Sen. Barack Obama proposed a sweeping clean-energy plan yesterday that would set a “hard cap” on carbon emissions to curb global warming, make businesses pay for the pollutants they dump into the air and phase out incandescent light bulbs.
In a major address in Portsmouth, N.H., the Democratic presidential candidate outlined a broad set of proposals that he said would reduce emissions by 80 percent by 2050 and replace more than one-third of U.S. oil consumption by 2030 with cleaner energy sources by making “dirty energy expensive.”
In addition to a cap on allowable emissions, he said, “All polluters will have to pay based on the amount of pollution they release into the sky. The market will set the price, but unlike the other cap-and-trade proposals that have been offered in this race, no business will be allowed to emit any greenhouses gases for free.
“Businesses don’t own the sky, the public does, and if we want them to stop polluting it, we have to put a price on all pollution,” the senator from Illinois said.
Mr. Obama, who has been working to overcome suggestions that he’s too inexperienced to be president, said those with long Washington careers have failed to act on issues such as higher fuel-economy standards for cars and trucks.
“When they had the chance to stand up and require automakers to raise their fuel standards, they refused. When they had multiple chances to reduce our dependence on foreign oil by investing in renewable fuels that we can literally grow right here in America, they said no,” he said.
“There are some in this race who actually make the argument that the more time you spend immersed in the broken politics of Washington, the more likely you are to change it. I find this a little amusing.”
The plan offered by the freshman senator would significantly expand the federal government’s energy and environmental regulation of the economy and its businesses, as well as the energy-consumption products used by consumers, such as the incandescent light bulb, which he would effectively replace with new fluorescent bulbs.
Mr. Obama said the transition would be costly in the short run for U.S. consumers, taxpayers and businesses, requiring the expenditure of hundreds of billions of dollars.
“It will not come without cost or without sacrifice,” he said.
But he added that the government would provide assistance to help Americans with higher energy bills to make their homes more energy-efficient and help businesses retool factories for renewable energy.
Pointing to President Kennedy’s challenge to put a man on the moon, Mr. Obama said: “I will set big goals for this country as president — some so large that the technology to reach them does not yet exist.”
Among his other proposals are to:
• Set interim targets on caps on all carbon emissions in 2020, 2030 and 2040, beginning the reductions “immediately.”
• Begin a $150 billion effort to develop clean, affordable energy, including “the next generation of biofuels” that moves beyond existing corn-based ethanol to far more advanced biofuels “like cellulosic ethanol that can be made from things like switch grass and wood chips” — setting a goal of 2 billion gallons of advanced biofuels by 2013.
• Invest in renewable energy technologies so that by 2025, at least 25 percent of all electricity will come from wind and solar power sources.
• Impose the carbon cap “and whatever tools are necessary to stop new dirty coal plants from being built in America — including a ban on new traditional coal facilities,” while developing clean-coal technologies.
• Develop “safer ways to use nuclear power” and speed up research into technologies “that allow for the safe, secure treatment of nuclear waste.”
Mr. Obama also said he would set the nation on a path to make businesses, government and the American people more energy efficient by 2030; spend $50 billion in a Clean Technologies Venture Capital Fund; and sign a law that begins to phase out all incandescent light bulbs to replace them with compact fluorescent bulbs, a change he said would save consumers $6 billion a year on their electricity bills.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.