Sunday, April 26, 2009

Will Obama Be The Green President?

It is not an exaggeration to say that the team that President Obama appointed to promote his green agenda is nothing short of outstanding — a great combination of scientists and policy makers committed to building an energy economy that is efficient, clean and secure. Now there is only one vacancy left for him to fill. And it’s one that only he can fill: Green President. Is he ready to do that job with the passion and fight that will be required to transform America’s energy future? Hope so. Not sure yet.

Have no doubt, the president is off to a terrific start: His stimulus package will provide an incredible boost for all forms of renewable energy. The energy bill being drafted by House Democrats Henry Waxman and Ed Markey contains unprecedented incentives for energy efficiency and clean-tech innovation. And the ruling from Mr. Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency saying that carbon dioxide is a pollutant that threatens public health was courageous and historic.

But while all of that is hugely important, we must not fool ourselves, as we have done for so many years: Price matters. Without a fixed, long-term, durable price on carbon, none of the Obama clean-tech initiatives will achieve the scale needed to have an impact on climate change or make America the leader it must be in the next great industrial revolution: E.T., or energy technology. At this stage, I’d settle for any carbon price mechanism — cap and trade, fee-bates, carbon tax and/or gasoline tax — as long as it real and provides consumers and investors a long-term incentive to shift to clean cars, appliances and buildings.

Bob Lutz, a vice chairman at General Motors, offers a useful example of why price matters. When Congress demands that Detroit make smaller, lighter, better mileage vehicles, but then refuses to put a higher price on carbon — like with a gasoline tax — so more consumers will want to buy these smaller cars, said Lutz, it is the equivalent of ordering all American shirtmakers to make only size smalls while never asking the American people to go on a diet. You’re not going to sell a lot of size smalls.
I'm with Tom Friedman on this one. While Obama has done a lot to focus on reducing CO2 emissions and transitioning to renewable energy, it is all going to be for naught unless he gets a price on carbon.

via NY Times


Rebelfish said...

And we will see what actually gets accomplished when Steven Chu changes his mind and doesn't support higher gas prices afterall.

Fat Knowledge said...

Yeah, I was disappointed when I saw that. I figure that Obama's advisers are all telling him he needs to do it, but he is afraid of being labeled a "tax and spender". Hopefully he will find a way to make it happen, but I am not overly optimistic about it.

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