Barack Obama on Energy & Oil
Democratic President (2008); IL Senator (2004)
The biggest conundrum is coal. Coal fuels 44% of electricity production. But "clean" coal, which usually refers to coal burned in a way that allows its carbon dioxide emissions to be captured and stored underground, is far from ready to step in and provide such a large share of the mix. The first large-scale "clean" coal plant is still under development. That means renewables like wind, solar and hydro will need to continue to expand their shares of the pie, as well as natural gas.
Obama also counts nuclear plants as "clean"--but that's a point that environmentalists debate, particularly since the question of what to do with the resulting highly radioactive waste has yet to be resolved.
Pres. OBAMA: I know that West Virginia struggles with unemployment. That's part of the reason why I've said that we need a comprehensive energy policy that sets us up for a long-term future. For example, nobody has been a bigger promoter of clean coal technology than I am. Testament to that, I ended up being in a whole bunch of advertisements that you guys saw all the time about investing in way for us to burn coal more cleanly. I've said that I'm a promoter of nuclear energy, something that I think over the last 3 decades has been subject to a lot of partisan wrangling & ideological wrangling. I think that that has to be part of our energy mix.
OBAMA: We can’t drill our way out of the problem. That’s why I’ve focused on putting resources into solar, wind, biodiesel, geothermal. It is absolutely critical that we develop a high fuel efficient car that’s built not in Japan and not in South Korea, but built here in the USA. We invented the auto industry and the fact that we have fallen so far behind is something that we have to work on.
OBAMA: In ten years, we can reduce our dependence so that we no longer have to import oil from the Middle East or Venezuela. Number one, we need to expand domestic production and that means telling the oil companies the 68 million acres that they currently have leased that they’re not drilling, use them or lose them.
McCAIN: We can eliminate our dependence on Middle Eastern oil and Venezuelan oil. Canadian oil is fine. We can eliminate our dependence on foreign oil by building 45 new nuclear power plants. With wind, tide, solar, natural gas, with development of flex fuel, hybrid, clean coal technology, we can, within seven, eight, ten years, eliminate our dependence on the places in the world that harm our national security.
McCAIN: I traveled all over the world looking at the effects of greenhouse gas emissions. Now, what’s the best way of fixing it? Nuclear power. Sen. Obama says that it has to be safe or disposable or something like that. Nuclear power is safe, and it’s clean. And I know that we can reprocess the spent nuclear fuel. The Japanese, the British, the French do it. And we can do it, too. Sen. Obama has opposed that.
OBAMA: I’ve called for investments in solar, wind, geothermal. Contrary to what Sen. McCain keeps on saying, I favor nuclear power as one component of our overall energy mix. But this is another example where I think it is important to look at the record. Sen. McCain said a while back that the big problem with energy is that for 30 years, politicians in Washington haven’t done anything. What Sen. McCain doesn’t mention is he’s been there 26 of them. And during that time, he voted 23 times against alternative fuels.
Previously Obama has been more hesitant. He said at a town hall meeting in Newton, Iowa, on Dec. 30, 2007, when asked if he was “truly comfortable” with the safety of nuclear power, “I start off with the premise that nuclear energy is not optimal. I am not a nuclear energy proponent.“ He then went on to say later in the same response that he has ”not ruled out nuclear ... but only so far as it is clean and safe.“
The energy plan Obama released in October 2007 only grudgingly conceded that more nuclear power is probably needed to reduce carbon emissions: ”It is unlikely that we can meet our aggressive climate goals if we eliminate nuclear power from the table.“
In a speech given in Lansing, Michigan, Senator Obama called for the completion of the Alaska natural gas pipeline, stating, “Over the next five years, we should also lease more of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska for oil and gas production. And we should also tap more of our substantial natural gas reserves and work with the Canadian government to finally build the Alaska natural gas pipeline, delivering clean natural gas and creating good jobs in the process.“
Gov. Palin said, ”This is a tool that must be on the table to buy us time until our long-term energy plans can be put into place, and it is gratifying to see Senator Obama get on board.“
"We have heard promises to curb our use of fossil fuels in nearly every State of the Union address since the oil embargo of 1973.
"Our energy problem has become an energy crisis because no matter how well-intentioned the promise, they all fall victim to the same Washington politics that has only become more divided and dishonest; more beholden to the powerful interests that have the biggest stake in the status quo."
McCain bases his claim on a partial quote from Obama on Dec. 30, 2007. Obama said, “I start off with the premise that nuclear energy is not optimal. I am not a nuclear energy proponent.” If that was all Obama said it would not make him an opponent of nuclear power, of course. But Obama went on to say, “There is no perfect energy source. Everything has some problems right now. We haven’t found it yet. Now I trust in our ingenuity. I have not ruled out nuclear as part of that [$150 billion proposed energy research] package, but only so far as it is clean and safe.”
Furthermore, the energy plan Obama released in October 2007 said: “It is unlikely that we can meet our aggressive climate goals if we eliminate nuclear power from the table.”
Obama’s 2007 plan promised that he “will also lead federal efforts to look for a safe, long-term disposal solution based on objective, scientific analysis.” It’s inaccurate to cast Obama as an opponent, and McCain goes too far when he portrays Obama as saying “no” to nuclear.
A: Well, you’re right. And that’s why people are cynical, because decade after decade, we talk about energy policy or we talk about health care policy, and through Democratic and Republican administrations, nothing gets done. [I agree with Sen. Clinton on] investigating potential price gouging & a windfall profits tax. I think that long term, we’re going to have to raise fuel efficiency standards on cars, because the only way that we’re going to be able to reduce gas prices is if we reduce demand. You’ve still got a billion people in China & India who want cars. So we have to get serious about increasing our fuel efficiency standards and investing in new technologies.
A: I don’t think that we can take nuclear power off the table. What we have to make sure of is that we have the capacity to store waste properly and safely, and that we reduce whatever threats might come from terrorism. And if we can do that in a technologically sound way, then we should pursue it. If we can’t, we should not. But there is no magic bullet on energy. We’re going to have to look at all the various options.
A: I actually think that we should explore nuclear power as part of the energy mix. There are no silver bullets to this issue. We have to develop solar. I have proposed drastically increasing fuel efficiency standards on cars, an aggressive cap on the amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted. But we’re going to have to try a series of different approaches.
Let’s be the generation that finally frees America from the tyranny of oil. We can harness homegrown, alternative fuels like ethanol and spur the production of more fuel-efficient cars. We can set up a system for capping greenhouse gases. We can turn this crisis of global warming into a moment of opportunity for innovation, and job creation, and an incentive for businesses that will serve as a model for the world. Let’s be the generation that makes future generations proud of what we did here.
Obama highlighted legislative proposals he has offered. They include a bargain with the big three automakers that would help them with their high retiree health costs if they use the savings to invest in fuel-efficient cars. Obama said the US auto industry is hurting because it has failed to keep pace with foreign carmakers who are transitioning much faster to sales of hybrids & other efficient cars.Obama also called for higher fuel efficiency standards, greater ethanol production, and making E-85 pumps widely available. Obama also urged US automakers to produce more flex-fuel cars that can run on blended gasoline. “It is time to install flex-fuel tanks on every car, and for government to cover this small cost.”
A large portion of the $800 million we spend on foreign oil every day goes to some of the world’s most volatile regimes. And there are the environmental consequences. Just about every scientist outside the White House believes climate change is real.
We cannot drill our way out of the problem. Instead of subsidizing the oil industry, we should end every single tax break the industry currently receives and demand that 1% of the revenues from oil companies with over $1 billion in quarterly profits go toward financing alternative energy research and infrastructure.
Over the last 30 years, countries like Brazil have used a mix of regulation and direct government investment to develop a biofuel industry; 70% of its new vehicles run on sugar-based ethanol.
KEYES: We need to develop proper alternative fuels. We need to develop ethanol. We need to push on the research, where breakthroughs are occurring, to get hydrogen from ethanol. By pushing on that kind of research we’ll be able to have a win for our farmers, in the agricultural sector, to improve the profitability of their product. We’ll be able to have a win on the environment, because hydrogen, for instance, is more clean-burning.
OBAMA: We could save as much, in terms of our fuel, if we increased our fuel efficiency standards, as much as we would from getting Alaska drilling going immediately. And that’s been the Bush strategy increasing production for oil and gas companies, subsidizing them to the tune of 20 billion dollars, as opposed to thinking about how, not only, we can develop alternative fuels, but also how can we conserve energy and increase efficiencies available right now but have not been invested in.
Not true. We're importing less than we were just a few years ago. Imports reached a high point of 15 million barrels per day on Nov. 4, 2005. Most recently, they totaled 11.5 million on Feb. 20, 2009. Monthly and annual imports show the same trend.
A: If we decided right now that we were going to make the kind of investment I’ve proposed--$150 billion over 10 years--then I think at the end of the decade we could have a auto industry that has significantly reduced our consumption of oil by as much as 35% or 40%. The technologies exist right now for plug-in hybrids. We should continue to investigate the possibilities of electric cars. The problem is that we have not been serious about it, and Detroit ended up making investments in SUVs and large trucks because that’s where they perceived a competitive advantage and that’s where they felt they could make the most profit. I think it was a mistake for them not to plan earlier. Now we’re seeing a huge growth in fuel-efficient cars that is benefiting the Japanese automakers, and Detroit is getting pounded some more. And I think that we can make those cars here in the US.
A: I think we do have to look at nuclear, and what we’ve got to figure out is can we store the material properly? Can we make sure that they’re secure? Can we deal with the expense? My attitude when it comes to energy is there’s no silver bullet. We’ve got to look at every possible option. You know, I’ve said the same thing about coal. I have a aggressive goal of reducing carbon emissions, and coal is a dirty fuel right now. But if we can figure out how to sequester carbon and burn clean coal, we’re the Saudi Arabia of coal, and I don’t think that we can dismiss out of hand the use of coal as part of our energy mix. What we are going to have to understand, though, is that global warming is real, it is serious and that whatever options we come up with, if they are not addressing the fact that the planet is getting warmer, then we are failing not just this generation, but future generations.
A: On issues of regulation. I think that back in the ‘60s and ‘70s a lot of the way we regulated industry was top-down command and control, we’re going to tell businesses exactly how to do things. I thin that the Republican Party and people who thought about the markets came up with the notion that, “You know what? If you simply set some guidelines, some rules and incentives, for businesses--let them figure out how they’re going to, for example, reduce pollution,” and a cap and trade system, for example is a smarter way of doing it, controlling pollution, than dictating every single rule that a company has to abide by, which creates a lot of bureaucracy and red tape and oftentimes is less efficient.
A: The issue of climate change. I’ve put forward one of the most aggressive proposals out there, but the science seems to be coming in indicating it’s accelerating even more quickly with every passing day. And by the time I take office, I think we’re going to have to have a serious conversation about how drastic steps we need to take to address it.
As president, I will place a cap on carbon emissions and require companies who can’t meet the cap to buy credits from those who can, which will generate billions of dollars to invest in renewable sources of energy and create new jobs and even a new industry in the process. I’ll put in place a low carbon fuel standard that will take 50 million cars worth of pollution off the road. I’ll raise the fuel efficiency standards for our cars and trucks because we know we have the technology to do it and it’s the time to do it.
With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.
We need to get behind this innovation. And to help pay for it, I'm asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. I don't know if you've noticed, but they're doing just fine on their own. So instead of subsidizing yesterday's energy, let's invest in tomorrow's.
Clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market. So tonight, I set a new goal: By 2035, 80% of America's electricity will come from clean energy sources.
We will double this nation's supply of renewable energy in the next three years. We've also made the largest investment in basic research funding in American history--an investment that will spur not only new discoveries in energy, but breakthroughs in medicine and science and technology.
But to truly transform our economy, to protect our security, and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy. So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America. And to support that innovation, we will invest $15 billion a year to develop technologies like wind power and solar power, advanced biofuels, clean coal, and more efficient cars and trucks built right here in America.
He's partly right. The Chevy Volt, if it comes to market as scheduled in 2010, would be the first American-made, plug-in hybrid car, and General Motors recently announced that the Volt will use battery systems from South Korea's LG Chem Ltd.
But the U.S. isn't a complete laggard in this department. Ford said earlier this month that batteries for its hybrid, due to be available in 2012, will be supplied by a joint venture between a U.S. company, Johnson Controls Inc., and France's Saft. At least initially, though, the battery cells will be made in France; they will be assembled into power packs in the U.S.
Obama said, “I commend McCain for his desire to accelerate the search for a battery that can power the cars of the future. But I don’t think a $300 million prize is enough. When John F. Kennedy decided that we were going to put a man on the moon, he didn’t put a bounty out for some rocket scientist to win--he put the full resources of the US government behind the project and called on the ingenuity and innovation of the American people.“
And far from saying ”no to innovation,“ Obama has proposed spending $150 billion over 10 years to develop a variety of new energy technologies.
It’s time to make energy security a leading priority. My energy plan will invest $150 billion over the next ten years to establish a green energy sector that will create up to 5 million jobs over the next two decades. We’ll help manufacturers--particularly in the auto industry--convert to green technology, and help workers learn the skills they need. And unlike George Bush, I won’t wait until the sixth year of my presidency to sit down with the automakers.
Proponents support voting YES because:
This legislation seeks to end the unwarranted tax breaks & subsidies which have been lavished on Big Oil over the last several years, at a time of record prices at the gas pump and record oil industry profits. Big Oil is hitting the American taxpayer not once, not twice, but three times. They are hitting them at the pump, they are hitting them through the Tax Code, and they are hitting them with royalty holidays put into oil in 1995 and again in 2005.
It is time to vote for the integrity of America's resources, to vote for the end of corporate welfare, to vote for a new era in the management of our public energy resources.
Opponents support voting NO because:
I am wearing this red shirt today, because this shirt is the color of the bill that we are debating, communist red. It is a taking. It will go to court, and it should be decided in court.
This bill will increase the competitive edge of foreign oil imported to this country. If the problem is foreign oil, why increase taxes and make it harder to produce American oil and gas? That makes no sense. We should insert taxes on all foreign oil imported. That would raise your money for renewable resources. But what we are doing here today is taxing our domestic oil. We are raising dollars supposedly for renewable resources, yet we are still burning fossil fuels.
Status: Bill passed Bill passed, 65-27
Proponents recommend voting YES because:
Our NOPEC bill will authorize filing suit against nations that participate in a conspiracy to limit the supply, or fix the price, of oil. In addition, it will specify that the doctrines of sovereign immunity do not exempt nations that participate in oil cartels from basic antitrust law.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
No one likes OPEC. But this amendment, in my opinion, would make bad law. The Framers of the Constitution wisely assigned responsibility for formulating foreign policy and conducting foreign relations to the President and to the Congress, not to the law courts.
The amendment before us has its roots in a lawsuit filed by the labor union nearly 30 years ago. The union at that time charged OPEC with price fixing in violation of our antitrust laws. The trial court dismissed the case on the ground that OPEC members are sovereign nations and are immune from suit. Adopting the amendment will undoubtedly be very popular, but it is also very unwise.
In addition, we here in the Senate ought to consider how enactment of this amendment might affect our relations with OPEC members. What will be the international repercussions when the US starts awarding judgments against foreign nations and attaching their assets in this country? Will other nations start to view our trade policies--such as our nuclear trade restrictions--as violations of their antitrust laws?
Proponents recommend voting YES because:
It just seems logical that we ask the Corps of Engineers to include in their analyses, judgments about the potential impact of global climate change. All this amendment seeks to do, as a matter of common sense, is to ask the Army Corps of Engineers to factor climate change into their future plans. Secondly, we are making a statement here to finally recognize the reality of what is happening with respect to climate change.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
The same people today who are saying we are all going to die from global warming, just back in the middle 1970s were saying another ice age is coming and we are all going to die. Which way do you want it?
If a surge of anthropogenic gases--this CO2, methane, or whatever it is--were causing a warming period, then around 1945 we would have a warming period because in the middle 1940s we had the greatest increase in greenhouse gases. But what happened? It did not precipitate a warming period.
Peer reviewed evidence shows that the sun has actually been driving the temperature change. You don't have to be a scientist to know that the Sun can have something to do with climate change.
Implementing Kyoto would reduce the average annual household income nearly $2,700, at a time when the cost of all goods would rise sharply.
OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: A bill to provide for Flexible Fuel Vehicle (FFV) refueling capability at new and existing refueling station facilities to promote energy security and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: Sen. OBAMA: We have all heard from folks back home about the high price of gasoline. The bill I am introducing today is designed to do something about fuel prices and our reliance on foreign oil.
Last week, I visited a gasoline station in Springfield, IL, where along with regular gasoline, a new kind of fuel is offered for consumers--a fuel known as E-85. E-85 is a clean, alternative form of fuel consisting of a blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline. Ethanol is made from renewable, Midwestern corn, and it is 40-60 cents cheaper per gallon than standard gasoline. Last week, at this Springfield station, regular gasoline was listed at $2.06 and E-85 was selling for $1.69.
Not every car can run on E-85 fuel--but there are millions of cars that can. They're known as "flexible-fuel vehicles," and the auto industry is turning them out every year. The only problem we have now is that we're in short supply of E-85 stations. While there are more than 180,000 gas stations all over America, there are only about 400 E-85 stations. And although E-85 has many environmental benefits and is a higher performing fuel, the fuel economy of E-85 is slightly lower than that of regular gasoline. An additional incentive is needed to help ensure that the cost of this clean fuel remains competitive with that of regular gasoline.
That is why I'm introducing a bill to provide a tax credit of 50% for building an E-85 fuel station and a tax credit of 35 cents per gallon of E-85 fuel. I think this bill gives us an opportunity to actually get something done about energy independence.
LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to Senate Finance Committee; never came to a vote.
OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: A bill to require atomic energy plants to notify the Atomic Energy Commission, and the State and county in which a facility is located, whenever there is an unplanned release of fission products in excess of allowable limits.
SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: Sen. OBAMA: It was recently announced by Exelon Nuclear that an environmental monitoring program discovered higher than normal concentrations of tritium in the groundwater near their Nuclear Generating Station. Indications are that this tritium plume is the result of an accidental radioactive wastewater release that occurred approximately 6 to 8 years ago. Community residents did not receive full or immediate notification of this contamination.
I was surprised to learn, that while Federal law requires notification immediately upon a "declared emergency," Federal law does not require notification of any other accidental, unplanned, or unintentional radioactive substance releases that may occur if those releases do not immediately rise to a public health or safety threat. And while those incidents must be documented with the NRC and made available to the public, accessing that information is contingent upon the public actually knowing that these incidents ever occurred.
When radioactive substances are released into the environment outside of normal operating procedures, notifying State and local officials should not be a courtesy; it should be the law.
It is reasonable--and realistic--for nuclear power to remain on the table for consideration. Illinois has 11 nuclear power plants--the most of any state. The people of Illinois--and all residents who live near nuclear power plants--have a right to know when actions are taken that might affect their safety and well-being.
LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Placed on Senate Legislative Calendar; never came to a vote.
OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: A bill to increase fuel economy standards for automobiles.
SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: Sen. OBAMA: At a time when the energy and security stakes couldn't be higher, CAFE standards have been stagnant. In fact, because of a long-standing deadlock in Washington, CAFE standards that initially increased so quickly have remained stagnant for the last 20 years.
Since 1985, efforts to raise the CAFE standard have been stymied by opponents who have argued that Congress does not possess the expertise to set specific benchmarks.
To attempt to break this two-decade-long deadlock and start the US on the path towards energy independence, we introduce the Fuel Economy Reform Act of 2006. This bill would set a new course by establishing regular, continual, and incremental progress in miles per gallon, targeting 4% annually, but preserving NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) expertise and flexibility on how to meet those targets.
Under this system, if the 4% annualized improvement occurs over ten years, this bill would save 20 billion gallons of gasoline per year. If gasoline is just $2.50 per gallon, consumers will save $50 billion at the pump in 2018. By 2018, we would be cutting global warming pollution by 220 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent gases.
In order to enable domestic manufacturers to develop advanced-technology vehicles, this legislation provides tax incentives to retool parts and assembly plants. This will strengthen the US auto industry by allowing it to compete with foreign hybrid and other fuel efficient vehicles. It is our expectation that NHTSA will use its enhanced authority to bring greater market-based flexibility into CAFE compliance by allowing the banking and trading of credits among all vehicle types and between manufacturers.
LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to Senate Committee on Finance; never came to a vote.
OnTheIssues.org interprets the 2005-2006 CAF scores as follows:
The Campaign for America's Future (CAF) is a center for ideas and action that works to build an enduring majority for progressive change. The Campaign advances a progressive economic agenda and a vision of the future that works for the many, not simply the few. The Campaign is leading the fight for America's priorities--against privatization of Social Security, for investment in energy independence, good jobs and a sustainable economy, for an ethical and accountable Congress and for high quality public education.
About the CAF report, "Energy Independence: Record vs. Rhetoric":
Energy independence has surfaced as a defining issue in the current elections. Are most candidates and both parties truly committed? To help distinguish the demonstrated level of support for homegrown, clean energy alternatives, we examined the voting records of current U.S. Representatives and Senators on bills vital to promoting those interests. Key pieces of legislation included goals for independence, and subsidies for the development of alternatives compared to subsidies for drilling and digging. We then compared votes on these issues with campaign contributions from major oil interests. The results show strong inverse correlations between political contributions from big oil and votes for energy independence.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, DESIGNATION OF PORTION OF ARCTIC NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE AS WILDERNESS.
The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 is amended by adding at the end the following:
Designation of Certain Land as Wilderness- Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska comprising approximately 1,559,538 acres, as generally depicted on a map entitled 'Arctic National Wildlife Refuge--1002 Area. Alternative E--Wilderness Designation, October 28, 1991' and available for inspection in the offices of the Secretary, is designated as a component of the National Wilderness Preservation System under the Wilderness Act'.
A resolution that it is the goal of the United States that, not later than January 1, 2025, the agricultural, forestry, and working land of the US should provide from renewable resources not less than 25% of the total energy consumed and continue to produce safe, abundant, and affordable food, feed, and fiber. [Governors also signed letters of endorsement at www.25x25.org]
Rep. SALAZAR: "Our resolution establishes a national goal of producing 25% of America's energy from renewable sources--like solar, wind and biofuels--by 2025. The "25x'25" vision is widely endorsed, bold, and fully attainable. If implemented, it would dramatically improve our energy security, our economy, and our ability to protect the environment.
"I am pleased that more than 20 of my colleagues in the Senate, from both sides of the aisle, are cosponsoring this resolution. In addition, the "25x'25" vision has been endorsed by 22 current and former governors and several State legislatures across the country. The Big Three automobile manufacturers--Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors--are all behind "25x'25" So are many agricultural organizations, environmental groups, scientists, and businesses, ranging from the Natural Resources Defense Council to John Deere.
"These Americans understand that we cannot continue to import 60% of our oil from foreign countries, many of which are hostile to the US, if we aim to be strong and secure in the world. They know that we will have to build a clean energy economy if we are to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. It is time for Congress to take a more active role in our clean energy future. Establishing a national goal--"25x'25" is the first step."
A bill to permit California and other States to effectively control greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles, and for other purposes. Amends the Clean Air Act to approve the application of the state of California for a waiver of federal preemption of its motor vehicle emission standards.
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