Sunday, February 15, 2009

Obama's Energy Ambitions

In his “New Energy for America” plan, President Obama sets very ambitious goals. Some of those ambitions include cutting carbon emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050, ensuring that 25 % of our electricity comes from renewable resources by 2025, and putting 1 million plug-in electric hybrids on the road by 2015 [1]. Are these goals attainable? He certainly lives up to his ambitious front with the new stimulus. He plans to kill two birds with one stone by creating new “green jobs” and providing tax cuts for energy efficiency. Such an approach may prove effective because, with the economy as it is, environmentally-friendly-energy-consciousness sinks to a lower priority. An important part of the future of the world is that people make different choices, and the stimulus will hopefully encourage them (and us) to do so. People are generally comfortable with the status quo and won’t change on their own. Perhaps this is the “change we need”. Is it enough, though? Such a hard-charging, front-loading approach to change in energy and the economy doesn’t seem very strategic in the long run. It seems like a one shot deal. What if the plan fails? How many times can you throw $798 billion into the economy? A quote from The Economist concerning the stimulus’s affect on the economy can also transfer to energy: “Fiscal stimulus, indispensible as it is, cannot create a lasting economic recovery in a broken financial system [2].” One could argue that the same could be said of a broken energy system.

1. Barack Obama and Joe Biden: New Energy for America.

2. "The Obama rescue." The Economist 14 Feb. 2009: 13.


Michael E. Webber, Ph.D. said...

Bryan, great post. Giving economic stimulus without fixing the banking system potentially sets us up for more failure. Giving energy stimulus without changing our energy culture could have the same effect.

Yuval said...

On this note, I thumbed through the actual text of the stimulus bill to see where the money would be going. After all, nothing moves until the coffers begin to empty. Here are the figures I pulled merely from the Dept. of Energy's appropriations. Please note that many other Departments are receiving money for energy purposes, such as for physical plant renovations that need to be energy-efficient. In addition, there are plenty of items such as $2 billion for the Dept. of Defense to spend on water infrastructure projects through the Army Corps of Engineers and $126 million for the Dept. of Interior to spend on water reclamation and reuse projects.

$16.8 billion for "Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy" (including $3.2 billion for Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants).

$5 billion for Weatherization Assistance Program.

$3.1 billion for State Energy Program authorized under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act.

$2 billion for grants for the "manufacturing of advanced batteries and components [by] manufacturers of advanced battery systems and vehicle batteries that are produced in the United States, including advanced lithium ion batteries, hybrid electrical systems, component manufacturers, and software designers."

$4.5 billion for "Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability": expenses necessary for electricity delivery and energy reliability activities to modernize the electric grid, to include demand responsive equipment, enhance security and reliability of the energy infrastructure, energy storage research, development, demonstration and deployment, and facilitate recovery from disruptions to the energy supply.

$100 million for related worker retraining.

$80 million for facilitating the development of regional transmission plans ... to conduct a resource assessment and an analysis of future demand and transmission requirements after consultation with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

$3.4 billion for "Fossil Energy Research and Development" (whatever that may be).

$483 million for "Non-Defense Environmental Cleanup".

$390 million for the Uranium Enrichment Decontamination and Decommission Fund.

$1.6 billion for "Science" (no further information, just "Science").

$400 million for the Advanced Research Projects Energy Agency.

$6 billion for the "Innotaive Technology Loan Program" (plus 35 million for administrative expenses).

$5.127 billion for "Defense Environmental Cleanup".

$3.250 billion in borrowing authority for the Bonneville Power Administration under the Pacific Northwest Electric Power Planning and Conservation Act.

$500 million for "(1) Renewable energy systems, including incremental hydropower, that generate electricity or thermal energy, and facilities that manufacture related components. (2) Electric power transmission systems, including upgrading and reconductoring projects. (3) Leading edge biofuel projects that will use technologies performing at the pilot or demonstration scale that the Secretary determines are likely to become commercial technologies and will produce transportation fuels that substantially reduce lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions compared to other transportation fuels."

A lot of money out there, people, go out and get you some!

Boiler_Up said...

Up until 15 years ago U.S. is no. 1 country in the world for its Research in Science and Information Technology (IT). But in the past 10 years, there is not much progress going on in terms of science and technology. Now that other countries like China and India are catching up with IT, we need a more radical move so that U.S. can still be leading country in the world in term of technology but also economy. I personally think that President Barack Obama plan to go towards green energy may resolve the crucial problems that America is now facing. According to Al Gore speech, "And it just so happens that the climate crisis is intertwined with the other two great challenges facing our nation: reviving our economy and strengthening our national security. The solutions to all three require us to end our dependence on carbon-based fuels."

David Wogan said...

Great points, boiler_up. I think we shouldn't underestimate how interconnected these problems are. Any failure of one of these potentially sets up for more failure, though. Let's hope we get it right!