1. Do you support an 80% reduction
in carbon emissions by 2050? If so, do you agree that a 40 MPG fuel
efficiency standard and a moratorium on building coal-fueled power plants
are necessary, or do you have alternative plans? If not, what should
our goals be and how do you intend to accomplish them?
Global warming is the most important environmental challenge of our lifetime. That’s why I am proud that I was the first presidential candidate to offer a detailed plan for halting global warming that includes an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. I am glad that some of the other candidates have followed me in adopting this call for change.
In order to achieve that level of emissions reduction, we are going to have to raise automotive fuel-efficiency standards significantly in this country. I have called for increasing fuel economy standards to 40 miles per gallon by 2016. That would single-handedly reduce oil demand by 4 million barrels per day. As president, I will invest one billion dollars into making sure that we make the most fuel efficient cars on the planet here in the United States, with union workers. We can do it by investing in new technologies like hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars, ultra-light materials, and hydrogen fuel cells.
I also support a national ban on the construction of all new coal-fired power plants that cannot capture their emissions. America will rely on its coal resources for decades or longer, and we need to find a way to use them without heating the planet. I am committed to investing $1 billion a year in research and testing to jumpstart the means to store large amounts of carbon dioxide safely underground. New coal-fired plants should be built with the required technology so that plants built today will be able to permanently and safely store their carbon emissions tomorrow.
2. A number of polls have suggested that American citizens may not be willing to make lifestyle sacrifices to support environmental improvements. Do you think significant lifestyle changes (like driving much less) may ultimately be necessary and if so how would you convince Americans to accept them?
I’ve seen with my own eyes what Americans can do when called to action. In January, my campaign asked supporters to join our One Corps National Day of Energy Action. All across the country, members of One Corps – the community service arm of our campaign – took action and worked on community service activities including weatherizing homes and distributing energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs.
That is just the beginning. It’s time to ask the American people to be patriotic about something other than war. Our generation must be the one that says ‘yes’ to alternative, renewable fuels and ends forever our dependence on foreign oil. Our generation must be the one that accepts responsibility for conserving natural resources -- and both demands and develops the tool to do it. Our generation must be the one that says, ‘we must halt global warming.’ If we don’t act now, if we don’t seize this moment, it will be too late.
I have a plan to meet the demand for more electricity in the next decade through efficiency, instead of producing more power. Americans can get more power out of the electricity now available, typically at half the cost of producing more supply.
There are large energy savings possible today in energy generation, transmission, and use in homes, factories, and offices. I have called for a national goal of meeting our expected rise in electricity demand by getting more power out of the electricity we use now for the next decade.
To accomplish this ambitious goal, we need to make efficiency profitable for utilities. Most utilities profit from selling electricity, even when it would be cheaper to help their customers use less energy. As president, I will call on states to decouple utilities' energy profits from sales, as California and nine other states have done, so they can focus on serving customer needs. States can also reward utilities for meeting green energy targets.
I support expanding smart meters and smart grids to help consumers use energy more wisely. By displaying energy use and its price as it is used, smart meters encourage consumers to use less energy and to use it when it can be generated less expensively. Utilities can also use information technology to monitor electricity demand, allowing them to plan their production more efficiently.
3. Some environmentalists are concerned that, with carbon emissions dominating dialogue on conservation, other issues may be ignored. What is your second environmental priority after global warming and what do you intend to do about it?
Stopping global warming is my highest environmental priority, but after eight years of the Bush Administration there will be a lot of work to do. In my first year, I will work to reverse every harmful environmental executive order and regulation issued by the Bush administration. I will submit legislation strengthening the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts and restoring the “polluter pays” principle in the Superfund.
4. A number of environmental thinkers have suggested that continued growth in GDP (and the implied growth in resources) and solving our environmental crisis are at odds with each other. Do you think growth in GDP and environmental sustainability are at odds with each other? Does there need to be a choice between economic growth and commitment to our environment? If so, how do you negotiate between these two priorities? If not, how do you see this inter-relationship?
Securing our environmental future will not require shortchanging our economic one. In fact, the opposite is true. Right now, our economic progress is threatened by rising energy prices and our dependence on unstable regions for fuel. Pursuing sound environmental and energy policy will actually drive the economy, rather than limiting it.
I have no doubt that with the right leadership, we will create a New Energy Economy right here in America. We’re going to create new jobs. We’re going to build the cars of the future here. And I am convinced that it is going to create new opportunities for all kinds of Americans – bring the family farms back to life – create new high-paying “green collar” jobs making and installing clean energy technology – and new opportunities for innovators and entrepreneurs.
I will create a New Energy Economy Fund by auctioning off $10 billion in greenhouse pollution permits and repealing subsidies for big oil companies. The fund will support U.S. research and development in energy technology, help entrepreneurs start new businesses, and help Americans conserve energy.
One of my concerns is that the economic benefits from transforming our economy be distributed fairly. What’s happened in this country over the last generation over the entire economy is the growth has gone into the hands of a privileged few. Over the last 20 years, about 40 percent of the economic growth has gone to the top 1 percent.
If you care, the way I do, about the bringing the Two Americas that I’ve talked about together and building One America, then we have to make sure that doesn’t happen with the jobs and wealth I know we can create from clean energy.
I have a plan to open up how we provide electricity in America to create more competition and more options. What we have now is we have centrality; big power companies that make more money, the more power we use. What we want to do is spread and create more competition. Decentralize these power grids, allow community groups, smaller communities, grassroots organizations to compete and drive down prices.
I believe we have the ability to harness American ingenuity to stop global warming. But if all we do is replace oil tycoons with green tycoons, we will have missed an opportunity to help build One America – where everyone has a chance to succeed.
5. What kind of car do you drive or travel in and how many MPG does it get?
My family drives two cars—a Ford Escape Hybrid that gets a combined 30 miles per gallon, and, for times when we need to transport more people, a Chrysler Pacifica, that gets 19 miles per gallon combined.
Photo by Rachel Feierman
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