Well there's an interesting statement. In Rolling Stone's recently published and widely circulated interview with Barack Obama, the president explains his thoughts on climate change and current US energy policy. Discussions of his frustration with the failure to pass national climate policy, how a new strategy to implement clean tech is needed, and so forth seem more than reasonable--and then he says this:
The progress that we're making on renewable energy, the progress that we're making on retrofitting buildings and making sure that we are reducing electricity use -- all those things, cumulatively, if we stay on it over the next several years, will allow us to meet the target that I set, which would be around a 17 percent reduction in our greenhouse gases.Can that be right?Remember, the climate bill passed in the House of Reps was designed to make that exact level of emissions reduction -- and it put a price on carbon. The Senate was unable to pass a similar bill, so it was left for dead. Nonetheless, Obama made a public pledge that the US would reduce its emissions by 17% at the Copenhagen climate talks. But without a price on carbon, without a renewable energy standard to stimulate clean energy development, and without far-reaching energy efficiency measures, is it possible to achieve such reductions? Are we truly on track to meet the figure the president cited? It certainly doesn't seem so to me.
Sure, there's the increased fuel efficiency standards he set, an aggressive executive order designed to reduce emissions in the federal government 28% by 2020, some good programs for retrofitting buildings, and major investments in renewable energy R&D;, electric car batteries, and so forth. All of which is clearly a colossal improvement over his predecessor in the realm.
But is that enough to bring the nation's GHG emissions down 17% in about 9 years? I'm skeptical -- to say the least. Obama offers a hint as to how he plans on meeting the target legislatively elsewhere in the interview:
One of my top priorities next year is to have an energy policy that begins to address all facets of our overreliance on fossil fuels. We may end up having to do it in chunks, as opposed to some sort of comprehensive omnibus legislation. But we're going to stay on this because it is good for our economy, it's good for our national security, and, ultimately, it's good for our environment.So perhaps he's factoring in whatever achievements he believes he can get through a more Republican-dominated Congress in "chunks". Maybe that means something like a national renewable energy standard, that would require utilities to purchase a certain amount of clean energy. But as it is, on our current emissions path -- especially assuming the nation emerges from the recession and becomes more comfortable consuming and using energy again -- seems far, far away from 17% below 2005 levels.
More on Obama and Climate Policy
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Obama Plans Climate Bill Push, Supports Nuclear and Drilling
Obama Must Show More Personal Leadership on Climate Change