My Bottom Line is Green: McCain v. Obama on Renewable Energy


photo: Michael S

Barack Obama on Renewable Energy


Barack Obama’s position on renewable energy is well publicized in his campaign documents. He has promised to invest $150 billion over 10 years in renewable energy technologies; he has said that by 2030 he will require at least 60 billion gallons of advanced biofuels be incorporated into the national fuel mix; by 2025 Obama would require that 25% of the US electricity supply be generated from “clean, sustainable energy sources, like solar, wind and geothermal; and he would extend the federal production tax credit for five years to assist in making this happen.

It should be noted that Obama also includes provisions for nuclear power and coal in his energy policy, often mentioning them in the same breath as saying that there is “no silver bullet” to solve our energy needs. In addition to positions outlined above, here are som less well-publicized viewpoints:

Low Carbon Fuel Standard
In addition to the 25% by 2025 Renewable Portfolio Standard mentioned above, Obama would:

Establish a National Low Carbon Fuel Standard to speed the introduction of low-carbon non-petroleum fuels. The standard requires fuel suppliers in 2010 to begin to reduce the carbon of their fuels by 5% within 5 years and 10% within 10 years. The Obama plan will incentivize increased private sector investment in advanced low-carbon fuels and has a sustainability provision to ensure that increased biofuel production does not come at the expense of environmental conservation. (Barack Obama and Joe Biden)

Food Versus Fuel
On May 4th of this year on Meet the Press Obama weighed in on the food versus fuel debate. He was asked whether he would consider changing the current ethanol subsidy program:
We've got rising food prices here in the US. In other countries we're seeing riots because of the lack of food supplies. So this is something that we're going to have to deal with. [...] My top priority is making sure that people are able to get enough to eat. And if it turns out that we've got to make changes in our ethanol policy to help people get something to eat, then that's got to be the step we take. But I also believe that ethanol has been a important transitional tool for us to start dealing with our long-term energy crisis ultimately. Over time we're going to shift to cellulosic ethanol, where we're not using food stocks but we're using wood chips & prairie grass.

The League of Conservation Voters has given Obama’s lifetime environmental voting record a score of 96 out of 100.

How Does Joe Biden Play Into This?
According to the LCV, Joe Biden has a lifetime environmental voting record score of 84, which compares to a Senate average of 52. When asked about a federal Renewable Portfolio Standard by LCV he said,

I support setting a national renewable fuel standard of 20% to increase the use of renewable fuels. We should have a national policy that encourages the development of clean, renewable energy and we should invest in developing renewable energy technology. The US should be a world leader not only in using renewable energy but also in developing and exporting renewable technology to the rest of the world.

To my knowledge, he's not offered any definitive plan as to how US developed technology will be exported to the rest of the world—is he referring to technology transfer to developing countries or just the normal trade that already goes on?—but either way it's good to see this mentioned.

How do they stack up?:

Tags: 2008 Elections | Biofuels | Energy | Ethanol | Geothermal Power | Renewable Energy | Solar Power | Wind Power