I hate writing about political candidates, and especially presidential ones. But I’m going to do it anyway because I just finished reading Barack Obama’s newly released energy and climate plan. I’ve got to say: I’m stunned.
Among the highlights are a call for 80 percent reductions in emissions below 1990 levels by 2050, which would be accomplished by a cap and trade program. But this is the kicker: he wants 100% percent auctioning for all carbon permits. He’s the only candidate to call for this. Among other things, it would mean that polluters would have to pay for the right to emit greenhouse gases. (More details here.)
But what really suprised me was that the plan includes a batch of wonkish complementary policies that read like they were cribbed from Sightline. These are things that seemed pie-in-the-sky (at least to me) just a few years ago. Now a major presidential contender is carrying the banner. To wit:
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- Decoupling. Instead of making more money for cranking out the power, utlities should have a direct incentive to improve efficiency and conservation—the bottom line.
- Smart grid. Using technology to distribute power around the energy grid where it’s needed in real time can save heaps of electricity.
- Planning for growth and transportion to promote alternatives to driving—and alternatives to driving long distances.
- Reforming the federal tax code so that parking is not more profitable than alternatives. (Under current law, employers can provide $205 in tax free parking benefits, but only $105 for transit or ride-sharing.)
There’s a bunch more too, including other decent ideas like investments in R&D, low carbon fuel standards, energy efficiency standards (such as CAFE), renewable electricity portfolio standards, blah, blah, blah. It’s definitely worth taking a look. Or you can head over at Gristmill, where Dave Roberts also gets his groove on.
Sure, there’s plenty I could nitpick. Obama seems a bit too obsessed with biofuels in my judgment. But overall, the plan is remarkably spot-on and it’s chock full of smart policies that can quickly move us toward a climate friendly future.
By the way, just so everyone’s clear, I have no idea who I’m going to vote for. And this post is not an endorsement for Obama. All I’m saying is “wow!”