Thursday, June 26, 2008

Obama v. McCain--No Real Contest On The Environment

The past couple of posts have focused on the presidential campaigns, and their proposed energy/climate change policies. See Obama--, and McCain

Both candidates propose a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gases. Obama proposes a cap-and-trade program to reducre greenhouse gases to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. McCain's cap-and-trade program would reduce greenhouse gases to 60 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

Both candidates also make commitments to research, but very differently structured. Obama has committed to investing $150 billion in clean energy and related efforts, McCain has committed to devoting two billion dollars each year, until 2024, to clean-coal research, development, and deployment, and a prize of 300 million dollars to the creator of a battery package of a size, capacity, cost, and power far surpassing existing technology.

In terms of new sources of fuel, McCain supports drilling f0r oil off America's shores, and building 45 new nuclear reactors by 2030. Obama does not support offshore drilling, and said he wouldn't rule out expanding nuclear power, but he would first require an acceptable way of dealing with the radioactive waste that results.

Obama has made a large place for green building initiatives in his plan. Obama has said he will establish a goal of making all new buildings carbon neutral, or produce zero emissions, by 2030. He has also commited to establishing a national goal of improving new building efficiency by 50 percent and existing building efficiency by 25 percent over the next decade and creating a competitive grant program to award those states and localities that take the first steps to implement new building codes that prioritize energy efficiency.

McCain says that his administration will "the penalties will assure compliance" with fuel standards, whereas Obama will double fuel economy standards within 18 years.

In terms of their proposed solutions, there is no real contest. McCain's plan is essentially support for so-called clean coal and nuclear power dressed up as an innovative energy plan. There is nothing in his plan to support green building. He makes no commitments to further increase fuel economy standards. In essence, McCain is not taking the bull of climate change and oil dependence on at all.

Obama's policy does a better job of working most of the angles of the problem, and makes proposals for addressing them. However, Obama will have to engage a lot of political will to make his reforms happen. Obama does not say how he will overcome the resistance to most of his plans.

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