Is Obama’s Energy Plan Enough?
With the possible exception of Barack Obama’s puppy-anticipating daughters, no one is more eagerly awaiting the incoming Administration than the leaders of the renewable-energy industries. President-elect Obama campaigned on the promise to spend $150 billion over the next 10 years to support alternative energy, like wind and solar, as well as the green jobs that the sector has the potential to create. At California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s climate summit on Nov. 18, Obama, in taped remarks, reaffirmed that he would hold fast to those campaign promises, starting with mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions. “This is a crucial step forward,” says Linda Church Ciocci, the executive director of the National Hydropower Association.
The problem is, it won’t be enough. As ambitious as Obama’s campaign promises were — at least compared to his predecessor’s — the future state of global energy will demand government policies with a much longer reach, according to alternative-energy leaders. The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) annual World Energy Outlook, released Nov. 12, projects that global energy demand will increase by 45% between 2006 and 2030 — and that $26 trillion in power-supply investments will be necessary simply to meet those needs. Barring radical changes in our energy policy — beyond what Obama has pledged — greenhouse gas emissions will rise 45% by 2030, and extreme global warming would be virtually unavoidable.
The risks of unabated climate change are frightening: A detailed new study from the University of California, Berkeley, predicts that severe warming could cost California alone up to $50 billion annually, due chiefly to weather damage. “We have to have the foresight to avoid this crash,” says David Roland-Holst, a professor of economics at Berkeley and the author of the report. The question is: Do Obama — and other world leaders — possess that foresight?
In a press conference last week the leaders of the solar, wind, geothermal and hydropower industries called on Obama and the incoming Congress to look ahead. First, energy leaders asked Obama to immediately adjust the alternative-energy production credit to provide green investors with a cash rebate, rather than a tax reduction. With the economy tanking, simple tax credits — which Congress renewed in October and without which the renewable-energy industry would not survive — aren’t the lure they once were for companies looking to invest in new energy projects.
Article continues: Time Magazine