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Thursday, April 01, 2004

Kerry on Energy

Are people starting to notice higher gasoline prices? Jon Stewart did a bit on it tonight on "The Daily Show."

For the foreseeable future, the US remains reliant upon OPEC to set prices -- and the cartel doesn't always follow market principles. Plus, the dependence is arguably bad for the economy and dangerous for national security.

The Bush energy plan has received lots of attention -- partly because of the GAO's effort to gain access to Cheney's meeting notes and partly because of the progress in Congress last year (though the bill ultimately failed).

Today, I went back and read a speech John Kerry delivered in June 2003 on energy independence. What does Kerry think the US can do to control its own energy future? As I blogged some months ago, framed correctly, this could be a winning issue for Democrats in 2004. There's a populist message embedded in this rhetoric:
My strategy calls for new investments in research, new incentives for companies and consumers, new partnership across the old dividing lines, and higher standards of energy efficiency for both business and government to meet. We can create Americans jobs and confront the dangers to our environment at the same time as we make this nation safer, stronger, and more secure.

The challenge will not be easy but neither was the Manhattan Project. It will require real resources and strong leadership and an unwavering will to make tough choices and take on entrenched interests.

Today we have an energy policy of big oil, by big oil and for big oil. It may work for their profits, but it will never work for America. And yet George Bush persists in pursuing a course that can only be described as energy dependence - an approach, that despite all his boasts about a stronger America, will actually risk our hopes, make us weaker, and make both our economy and our country more vulnerable to blackmail by hostile powers.

The dollars we spend at the pump can too easily be diverted to finance the very terrorists that would seek to destroy us. And our endless reliance on the Middle East for oil means that others half a world away hold life insurance policies on America's economy. September 11th doesn't just demand that we confront the danger of terrorism; it demands that we drain the swamps that can sustain and even increase it.
See how easily this could be framed as a winning issue for Democrats? I'm frankly still disappointed that Gore didn't push this issue -- and it is probably why Nader received so many votes in states like Oregon.

The Bush plan funnels more money to oil and other fossil fuel interests, Kerry would push alternative energy and conservation. This is environmentally friendly, technologically savvy, and economically wise:
First, as President, I will channel the funds the government is already owed to invest in rapid growth in technologies that save energy and create alternative fuels. Through a new energy security and conservation trust fund, Americans will have a guaranteed commitment to reducing our dependence on oil. America only has three percent of the world's oil reserves. There is no metaphysical or miraculous way for us to drill our way out of a 60% foreign oil dependency. We have to invent our way out of it; American ingenuity has to drive the process - and new American jobs will be the dividend.

Unfortunately, the funding today is sporadic, uncertain, and always insufficient. We may not have the greatest oil reserves on Earth; but we do have the great resources to find and foster new fuels and to conserve and optimize traditional ones. So the trust fund I propose will take existing royalties that corporations now pay for the right to drill on public lands and dedicate that money to R&D into cleaner and more abundant energy sources. We will do justice to conservation and we will, for the first time, have a guaranteed national commitment to reduce our dependence on foreign oil - to fund renewable energy, accelerate the development of fuel cell vehicles, and support biomass projects like those here in Iowa which can convert our agricultural plenty into energy security.

Second, the road to more energy independence depends on making our cars and trucks more energy efficient. One out of every seven barrels of oil in the world is consumed on America's highways. Instead, I propose both economic incentives to build the cars, the trucks, the SUVs, and the buses of the future - and higher standards for gas mileage for every new vehicle produced or sold in this country. The threats that America faces today don't just come from gun barrels, they come from oil barrels - and we need to disarm that danger.

The research shows that the best way to reduce oil dependence in the near term is to increase fuel efficiency in the near term. A recent study found that raising fuel standards accounts for 80 percent of the savings in oil we can achieve by 2012. We can build the right kind of cars, SUVs, minivans and trucks. We can do it affordably and efficiently. We can give Americans a wide range of choice without leaving America with no choice but endless energy dependence.

Third, the energy security strategy I propose will focus on renewable sources where the reserves are, in effect, endlessly greater than all the oil fields on Earth. We can generate more and more of our electricity from wind, the sun, and forest and farm products. I believe we can and should produce twenty percent of all our electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Twenty by 2020 - now that's a clear vision for America.

Finally, this energy security plan is not about spending more, but spending smarter. The Bush Administration and the Republicans in Congress have been lavishing billions of dollars in subsidies and corporate welfare on big energy companies while starving the researchers and consumers who could power our way to energy independence. The Bush policy is to subsidize off-shore drilling and strip-mining while refusing to fund the energy revolution that will create jobs and make our country and economy more secure. This has to change - and if I am President, we will change it.

And at the same time, we will repeal the outrageous one hundred thousand dollar tax break for the purchase of luxury gas-guzzlers like Hummers. This was intended to help farmers and others who need light trucks - and that's right - not to subsidize lavish and inefficient machines. Americans have the right to drive whatever car they want - but at a time of international threats, and in a generation of long term danger, they don't have the right to have the government finance more dependence on foreign oil.
Gotta run.

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