Governor Bill Richardson’s new energy plan

Posted on May 17, 2007

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Bill Richardson, former Ambassador to the United Nations, former Congressman, former Secretary of Energy under President Clinton, now Governor of New Mexico, and one of many Democratic Party candidates for President in 2008, has an energy plan. It’s agressive, it’s wide-ranging, it’s reasonably comprehensive, and it takes global heating seriously.

And Thursday, Governor Richardson presented that plan at a speech before the New America Foundation, a foundation that bills itself as a “nonprofit, post-partisan, public policy institute that was established through the collaborative work of a diverse and intergenerational group of public intellectuals, civic leaders and business executives.” (see their mission statement here) I’m actually looking forward to reading through the McKinsey Global Institute paper: Curbing Global Energy Demand Growth: The Energy Productivity Opportunity (registration required) that was presented after Gov. Richardson’s speech and will post my thoughts when I’ve finished reading it.

What Gov. Richardson’s energy plan boils down to is this:

  • Cut oil demand by 50% by 2020 through a combination of electric and plug-in vehicles, alternative fuels, and increasing MPG standards for vehicles to 50 MPG average.
  • Generate 50% of our electricity via renewables by 2040 through a combination of geothermal, solar, wind, and clean coal.
  • Cut greenhouse gas emissions by 90% by 2050 through renewable energy generation, reduced oil demand, carbon sequestration, and market-based cap-and-trade systems
  • Leading the world in retooling our carbon economy and by negotiating with both developed and developing countries over global heating, creating a North American Energy Council with Canada and Mexico, and working with the UN and Persian Gulf nations on protecting the oil wealth in the Gulf from threats foreign and domestic.
  • And do all the other things by carefully repealing subsidies, taxing carbon emissions via the cap-and-trade system, and ensuring that all the changes pay for themselves.

Now, as someone who’s studied this a decent amount, I’m not sure I understand his call for “low-carbon” liquid fuels, and he doesn’t explain what he’s talking about either in his speech or on his website. Maybe he’s talking using more natural gas fueled vehicles, or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, but those are the only two possibilities I can think of. In addition, he doesn’t discuss nuclear power at all, focusing instead on clean coal, something I think is a significant error on his part. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find the detailed white paper he alludes to in his speech on Gov. Richardson’s candidacy website, because I’d really like to compare what he’s come up with to what I have come up with, and will be posting on the Dr. Slammy in ’08 site before too long.

However, unlike too many people, Gov. Richardson says point blank that doing all these things will be difficult. It will cause our economy to slow down slightly as we retool our energy supplies from carbon-based to non-carbon based and carbon-neutral. But the threats to national security, public health, and even to our economy are too grave not to take global heating seriously.

You can check out his actual speech at PoliticsTV.com here. In my opinion, he needs to get better about sounding natural with a teleprompter than he did in this speech, but that will (I hope) come with practice.

And what about the two supposed “front runners?” Hillary Clinton’s a href=”http://www.hillaryclinton.com/issues/energy/”>page on global warming is vaguely worded and very, very short on details. Barak Obama’s energy and environment page has much better detail, but some of the details are obviously ploys to get the Iowa vote (namely corn ethanol, an idea that is simply rock stupid). In fact, Sen. Obama’s page has more of the very details that I want Gov. Richardson to make available in that white paper he mentioned.

We’re powering our civilization with solar energy that was stored over millions of years by plants that have since turned into coal and oil. We can’t keep doing this, and I’m glad to see the Democratic presidential candidates taking it seriously.

[Crossposted: The Daedalnexus, The 5th Estate]

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