Opinion

The Great Debate

Obama’s “number 1 priority”

By Reuters Staff
November 11, 2008

– Peter Barnes is an entrepreneur and writer whose books include Who Owns The Sky? and Climate Solutions: A Citizen’s Guide. The views expressed are his own.

A few days before the election, Barack Obama told Time’s Joe Klein:

Finding the new driver of our economy is going to be critical. There’s no better driver that pervades all aspects of our economy than a new energy economy … That’s going to be my No. 1 priority when I get into office.

That’s exactly the right choice for numerous economic, geopolitical, and ecological reasons. By spawning “a new energy economy,” Obama can create millions of new jobs, decrease our dependence on foreign oil and avert catastrophic climate change. But the politics of launching that new energy economy — even with enlarged majorities in Congress — remains challenging.

In facing this challenge, Obama will be constrained both by a gargantuan budget deficit and his campaign vow not to raise taxes on anyone making under $250,000 a year. And because of the recession, he can’t suck buying power out of the economy. On the contrary, he needs to stimulate spending by consumers.bushobama

He also faces a tight international timetable: in December 2009, the nations of the world will assemble in Copenhagen to negotiate a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. If Obama is to have any credibility in those negotiations, he must pass significant legislation before then.

How, then, can he fulfill his No. 1 priority?

There are many opinions about what should be part of a comprehensive energy policy, but the centerpiece nearly everyone agrees on — the great lever that will tip the whole economy toward clean energy — is a strong, descending cap on carbon emissions. If done correctly, such a cap will raise the price of polluting, spur innovation and conservation, and shift billions of dollars of private investment into new technologies for the next 40 years. But designing the cap correctly is critical; a half-baked, loophole-ridden and overly complex system will do more harm than good. The devil is in the details — and, of course, in the politics.

The most critical details involve where to place the cap and what to do with the permits the cap will create. The simplest and most effective place to put the cap is upstream — that is, on the small number of companies that bring carbon into the economy. An upstream cap could be administered without monitoring smokestacks, without a large bureaucracy, and without favoring some companies over others. It would work for the obvious reason that, if carbon doesn’t come into the economy, it can’t go out.

The declining number of permits that would be issued under the cap should then be auctioned rather than given away free — all polluters would pay, and there would be no politically chosen winners or windfall profits. Fortunately, Obama pledged during the campaign to do just this. But that leads to another crucial detail: what to do with the auction revenue, which over time will total trillions of dollars?

There are two possibilities: spend the money on a variety of energy-related programs, or give the money back to the people. While there’s broad agreement that some public spending is necessary to solve the climate crisis, it’s by no means clear that permit revenues should be used for that purpose. The reason is that permit revenues, though initially paid by energy companies, are ultimately paid by consumers in the form of higher energy prices. They are, in effect, a sales tax on carbon — a tax that will fall on millions of Americans earning under $250,000 a year, and that will rise as the cap tightens.

Obama’s best choice is to fund energy-related programs from other sources (including long-term debt) and return all the carbon revenue to the people. This can be done through yearly tax credits, or better yet through monthly cash dividends wired like Social Security payments to people’s bank accounts or debit cards. The advantage of cash dividends is that they’d tangibly and frequently remind people that higher carbon prices are coming back to them — and help them pay mortgages and other bills that fall due on a monthly basis. The whole system might then be called “cap-and-dividend” or “cap and cash back.”

Like Social Security benefits, carbon dividends would be taxed as ordinary income; the government would then recoup about 25 percent of the revenue and could use that money as it sees fit. More importantly, ordinary families would get the lion’s share of the auction revenue, and get it in a way that rewards conservation. Since everyone would get the same amount back, those who use the most carbon would lose and those who use the least would gain — their dividends would exceed what they pay in higher prices. Low-income families in particular would gain because they use less energy than others and would pay little or no taxes on their dividends. In addition, the overall economy would benefit from this periodic replenishment of consumer demand.

The most persuasive argument for cap-and-dividend, though, isn’t economic but political. As the presidential campaign revealed, energy prices are an explosive issue. A carbon cap will raise fuel prices not just once, but for years to come. The potential for backlash — for frenzied cries of “Drill, baby, drill!” — is never-ending. If America is to reduce carbon emissions to the level scientists say is necessary, it’s crucial that families’ pocketbooks be protected for the duration. Cap-and-dividend does this by permanently linking dividends to carbon prices. As carbon prices rise, so — automatically — do dividends. If voters scream about rising fuel prices, as they surely will, politicians can truthfully say, “How you fare is up to you. If you guzzle, you lose; if you conserve, you gain.”

Moreover, for a carbon cap to endure, it must have broad bipartisan support. A revenue-neutral cap is far more likely to garner Republican support than one that’s linked to a large increase in government spending. Consider, for example, Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, who supports a declining cap on carbon but not a spending bill that earmarks trillions of dollars over 40 years. Though it’s not glaringly evident, there are more Republicans like him. This doesn’t mean Obama shouldn’t spend public money on energy; it means he should separate such spending from the cap.

The ultimate reason for paying equal dividends from carbon revenue may be this: it fits Obama’s vision of how government ought to work. In this vision, the government’s job is to serve ordinary people, not special interests. It is to be fair and transparent. And it is to unite rather than divide us, to move us from a “you’re on your own” society to one in which “we’re all in this together.”

Cap-and-dividend fits this vision perfectly. It curbs carbon emissions in a way that’s simple to understand and administer, favors no special interests, and provides a degree of security to all. It treats all Americans as co-owners of the air and allocates trillions of dollars in a completely transparent way. It would be a signature Obama policy, one that sets the tone for his whole administration and remains as memorably linked to him as Social Security is to Roosevelt.

(Pictured above: President Bush walks with President-elect Barack Obama at the White House, November 10, 2008. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

Comments
42 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

I started to read your article becouse the ide sounded good at first (like social security did for a few years)
and i was blown away by the socialistic principles that you are promoting. that is exactly what drives capitalistic people crazy. we cannot taking money from people and giving it to others. go out and make some money.

Posted by tony savino | Report as abusive
 

There are many renewable energy sources. Strange as it may seem Nuclear Energy can be made renewable. There is a patent pending application at http://www.heliatomic.com that is worth looking into.

 

Any government that levies taxes on their constituents are ‘taking money from people and giving it to others.’

I would ask the previous commenter to please elaborate, if possible, on which socialistic principles he or she finds offensive, and on which parts of the above idea sounded good at first.

Posted by J. | Report as abusive
 

I have not heard of this plan before. First thoughts are that it is simple and brilliant. More importantly, it addresses the underlying principle of change required in our country, as exemplified in the election…change comes from the people. If we have a system that has low gov overhead and has a built in reward/punishment system associated to conservation, I think that would strike a cord with Americans. Somehow we have to sacrifice, it’s best to choose how we sacrifice then have to sacrifice in a panic.

Posted by Ricardo | Report as abusive
 

Well it is not perfect this system sounds very promising. It provides incentives for the market and individual users to adjust “carbon spending” through a system of penalties and rewards. I could not think of a more effective method for dealing with the issue than this. In a sense a carbon “free market” will develop from this which favors conservation as its goal.

Posted by natheya | Report as abusive
 

Why don’t we just eliminate all subsidies and tax advantages like the depletion allowance, etc from the carbon producing energy companies so the non-carbon technologies can compete?

 

To the person who wrote the first comment above: your expressed opinion is exactly what’s wrong in America at the moment. The ideas of the writer show keen understanding and a sense of responsibility, both fiscal and civic. They have nothing to do with socialism, but rather keeping the USA afloat. You quite simply cannot have your cake and eat it. The times, they are a’changin’ my friend.

Posted by uli | Report as abusive
 

“Socialism refers to a broad set of economic theories of social organization advocating state or collective ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.” wickapedia.

Posted by tony savino | Report as abusive
 

There comes a time, when a country must come together like the Manhattan project, interstate freeway system and Apollo and Space Shuttle programs. I did not vote for Obama, but an energy policy is a win-win for all sides of the political spectrum. Present your ideas and ask us how to participate. Unfortunately it must be a mandate, the Public is too self-centered to see beyond their own daily self satisfaction.

Posted by Edward Greenlee | Report as abusive
 

Substantial funds need to be directed toward carbon innovation: the development and deployment of low-carbon technologies like cellulosic biofuels. Incentives are of little use without the technology and buildout to achieve them. We actually need tens of terawatts of new carbon-free power to slow global warming. Current U.S. expenditures for global warming technology are completely inadequate.

 

Priceless quote: “But that leads to another crucial detail: what to do with the auction revenue, which over time will total trillions of dollars?” We have indeed arrived in Obamaland, which is the place the happy little bumblebee inhabits before it hits the windshield.

J apparently does not understand how running trillions of dollars through a government bureaucracy, which will pick and choose favorite companies based on whether their lobbyist can get them a carbon loophole, and which will effectively steal money from certain “bad” segments of society in order to shower cash gifts on “good” segments of society, in exchange for their votes, of course, split up into <$200 increments to avoid FEC scrutiny, would be “socialism.” Buzz buzz, O happy J!

Posted by Hi There! | Report as abusive
 

Isn’t it strange how “spreading the wealth around” (e.g. tax cuts) to the top 10% of wealth holders is just good ol’ free enterprise capitalism but spreading the wealth around to the working class via tax cuts is socialism?
I don’t know whether to puke or laugh.

Posted by Ray | Report as abusive
 

Seems like a good idea in principle.

As for the first comment “we cannot taking money from people and giving it to others.” – The current bank bailout is doing just that.

Posted by Paul | Report as abusive
 

Let’s put more restrictions on industry. Enough restrictions and industry will cease to exist. No carbon to worry about after that. Also no jobs, no money and no fun.

Posted by Bruce S. Mitizk | Report as abusive
 

I wonder at the paradox from an energy/environment “expert”. He sees the virtue in a new, sustainable, green energy initiative, yet fails to acknowlege the detrimental consequences of a consumer society.

China’s government is hell-bent for leather to get a consumer society established. It is frustrated by a population that would rather delay purchases, save money, and be prepared for the debacles that seem to cyclically and regularly plague economies. Huzzah, a lesson to our nation of capitalists on working and saving from the 4000 year old chinese society?

Rampant consumerism is killing the environment, bankrupting values, and helping to effectively put many into debtors hell.

Think globally, produce and consume locally. There is a nuance between Nationalism and buying local. It is time to look inward…there were untolled virtues in every berg having a butcher, baker, and candle-stick maker, as opposed to shipping melamine-tainted milk products from halfway around the world…

Finally, while 65-70 % of our taxes go to military industrial multinational corporations: if this corporate welfare is not income redistribution, I don’t know what is.

Posted by J Ball | Report as abusive
 

pickensplan.org I’, with T. Boone Pickens on what needs to happen so should the new and future administrations!

 

I agree w/ 97% of this editorial. But this statement baffles me: “…the government would then recoup about 25 percent of the revenue and could use that money as it sees fit…” Last I checked our govt is $10 Trillion in debt. Shouldn’t any/all uncommitted revenue be immediately applied to reducing The National Debt?

Posted by Michael in San Diego | Report as abusive
 

Finally a tax paper initiative that will pay for dividends for 100s of years into the future.

This will be Obama’s legacy.

 

Is this going to Obama and his administration? Who is the person(s) responcible? Good plan and as workable as any I’ve heard.

Posted by eyes wide | Report as abusive
 

The “new old” driver** for our economy is consumption of America’s production by minimally taxed dollars that in 1913 were not taxed at all, i.e., the earnings of the middle class. Thanks to republicans, the year 1913 heralded the first Constitutional income tax. Thanks to democrats that same year heralded the first Constitutional tax rate schedule that would ensure the solvency of the federal government and the security of the United States.

Some perhaps very smart commentator once calculated that there are 115 million taxpayers of 300 million citizens in the United States. I won’t argue with that figure. However, I will say the following, Mr. & Mrs. Reader.

Some 75% of the economic fuel (the driver) for the U.S. economy is consumption by however many traditional consumers there are, i.e., upwards of 300 million [including the roughly 15 million Americans who are nontraditional consumers, i.e., purchasers of luxury items over and above the staples such as food, housing & transportation that the middle/working class purchases through the use of credit, i.e., consumer loans (credit cards), auto loans & mortgage loans]. The next 15% of America’s economic fuel is small business production/services and hiring. The remaining 10% of America’s economic fuel is corporate production/services and hiring…and investment, perhaps 5 + 5.

The intent (and rightly so) of the Wilsonian tax rate schedule contained in the Revenue Act of 1913 was to grow the middle class (i.e., shrink the working class) and allow it to prosper and consume with tax free dollars what it produces in production facilities owned by the privileged class…thus allowing the privileged class to grow and prosper as well. The other intent of that tax rate schedule was that privileged class prosperity be taxed so that America’s bills could be paid and America’s debt could be minimized.

Therefore, the very first priority of a democrat White House, House of Representatives & Senate is to cut taxes for the middle class and working class to no more than an aggregate of 15% for individuals with taxable incomes under $125,000…married couples with taxable incomes under $250,000…and small businesses with taxable net profits under $250,000.

Second Priority: Corporate taxes above $250,000 and individual incomes (including capital gains) above $125,000 ($250,000 for marrieds) will have to be raised because of the massive annual budget deficits and astoundingly large national debt (together, some $13 Trillion).

Third Priority: Redeploy Our Best & Finest our of Iraq and then Afghanistan…while collaring or killing Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri in northwestern Pakistan where they both have been seen of late.

Cutting taxes for the middle/working class, paying America’s bills, paying down the national debt and bringing Our Best & Finest home will create a mother lode of confidence throughout the United States…and on Wall Street.

In the end, confidence is the primary driver of the U.S. economy.

OK Jack
oklahomajack.com

**Reuters Staff: “Finding the new driver of our economy is going to be critical. There’s no better driver that pervades all aspects of our economy than a new energy economy … That’s going to be my No. 1 priority when I get into office.”

“In facing this challenge, Obama will be constrained both by a gargantuan budget deficit and his campaign vow not to raise taxes on anyone making under $250,000 a year. And because of the recession, he can’t suck buying power out of the economy. On the contrary, he needs to stimulate spending by consumers.

 

The idea of taxing “upstream” sources of carbon is incredibly simple and more elegant than anything I have heard before. Carbon credit auctions are definitely the way to go, and sophisticated auction strategies like the one used recently for wireless bandwidth not only maximized revenue for the government but can also efficiently ensure that the credits go where they are needed without allowing collusion.

If people can be convinced that such a forward thinking strategy (maybe not this one exactly) to minimize global warming is the way to go, then everyone can come out ahead.

Posted by Max | Report as abusive
 

With all due respect, there is very little choice in the matter.

President Elect Barack Obama must do what has not been done in a generation. He must motivate the American people to unite as one, the same as President Kennedy. When President Kennedy spoke and dared the American people to land on the moon, and challenged us, we responded with vigor.

Barack Obama recognizes that what America needs, what the whole world needs, is a global competition to be the first nation to entirely revolutionize how life is lived. That’s what made America great a generation ago, and that same American spirit resides in us today. That is our greatest natural resource,and we’re wasting it.

Barack Obama sees the need to revolutionize how the world works. He sees the potential for a national project that can revolutionize not only our infrastructure, but our economy, and our global status as a nation. This geo-greenism, as Thomas Friedman so elegantly put it, has the most potential to change the world for the better. Barack Obama knows it, and he’s in a position to make it happen, no matter what people say. We elected him to be our leader. Have faith, and open your mind to new possibilities, and above all, hope that we made the right decision.

After all, Hope is not a campaign slogan. Hope is the American way.

Posted by Insight | Report as abusive
 

Hopefully Obama will be able to remain focused on a plan similar to this while the economy goes down in flames. The most important thing to do will be to lay out all of the underlying laws and regulations in such a way that any future governing bodies can only move forward. There isn’t any time to be looking over our shoulders!

Posted by runawaymunkey | Report as abusive
 

This idea sounds great. Except that when technology meets catches up with the carbon tax punishment for pollution there will be no more dividends for the public. The only thing left is to pay for the new technology through taxes. Sorry won!t work.

Posted by Ken | Report as abusive
 

“We cannot taking money from people and giving it to others. go out and make some money.”

We actually do need to do this sometimes. Human’s have shown they aren’t responsible enough for pure capitalism. But fear not. Even though there’s taxes that does not mean your government is socialist, communist, or even liberal.

There’s taxes because no business will bid on contracts for our roads. Or to run our schools. Or defend our borders, our homes, our business.

One long ignored item is protecting our environment. We all own our environment. It’s a resource we extract wealth from every day. Some without many ill effects.

Some with more. We all ready get our dividends. The problem is we are not able to transparently see the cost of what we are enjoying.

Pushing the borders of excess with carbon pollution can be very profitable. Demand will determine how profitable it is after they pay for their share of the burden on the environment.

Businesses must be given a fair playing field for which it can conduct responsible business. A market without a cap system promotes excessive carbon pollution. While one with promotes conservative use. Which is the whole point.

To take money from the net 50% highest polluters and give it to the net 50% lowest polluters as compensation proportional to the cost to the environment and the market pressure needed to force our emissions acceptable levels determined by scientists and laid out in the Kyoto protocol.

Ride a bike, work for a low emissions employer, eat local travel local and enjoy the upgraded lifestyle the dividends will afford you and the cleaner air.

It all depends on the quality and fairness of the legislation drafted.

Posted by Samson | Report as abusive
 

This bill would be a big step in protection of the commonwealth, such as our air, and water. I would like to see the principal extended to other pollutants, not just carbon.
I don’t see the socialist principles that Tony mentions. As far as I’m concerned, as long as someone drives a large car, that pollutes MY air, THEY owe ME money… capitalism at its finest, brilliantly applied.
And J is right anyway, any modern democracy has elements of socialism built in. I’m tired of conservatives using the term as some sort of scare tactic, especially when they can’t even verbalize their argument.

Posted by 9ton | Report as abusive
 

Build a electric grid infrastructure as envisaged in http://www.betterplace.com , a cost of about 600 billion.80% of the investment will be towards labour.This will spur employment .Also will have another infrastructure for vehicles(other than the arab oil).Incentivise usage of electric cars and put higher taxes on gasoline cars as done in Israel and Denmark.We will be a clean and green nation , will get out of our addiction of oil .

Well we could potentially avoid funding terrorism through our gas guzzlers .The benefits are too huge for the expense .

Posted by Uthup | Report as abusive
 

Hopefully, Obama can get this plan up and running as soon as humanly possible.
At the same time and at a consistently reducing level, the US must end oil imports from the middle east and Venezuela and seek alternative, additional supplies from it’s northern neighbour Canada, it’s biggest single supplier, and friendly. I pray the Bakken field and Alaska pipeline come onstream as soon as possible too. The US has enormous deposits of oil, gas and condensates on it’s territory….use it !

Posted by Roy Davis | Report as abusive
 

These must be the two most absurd suggestions I have ever heard.

First, a carbon tax at the source will totally destroy the aim of the tax: reducing emissions. Companies will have no incentive to reduce emissions at the smoke stack. Some companies are currently capturing their carbon emissions (such as in the gas-to-liquids industry) but if they have to pay a carbon tax whether or not they collect the carbon, they may as well just release it anyway. Similarly, companies that would treat their coal before burning it to reduce emissions are going to change their minds and continue polluting because they pay the carbon tax regardless. And as for carbon capture, it simply won’t happen under such a ridiculous scheme. Which is a shame, because if just a few coal fired power plants started capturing their CO2 emissions, it would mean that the US no longer has to dig up CO2 to sell to oil companies. Why tax it at the source when it encourages oil companies to tap underground CO2 reserves and add even more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere?

Second,

Giving a “dividend” to households to protect their pocket books too ridiculous to imagine. This is universal welfare without even the requirement that people deserve or need the money. While I’m not totally against welfare, why not just use the money to fund a tax break for the lowest 10% of the population? Or better yet, pay off some of that $33,000 debt that every American man, woman, and child owes to the rest of the world?

Posted by Peter | Report as abusive
 

I don’t agree – the entire point in taxing carbon-producing corporations is that the money can be pushed into solving the problem permanently by funding research and rolling out proven renewable energy sources along with improving infrastructure.

Simply handing it back to individual households so they can run out and spend it, increasing their carbon footprint, would make this an exercise in futility. But then again, perhaps that’s what they want in this bill so it will be Dead On Arrival.

Posted by cmdrogogov | Report as abusive
 

This sounds like a great idea, a small building block for an overall energy independence/carbon reduction plan. I might supports something slightly less than neutral, like %10 going to investment for renewable energy and carbon reduction. Any profits from this investment could go back to the “dividend grid” and potentially making the plan neutral or even profitable. The ownership of these investments could go to “we, the people”.

 

Bravo, Obama is getting the message and it is affecting his objective. Many youth support the idea of Obama for President because they do not have to go day to day experiencing government. Business is looking sharply to get help from the new administration. Politicians are stressing the feel of supporting united efforts. This is not uncommon a consideration, but there are barriers that groups are opposing the reality Our America depicts towards other nations and it is hurting our opportunities in America to detract us from seriousness. I would suggest we try our best to eliminate the opposition and make every effort to found a better future.

We need to start a AutoGen with 25 companies contributing $20 million each providing $500 million total so that the new Coal To Liquefaction Technologies (CTL) can create CTL Plants in America therefore cheaper gasoline prices and to support construction objectives to bring the automakers online in a new business objective. Partially this is what FutureGen could have accomplished for CTL Plant building in America but President Bush blocked it. Peabody decided it could not undertake the FutureGen objective by itself so it was terminated. It is sad President Bush ended the business initiative to have a FutureGen, now we need a AutoGen. If automakers could develop BuckyBall manufacturing techniques autos steel could be replaced providing lighter weight vehicles and having a material that recycles more efficiently. Only one plant is planned. A small nuclear reactor can power a large community, that is sufficient for the startup electric furnaces without maxing out their capability, cost is a mere million each. For automakers to make the investment it brings about their benefits very fast but their products need to be inline with Americans capabilities to pay and their transport needs that meet expectations of 300 miles per charge so there needs to be some decreases in their product costs. Adding a Fuel-Cell System can then support LPG and CNG conversion to electricity thus extending the range of total electric vehicles. For truck manufacturing I would suggest automakers design a three cylinder engine capable of burning gasoline/ethanol or Diesel/Biofuel coupled with a power generator to power electric hub motors and decrease the need of many batteries thus Hybrid is that option for new trucks.

There are 14 Coal-to-Liquids Plants Under Consideration in the United States. Adding to this BioFuels America becomes very sound in energy. There is only one planned CTL Plant. I have to say Barack Obama knew about CTL Plants as did most of Congress. President-elect Barack Obama has “a new energy economy” fobia. Greenpeace is now urging South Africa to end dependence on coal. In Johannesburg South Africa a lobby group is now open to address climate change, deforestation and overfishing in Africa, soon another office in the Democratic Republic of Congo will open and another in Senegal next year. The U.N. stated 250 million Africans by 2020 will be living in areas where there is no water.

Congressional Interest in CTL
Previous Congress (109th)
–H.R. 4761 –Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act of 2006
–H.R. 5965 –Progress Act
–H.R. 5653 –Investment in American Energy Independence Act of 2006
–H.R. 5890 –American-Made Energy Trust Fund Bill
–S. 1920 –Renewable Diesel Standard Act of 2005
–S. 2446 –American Fuels Act of 2006
–S. 3325 –Coal-to-Liquid Fuel Promotion Act of 2006

Current Congress (110th)
Coal-to-Liquid Fuel Promotion Act of 2007
–S. 154
–S. 155
–H.R. 370

 

Buy United States Savings Bonds reduce The National Debt!

 

America isn’t ready for solutions but rather self-imposed austerity and suffering. If a researcher with a cure for cancer, new type of propulsion or energy source tried to share his ideas, the media, government agencies, educational institutions and the general public would ignore him. Because people believe in scams and liars in nice suits. We got a lot of warning of the economic slowdown from economists, right? No, because most of them don’t have the foggiest idea what they are doing. They wear nice suits. All of those bankers with companies going bankrupt – each a halfwit if you think about it from a detached perspective – wear nice suits and sound great.

People pray for solutions. But if there were a God and he actually sent people to help us out, we would ignore such folks. There are no shortage of great ideas in the world. But we lack people of substance and conviction to help transform those ideas into tangible solutions.

Posted by Don | Report as abusive
 

I heard over public radio that one solar plant 94 miles square would generate enough power to run the whole country. how about 100 plants 1 mile square. At 100 million $ each. This would solve a lot of problems for us as once the world sees that we have done this they will want join us. It was stated by NPR that the technology currently exists to accomplish this.

Posted by john wibel | Report as abusive
 

it’s called nuclear energy, people. it’s cheap, it doesn’t pollute, and technology has advanced so much that there is close to no risk of a melt down. no need to waste money on wind turbines or solar power; both cost far too much and rely too much on perfect weather conditions.

Posted by jacques bimromav | Report as abusive
 

Jacques,
Nuclear fuel would be lovely except for one glaring problem. What do you propose be done with the nuclear waste that is produced? We do not know what to do with the nuclear waste that already exists, does it make sense to create more?

It seems to me that we would be creating another problem that would have to be dealt with even more urgently than is being done currently. I don’t think we want to trade one problem for another,or give our descendants yet another life threatening problem to repair from our lack of forethought.

Posted by Barbara | Report as abusive
 

During the crisis, if you give a handout to underemployed construction workers and engineers, well… If you pay them the same money to build a transmission line to get solar or wind power from where it’s plentiful to where it’s needed, the country ends up with a transmission line, and reduced oil imports (and less greenhouse emissions), and the construction workers and engineers still end up with the money. Energy has a cost, and most people won’t care unless they pay it. After the crisis, do what you like with the proceeds.

Posted by Pete Cann | Report as abusive
 

Perhaps like many Americans, I do not understand all the scientific talk in the above article and this is no fault of the author whatsoever. It is simply a statement that reveals something bigger – most of us do not know what source of energy is best for the world or our economy. What most of us do know is that the U.S. and other “industrialized” countries must act quickly and intelligently on the issue of energy. We all do understand that something simple like changing lightbulbs has a direct effect on our electric bill. It is also something that is very tangible and easy to do. But other questions, like what is carbon? Why carbon and not nuclear energy, etc. is rather complicated, it seems, to those of us who are not scientifically oriented. Is there anyone out there who can break down carbon vs. nuclear energy in simple terms?

Nonetheless, fortunately most of us now know that change in how we consume energy and how our consumption effects our environment is something we need to addressn ASAP. Which brings us to Obama’s suggestion of driving our economy. Yes, “green” jobs will be better for our economy; but how quickly can these jobs be created before more layoffs and foreclosures occur in the U.S.?

I do like the idea of rewarding those who conserve energy and fining those who pollute – this is genius!

Is there any simple solution to our economic crisis? Probably not, but creating jobs which are better for our environment, and really are the future, is a good way to start.

As far as a kilowat or terrawat? Huh?

Posted by rrr | Report as abusive
 

Mr. Obama’s first and foremost triumph towards uplifting the downtrodden economy of the country would need extra-ordinary efforts to give development to agricultural growth of the country by leaps and bounds because Nature has gifted vast land for growing crops much of which are known as still uncultivated.

Further to that Obama’s Government may consider the over expenditure of the country in war activities because he is believed to know well enough, ‘War conductors make more enemies than friends’

Posted by A.R.Shams | Report as abusive
 

First what Obama needs to do is combine 10 towns into 1 like they do in Woodbridge, NJ across the country, sell off the remaining real estate as result, combine services saving the American taxpayers plenty. Estimated Savings: Woodbridge residents pay half the taxes of other towns nearby. By reducing the tax burden people will automatically have money to spend. After all 70% of the US economy is based on the consumer spending money.

Second, If you tax people less they will want to work and have money left over to spend. Reduce the taxes to a flat tax of 15%, get rid of the sales tax nationwide. This will stimulate consumer spending. This might also reduce the welfare budgets.

Third,THINK GREEN. Take the existing government buildings and implement a 100% Recovery plan, reuse everything, convert what you can to energy and put it back into to grid. This money government makes can be further given back to the public to stimulate the economy. Place Solar panels on government building. After the initial cost the energy becomes free for ever!!

Posted by R Shah | Report as abusive
 

Excellent article; the divident system is best. 75% back to the people, 5-10% for research, development and deployment and other energy programmes, the rest to pay for the system and for other govt expenditures. Seems like a fair deal to me.

I’d prefer a carbon tax & dividend over trading, since trading carries risks of bubble/bust cycles that damage clean energy and efficiency, while a tax has a guaranteed price level which stabilises the investment climate for the clean and efficient energy revolution.

Still, if Obama is intent on trading, then I’ll support him. This article makes a good point about being careful with the details. It will be absolutely vital to have clear information and openness in the carbon trading market, at all times, in order to reduce risks of creating bubble/bust cycles.

Posted by Cyril R. | Report as abusive
 

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