Wednesday, November 08, 2006

My National Energy Policy-The Declaration of Energy Independence

With energy brought to the forefront of Americans’ consciousness by record high fossil fuel prices and an increasingly unstable Middle East, it is time for the United States to declare its energy independence from unstable foreign sources that have little incentive to provide a secure, clean and inexpensive supply of energy. We have done nothing for the last several years. Talking about potential new technologies is not enough. We need to implement a new energy policy in America with an immediate impact, with the urgency of the space race and not at a snail’s pace.


Coal: Right now, America has a 200-year supply of coal. . We have enough coal to supply American energy needs for the next 200 plus years. Let’s begin a massive program not just of technological research, but clean coal installations. If we need to subsidize some technology, let’s support one that powers America’s future, provides Americans with jobs, and enhances our national security. And leading coal producing states include Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and West Virginia, all critical to success in Presidential elections.

In recent years, significant strides have been made in developing environmentally-friendly methods for turning this resource into power. Low emission (President Bush to the contrary, there are no zero emission) coal gasification technologies, such as the Integrated Gasification-Combined Cycle (IGCC) show great promise, and a program of research and pilot plants should be implemented immediately. Expanded use of coal would significantly in this way would create high-paying jobs in economically troubled areas, clean the environment and enhance our security by displacing foreign resources with domestic ones..

Liquid Natural Gas: While we are weaning ourselves from fossil fuels, we need enhance and more diverse supplies, particularly of natural gas. While it needs to be imported, there are numerous sources available in our own hemisphere and it is the cleanest, most efficient fuel available. No subsidies are required at current or even significantly lower natural gas prices, and recent technological developments will allow transportation without the construction of expensive and potentially dangerous on-shore terminals.

Nuclear: Important concerns remain about the ability to construct safe nuclear facilities, and about nuclear waste disposal. Nonetheless, nuclear can produce enormous amounts of cost-effective, clean energy. We need a significant research effort to explore the safe nuclear energy option.

Harness the True Power of Renewable Energy Sources: Wind, solar and other renewable technologies are today unable to make a significant dent in our energy needs, even with large subsidies. Let’s install these technologies in the limited areas that make sense, and spend the necessary money on research and pilot plants, so that by 2020 these technologies can make a significant contribution to our energy independence, not continually reduce budgets and expenditures in these areas as the Bush administration has done. Research and incentives must include efficiency standards to avoid a repeat of the non-productive incentives and governmental programs of the early 1980’s, and must ensure that the tax shelter abuses of that period are not present..

Ethanol: Even proponents of ethanol concede costs more energy to produce it than it gives back in generation. This fuel only survives thanks to the strength of the farm lobby and the large subsidies they provide for its producers. Ethanol from food products also adversely affects food prices. Research is required to develop efficient technologies that utilize biomass and other waste products, rather than corn, for production, and that produce significantly more energy than they consume. Biomass ethanol, produced from agricultural waste products, is a largely untapped source of renewable fuel that could offset significant amounts of oil usage and result in lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Start the Fuel Cell Revolution: A long-term plan would expand the use of fuel cell-driven vehicles, with a goal of dramatically reducing the number of gas-guzzling cars on the road. A dedicated research and development plan, with measurable goals and benchmarks is required to

  • put 100,000 fuel cell vehicles on the road by 2010 and 2.5 million by 2020.
  • Increase R&D funding for hydrogen production and storage, fuel cell technologies, and other advanced alternative vehicles.
  • Fund pilot projects to disseminate fuel cell technology and hydrogen infrastructure.
  • These should Include energy companies, and not just U.S. automakers: diverse participants will encourage active debate and ensure that this initiative does not hastily prejudge what technologies are up to the challenge.
  • Create an education training partnership with universitites to develop tomorrow’s fuel cell engineers, assemblers, and technicians.


In his recent State of the Union address, President Bush had nothing to say about increasing energy efficiency and reducing its waste. Enormous energy savings are still available to us.

Raise Fuel Economy Standards for American Cars: The National Academy of Sciences has clearly found that fuel economy standards (known as CAFE) could be raised to perhaps 40 miles per gallon without sacrificing any power or selection in automobiles. Loopholes in these standards and tax benefits for SUV’s need to be eliminated. To encourage the development and purchase of more fuel efficient vehicles, We should have a graduated energy technology research fee-if your vehicle gets less than 10 miles per gallon, you should pay a lot more for your gas, if less than 20 mpg somewhat more, and if your car gets more than 50 miles per gallon, you should pay less than the price at the pump. This fee should fund our clean energy programs-let those who are wasting gas by driving Hummers pay for our clean energy future. In addition, tax incentives should be granted to those buying particularly efficient vehicles.

Provide Incentives to Encourage Higher Fuel Standards: In addition to setting a higher national fuel efficiency standard, we should reward car manufacturers that voluntarily exceed those minimums. Specifically, it would enable domestic auto manufacturers that produce superefficient vehicles – vehicles that exceed the average fuel economy by 20 percent or more – to receive valuable pollution credits, which will make it easier to meet expected new limits on greenhouse gas emissions. (This measure is currently included in the Lieberman-McCain cap-and-trade global warming legislation.)

Reward Efficiency Across the Country: We should institute a system that provides market incentives towards efficient technologies by providing rewards for efficiency gains. For example, the Lieberman/McCain legislation would allow companies to receive money for the averted greenhouse gas emissions achieved by efficiency gains. Technologies that could create these efficiency gains include renewables, Integrated Gasification-Combined Cycle, and nuclear power (if the safety concerns can be addressed).

Encourage “Fuel-Efficient Planning” at the Local Level: A number of communities have adopted infrastructure development strategies for tackling congestion and shortening commuting distances for their residents. We should accelerate this trend by offering a range of supports and incentives to states and municipalities to reduce the amount of miles driven by Americans. For example, it would set up loan programs for families buying homes in high-efficiency locations and increase funding for high-efficiency transit and public transportation programs.

Use New Technologies to Reduce Electricity Demand: Technological advances are already changing the way we use electricity. For example, the city of New Haven has had great success lowering consumption by allowing electricity users to communicate by wireless transmission with a central computer bank and automatically lower their energy usage in nearly imperceptible ways when electricity demand exceeds certain levels. This plan would build on this progress by providing incentives to develop similarly-efficient energy-saving technologies.


Reject the False Promise of Arctic Refuge Drilling: The Arctic Refuge won’t provide a drop of oil for 10 years and won’t make a dent in our dependence on foreign oil – all it will do is destroy one of the most precious parts of our natural heritage. This has been the only plank in the Bush energy policy during his entire term, and must be rejected.

Oppose New Drilling on the Outer-Continental Shelf: Despite the deep opposition of residents on the California and Florida coasts, the Senate Republicans, with the blessing of the Bush Administration, have promoted legislation authorizing an evaluation of the oil and gas resources of those shores. We must oppose drilling in those areas and the Lieberman Plan would continue the ban on drilling in those areas.

Stop Any Weakening of Air Quality Standards: Relaxing air quality standards, such as those associated with coal plant modifications, is not necessary to create an efficient and secure energy supply for America.

(Written by L. Coben and Ambassador R.N. Swett)