Obama, energy, and getting the whole story

I’ve been a casual reader of news the last few days. I’ve skimmed. I’ve been busy. But I think I’m not alone in that. Regardless, the point I’ve gotten about Obama’s energy policy is that he’s backtracked on offshore drilling, and is now willing to support it.

I was a little pissed about this, until I actually read the speech he gave. Anyone who’s concerned about the future of energy consumption, the environment, or gas prices (so, yeah, everyone) ought to read it. It’s an outline of serious proposals, with real targets and financial incentives behind them, the kind of thing that we’ve been running away from in the U.S. for way too many years.

Yeah, he said he’d be “willing to consider” a lmited amount of offshore drilling — something he calls unmeaningful in the long or short term — if that’s what it politically took to pass a comprehensive energy bill. That hurts a little, but it also shows who he is — someone practical who is willing to compromise a little in pursuit of a very important goal. I can accept that, and it is better that he tells us this now than later. Right?

His real proposals (or targets) are serious, and good grist for genuine discussion:

  • work to get 1 million 150 mpg hybrids on the road in 6 years
  • $7000 tax credit to consumers for buying these
  • $4 billion in tax credits and loans to help U.S. factories retool to make these
  • by end of 1st term, require that 10 percent of energy in US comes from renewable sources. (This can be a tricky figure, depending on whether he’s talking total energy demand, or total national electricity generation. Renewables accounted for 7 percent of total demand in 2006, but already 9.5 percent of electricity generation. It’s not an easy figure to grow, either– three-quarters of the renewables-generated electricity was hydroelectric, and it’s unlikely we’ll be building any significant new dams soon)
  • national goal to reduce electricity use by 15 percent by end of next decade.

There’s meat here, even if it’s possible for us to do more. More than just a flip-flop on offshore drilling. As a package, it’s so much more serious than what McCain is proposing (drilling and a tax holiday on gas) that it makes the GOP sound a little like, I don’t know, maybe Paris Hilton…