day to Labor Day. However, Obama points out that this would save the average American only half a tank of gas while draining money from the federal government’s highway trust fund. Meanwhile, the savings for the consumer are dependent on trickle down from the oil companies who are not guaranteed to pass along the savings.

Nuclear Power: While Obama has said “nuclear energy is not optimal” he does not rule it out as part of our energy future. Obama’s own Illinois has more nuclear power plants than any other state and Obama has worked on nuclear accountability and safety legislation. He is opposed to Yucca Mountain and wants to make sure that spent fuel is properly and publicly disposed of.

Also check out: FAQ: The McCain Energy Plan.

  1. Voters in a tizzy crying sexism, racism, whateverism; all the while, peak oil has been chipping away at the economy! Recession seems eminent; depression a possibility.

    It was entertaining watching Obama and Hillary and their followers sling mud at each other; however, now that that is mostly over, I’m more interested in whether Obama and McCain have viable proposals for solving our energy crisis? More shall be revealed!


  2. I find Obama’s stand towards clean coal refreshing, and indicative of his openmindedness.

    The truth is, clean coal, and coal to liquids technologies are already in use in China & South Africa.

    While the US needs to wait for the widespread commercialisation of Carbon Sequestration before she can implement Coal-to-Liquids projects, the other option available to CTL companies will be to set up an Algae farm where they can pump excess CO2 and wastewater to grow algae for Biodiesel & Omega 3 production.

    So Obama’s dream might be closer than we think, and achievable within this decade.

    I’ve heard about a Clean Coal Conference in Pittsburgh, I came across it at the Future Coal Fuels website (http://www.futurecoalfuels.org/). The event is focusing on Clean Coal technologies and the latest developments in Carbon Sequestration. I think they’re also looking into the future of Clean coal in the US.

    I think I’m going to attend this just to see what’s new in the industry. Besides, if we’ve got so much coal, then we might as well use it.

  3. It is actually Obama’s stance on “Clean Coal” that disappoints me the most. While we may be able to get to point where the emissions from the coal power are negligible, or they are sequested to grow Algae, they can never mitigate the mass environmental damage the mining has on the land. Just look at that is happening in WV where they are destroying entire mountains, causing pollutants to leech into ground water and destroying forests and wildlife habitat.

    There is more to consider than just GHG……

    Read more here…. http://www.grist.org/news/maindish/2006/02/16/reece/

  4. Barack Obama has made himself the king of starvation with his totally misguided biofuel scheme to convert food and invasive biofuel weeds into fuel. This tragic political miscalculation is causing hunger and frank starvation all over the world. Obama is speaking out of both sides of his mouth about his own disastrous policies, stating on one TV show that he would rethink ethanol and the next day campaigning in Montana promising farmers that he will turn even more corn into fuel. Barack Obama had better wake up to what he is doing and take WORLD FOOD SUPPLY SECURITY seriously, because biofuels are his Bay of Pigs. He got himself into this anti-science, man made disaster, so he has to publicly admit his guilt and reverse course 180 degrees on biofuels.

    For facts on the biofuel disaster and better energy alternatives, see -


  5. What you get with Obama is intelligence in action. For those lobbyists who want to pin him down, I think there will be great disappointment. We are on the precipice of a mass-extinction event – the human race. It will be in interesting to see how adaptive we really are. My guess is that we will make it.

  6. i personally believe that we need a combination of energy usage reduction, and cleaner burning fuels. nuclear is essential, america is one of the few civilized countries not currently generating a majority of it power from nuclear.

  7. The fact is that creating new sources (PLURAL) of alternative energy will be the defining acheivemnt of the next decade or so. Global warming, high oil & gas prices ruining the economy, plus reliance on oil from politically unstable areas all mean we have to DO EVERYTHING STARTING NOW. Debating which method will be best is a waste of time and a poor excuse for doing nothing.
    We do not know which COMBINATION OF METHODS will work, but we don’t have time to debate.

    By the way, like it or not, any Republican including McCain will be bound to the energy policies of the Bush/Cheney Disaster. We cannot take that chance. He’s a good man, but his hands are too tied by party politics.

  8. Barack Obama has, as have many of us, changed his view on bio-fuels according to this Wired Magazine article

    In case trying to get fancy doesn’t work http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2008/05/obama-voices-do.html

  9. [...] more, the consensus seems to be that water is the next big thing…  Finally, Earth2Tech did a nice FAQ on Obama’s energy policy [...]

  10. At the start of his campaign, 35% of his finances came from Exelon, the nuclear power company. He has since distanced himself from that association a little bit, in light of the long anti-nuclear history of the Democratic party.

    They’re all hoping solutions to cost overuns and waste disposal will bail out the nuclear industry. It probably won’t happen, so we’re stuck with an aging nuke infrastructure that’s getting increasingly costly to maintain, ducking bullets every instant.

    New York is getting ready to shut down Indian Point. There is nothing Entergy or the NRC can do about it at this point. There are just too many politicians, celebrities and wealthy socialites, represented by the likes of Riverkeeper, Planet Green, etc… who desperately want to see Indian Point shut down before a disaster happens.

    This will oblige the nuclear industry to start doing what it has forgotten it would have to do someday, that the day of reckoning would come, start decomissioning old nuclear reactors, with all the cost and problems that come along with it, possibly bankrupting the nuclear industry as a whole.

    Obama could be the first president since the birth of the peaceful atom having to deal with the decommisioning of dozens of nuclear reactors to preserve health and safety in densely populated areas, where nuclear radiation caused cancers have reached epidemic proportion.

    There are few solutions to this problem, other than cost effective base load storage technology for solar, wind and geothermal generated electricity. We’re back to mass produced solid-state Li-ion chemistry again.


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