Double US Renewable Energy Generation Within Three Years: President Obama

wind turbines photo

photo: Chuck Coker via flickr

You may have heard the news yesterday that President Obama directed the EPA to allow California, and other states who wish to do so, set higher emissions and fuel efficiency standards. Well, yesterday Obama also (again) iterated the need to transition the United States away from dependence on oil. From his speech on the subject, here’s how we can do that:Plus, 3000 Miles of New Transmission Lines, More Efficient Homes & Offices

First, we must take bold action to create a new American energy economy that creates millions of jobs for our people.  The American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan before Congress places a down payment on this economy.  It will put 460,000 Americans to work, with clean energy investments and double the capacity to generate alternative energy over the next three years.  It will lay down 3,000 miles of transmission lines to deliver this energy to every corner of our country.  It will save taxpayers $2 billion a year by making 75 percent of federal buildings more efficient.  And it will save working families hundreds of dollars on their energy bills by weatherizing 2 million homes.

For those that didn’t hear the message over the past year: One major bottleneck in expanding renewable energy generation in the US is that electrical transmission capacity needs to be expanded and modernized. Often the best place to build a wind farm, for example, doesn’t have adequate transmission capacity to bring that energy into the places where it is needed.

In terms of improving energy efficiency, its often cited as the most cost effective way of conserving energy. If you don’t need to use the energy in the first place, then regardless of energy source, you can free up that money to do better things than heating drafty rooms and cooling ones which don’t ventilate well.

And how much more renewable energy will have to be brought online to double the US’s capacity in the next three years? Just talking about electricity (leaving aside biofuels for transport) the US generates about 7% from renewable sources. Of that though, hydropower generates about one-third (and that’s not changing much in three years), and biomass generates about half (don’t we want to get away from burning stuff to make energy...), so solar, wind and geothermal power are really going to have to take up the slack here.

New Federal Fuel Efficiency Standards
While the EPA was directed to allow states to set high emissions and efficiency standards than the nation, the federal government will also increase fuel efficiency standards:

We will start by implementing new standards for model year 2011 so that we use less oil and families have access to cleaner, more efficient cars and trucks. This rule will be a down payment on a broader and sustained effort to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Congress has passed legislation to increase standards to at least 35 miles per gallon by 2020. That 40 percent increase in fuel efficiency for our cars and trucks could save over 2 million barrels of oil every day -- nearly the entire amount of oil that we import from the Persian Gulf.

America is Ready to Lead on Climate, Energy
Finally, we will make it clear to the world that America is ready to lead.  To protect our climate and our collective security, we must call together a truly global coalition.  I've made it clear that we will act, but so too must the world.  That's how we will deny leverage to dictators and dollars to terrorists.  And that's how we will ensure that nations like China and India are doing their part, just as we are now willing to do ours. [...]

But I want to be clear from the beginning of this administration that we have made our choice.  America will not be held hostage to dwindling resources, hostile regimes, and a warming planet.  We will not be put off from action because action is hard.  Now is the time to make the tough choices.  Now is the time to meet the challenge at this crossroad of history by choosing a future that is safer for our country, prosperous for our planet, and sustainable.

More of Obama’s speech: White House Blog
Climate Change, Fuel Efficiency Standards, Energy
Obama Administration Will Let States Set Auto Emissions Standards
The US Will Have a New Special Envoy for Climate Change: Todd Stern
Official White House Policy on Energy & The Environment Spelled Out On New Website

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