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Published June 10, 2008 10:37 AM

McCain and Obama: Green Energy on Their Side

Whether it’s John McCain or Barack Obama who moves into the Oval Office next January he’ll have have a deskfull of problems to cope with: the biggest foreign policy blunder in the nation’s history, a lackluster economy, and what appears to be a peaking of the world’s oil supply.

All of which are related, of course.

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As ominous as those problems may seem there’s a bright side: The new president will have a growing and vibrant industry — the green energy industry — on his side that may very well help solve those three problems.

Oil is about fuels for transportation. Peak oil, if that’s what the planet is now beginning to experience, is about fuel being too expensive to get us from here to there at a reasonable cost. Though trying to convince automakers to build more efficient cars and trucks has been an ongoing battle for decades, high priced fuel has forced at least one automaker’s hand.

The news this week that GM would shut four truck and SUV factories and pursue more efficient vehicles, like the hyper-efficient Chevrolet Volt, was a final recognition by the world’s largest automaker that they need to change. Now that GM is on board, the trend towards highly energy efficient vehicles that began with the hybrids from Japan should continue at a brisker pace. Further, perhaps with a little help from the next occupant of the White House, the push for more efficient vehicles could lead to a renaissance — a green renaissance — for Detroit.

In a speech in Des Moines, Iowa, in October 2007 Obama said this,” I went to Detroit, I stood in front of a group of automakers, and I told them that when I am president, there will be no more excuses — we will help them retool their factories, but they will have to make cars that use less oil.”

Perhaps the automakers should take him up on his word.

John McCain wants to create a cap and trade system to cut greenhouse gas emissions that would encompass transportation fuels and to “reform federal government research funding and infrastructure to support the cap and trade emissions reduction goals and emphasize the commercialization of low-carbon technologies.”

(Obama also supports cap and trade policies.)

A reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks also means better conventional fuel economy and/or a switch to alternative fuels. (The temporary suspension of the federal gasoline tax as a way to ease the pain at the pump, supported by McCain, has already been shelved by Congress.)

In coping with a sluggish economy green energies are clearly the next big thing.

The vast central part of the country is ripe for wind energy development. Nearly all the world’s major wind turbine manufacturers have already or are planing to build production facilities on US soil. The huge cost of shipping makes it cheaper to build the massive machines here than overseas.

The desert southwest is just gearing up for a wave of concentrating solar thermal powerplants. Plans to build components for solar thermal power plants here are also underway. Solar thermal power, though proven for years, is, as an industry, just taking baby steps.

Biofuels, if they are to be the future of fuels for transportation, are gaining traction again as interest grows with algae as a source of diesel fuel and cellulose as feedstock for ethanol. The brewing of biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol are most certainly to be domestic enterprises that will help the economy.

Again cap and trade ideas would help these industries. Obama adds more ideas among them to “Invest $150 billion over 10 Years in Clean Energy”; “Invest in a Skilled Clean Technologies Workforce”, start a “Clean Technologies Deployment Venture Capital Fund” and “Convert our Manufacturing Centers into Clean Technology Leaders.”

Hyper-efficient cars, biofuels, wind and solar power and other green technologies could repair an ailing economy and dampen the worst effects of high oil prices related to peak oil. But what about Iraq? Can green energies help out there too? Perhaps.

Much of the Iraq’s troubles are related to high unemployment. Yet to their south in the Persian Gulf region at least one state is using what remains of its oil wealth to pursue sustainable technologies and the industries and jobs that will follow. The Masdar Initiative in the emirate of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates is that example.

The objectives of Masdar are to position Abu Dhabi as a world-class research and development hub for new sustainable energy technologies and drive the commercialization and adoption of these and other technologies. Commercialization and adoption means jobs and opportunity, just what Iraq needs. The next president could encourage Iraqis only to look around in the neighborhood to see what is possible for their nation.

 

Links:

Barack Obama
http://www.barackobama.com

John McCain
http://www.johnmccain.com

Masdar Initiative
http://www.masdaruae.com

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