Democratic Candidates Reveal Energy, Renewable Energy Views

With both the New Hampshire primary and the Iowa caucus speeding near, whoever is chosen as the democratic presidential nominee could become the next U.S. President and therefore stand a chance to dramatically affect Federal policies towards how energy is sourced, produced, distributed, and funded. New thinking and new policies could do much to increase the use of renewable energy technologies, such as solar, wind, geothermal, biofuels, biomass, and hydroelectric, that have been largely in the shadow of the entrenched fossil fuel industries.

Washington – D.C. – January 12, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] While they may turn out to be little more than empty campaign promises, crafted from non-intrusive buzzwords no American can object to, these views are important to the renewable energy industries and those Americans concerned with a cleaner, safer, more sustainable future. At the very least however, these comments are a step in the right direction and undeniably more ambitious and sustainably-oriented than current U.S. energy policy. Today’s SolarAcccess.com RE Insider breaks from the regular format to bring you the candidates views, courtesy of the Washington D.C.-based Sustainable Energy Coalition (SEC). The following is a side-by-side comparison of the views of eight of the nine major Democratic Party presidential candidates on a range of energy and related environmental policy issues. It is based on responses received to a 30-question survey initially sent to their offices in August by the SEC. The survey questioned the candidates regarding their position on federal tax and budget support for renewable energy, energy efficiency, fossil fuels, and nuclear power. It also asked for their views on such policy issues as a federal Renewable Energy Portfolio standard, a federal Renewable Fuels Standard, a federal wires charge to support energy efficiency investments, fuel efficiency standards for automobiles, opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas development, and opening the federal high-level nuclear waste storage facility at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. Finally, the survey posed a number of questions regarding climate change, the Kyoto Protocol, oil imports, and rising natural gas prices. The SEC is a coalition of over 70 national and state business, environmental, consumer, and energy policy organizations whose members collectively represent several thousand companies, municipal utilities, and community organizations. Founded in 1992, the SEC works to promote increased use of renewable energy and energy efficient technologies. As a tax-exempt, non-profit, and non-partisan organization, the SEC does not, and will not, support or oppose — or advocate support for or opposition to — any presidential candidate or political party. Accordingly, this survey does not seek to rank the candidates in any fashion or to evaluate their responses. As it did in the 1992, 1996, and 2000 presidential campaigns, the SEC is sponsoring this survey of the major presidential candidates solely as part of its mission to educate the public about sustainable energy in general and to encourage active discussion among the candidates, the media, and the American voters about current energy policy issues in particular. As a daily internet news publication, albeit specific to the renewable energy industry, SolarAccess.com also does not endorse any particular candidate or political party. The candidates whose views are included in this report are General Wesley Clark, Governor Howard Dean, Senator John Edwards, Representative Dick Gephardt, Senator John Kerry, Representative Dennis Kucinich, Senator Joseph Lieberman, and Ambassador Carol Moseley-Braun. The Rev. Al Sharpton and President George Bush did not provide responses to the survey notwithstanding the fact that it was sent to their respective campaign offices multiple times and followed up with numerous letters, e-mails, and telephone calls. However, the SEC vowed to continue to encourage those campaigns to provide answers to the survey and will release their responses if and when they are received. In addition, the SEC plans to provide the survey to the nominees of any significant third-party or independent candidates during the course of the coming year once those candidates are identified. The summary results are broken down into the five following sections, while the complete text of the candidates’ responses to the questions is also available through a link at the bottom of this document. – Support for Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy Research & Development Programs: – Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy – Regulatory Policy: – Climate Change: – Fossil Fuels: – Nuclear Power: Support for Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy Research & Development Programs: All eight candidates said they supported increasing the funding levels for the U.S. Department of Energy’s energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. Gephardt proposes to “double federal spending in four years on wind, solar power, biomass, and geothermal [and] increase federal funding for fuel cell research and development to $2.5 billion, doubling the $1.2 billion commitment of the Bush administration” while Kerry says “we need to make the production of clean and domestic renewable energy sources a national priority and my energy plan, with its Energy Security Trust Fund, does just that.” Dean recommends that “20% of our energy come from renewable sources by the year 2020” while Kucinich says he “strongly believe[s] that energy efficiency and renewable energy are the only solutions for a sustainable future” and Edwards says “we must move forward toward increased reliance on renewable sources such as solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass.” When asked about individual renewable energy technologies – i.e., solar, wind, geothermal, biomass & biofuels, and hydropower, all eight candidates said they supported increasing the current level of federal tax incentives and/or federal budget outlays to promote solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass & biofuels. Gephardt calls for “a 30 percent tax credit for business investment in renewable energy generation ý and double the production tax credit for renewables.” “Dean calls “for improving transmission needed to get electricity generated by wind power from the Dakotas and other states with strong wind potential to metropolitan areas in the West and Midwest.” Lieberman expressed support for “tax provisions that expand the Production Tax Credit to new geothermal power plants.” Clark says “we must incentivize the public and private sectors to work together on an aggressive research and development effort.” However, Senator Lieberman differed from the other seven who all said they supported continuation of the federal tax incentives for ethanol. Lieberman noted that while he “oppose[d] a mandate that all U.S. gasoline be blended with ethanol, which would seem to give ethanol preference over other renewables, [he] continue[s] to support ethanol in the context of [his] support for renewable fuels.” Regarding hydropower, candidates Clark, Edwards, Gephardt, Kucinich, Lieberman, and Moseley-Braun called for increased levels of federal support for the technology while Dean and Kerry favored maintaining the current level. More specifically, Gephardt and Kucinich emphasized their support for small-scale hydro while Clark and Dean wrote in favor of incremental, low-impact hydro development and Kerry called for the “installation of more efficient turbines that are designed to reduce fish-related losses.” When asked what percentage of funding for the federal hydrogen development program should be allocated to renewables versus fossil fuels or nuclear, Kucinich said “all hydrogen production should be from renewable forms of energy” while Clark and Moseley-Braun both said “most” resources should be directed towards hydrogen production from renewables. Similarly, Kerry called for a split of 80%-10%-10% for renewables, fossil fuels, and nuclear power respectively while Lieberman would divide the funds 50%-25%-25%. Without giving specific numbers, Dean said he “will favor [renewable] sources over fossil fuels and nuclear” while Edwards favored “mov[ing] toward increased reliance on renewable sources.” Gephardt favors splitting hydrogen technology research and development “between renewables and fossil fuels.” Regarding energy efficiency, all eight candidates expressed support for federal tax incentives to encourage consumers to purchase products such as cars, homes appliances, and heating & cooling systems that are very energy efficient but which might otherwise be more expensive. In particular, all eight candidates said that they supported federal tax incentives to expand the use of hybrid cars in the U.S. Gephardt’s “goal will be to produce per year 1 million hybrid cars by 2010, 100,000 fuel cell vehicles by 2010 and 2.5 million fuel cell vehicles by 2020” while Lieberman’s “energy plan would provide a tax cut of at least $1,000 per vehicle, ramping up to $5,000 per vehicle.” Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy – Regulatory Policy: All eight candidates stated that they supported federal legislation to create a national Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) that would require the federal government and the states to ensure that electricity generators provide a portion of their power from renewable energy sources. Kucinich favors an RPS of 20% by 2010. Clark, Dean, and Lieberman all call for an RPS of 20% by 2020 while Gephardt supports an RPS of 10% in ten years and 20% in 20 years. The other candidates did not offer specific numbers. All eight candidates also support a Renewable Fuels Standard for transportation fuels that would require the federal government and states to ensure that a percentage of transportation fuels be provided by renewable energy sources. Gephardt calls for 10% of motor fuels “be ethanol and other renewable fuels” by 2020. Dean also supports a 10% goal without specifying a target date. Moseley-Braun notes that she has “been a supporter of ethanol use as an alternative fuel source and will continue to be as President.” Lieberman emphasizes his support for “biomass ethanol produced from agricultural waste products” but reiterates his opposition to a mandate that all U.S. gasoline be blended with ethanol which would seem to give ethanol preference over other renewables.” When asked if they favor including in federal legislation “a small wire charge on everyone’s electric bill … to maintain funding of energy efficiency, low-income weatherization and energy assistance, and renewable energy” RD&D, Clark, Dean, Gephardt, Kerry, Kucinich, and Lieberman all responded “yes.” Edwards said that he “believe[s] strongly in LIHEAP, low-income weatherization, and energy assistance [because] these are important tools in promoting energy conservation” while Moseley-Braun answered that “dependent upon the actual amount, I might support such an incentive to support funding for alternative sources of energy.” All eight candidates favor increasing the current level of federal purchases of green electricity and/or decentralized renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency measures. Kerry noted that “these investments pay for themselves in cost savings, performance improvement, and security benefits.” Lieberman expressed support for the congressional proposal to “authorize $300 million over five years to install 20,000 solar energy systems in federal buildings by the year 2010” while Gephardt spoke in favor of “doubl[ing] federal funds expended on retrofitting buildings and on developing new energy efficient buildings.” All eight candidates also support mandatory federal policies to enable distributed generation technologies such as fuel cells and renewable energy to connect to the electricity grid. On the issue of new automotive fuel economy standards (i.e., CAFE), only Kucinich and Moseley-Braun said they favored raising the standards for new cars, Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs), and other light trucks to a combined fleet average of at least 40 mpg by the year 2010. Edwards stated he had “voted in support of a CAFE standard of 40 mpg by 2015.” Similarly, Lieberman called for CAFE standards that would save 2 million barrels of oil per day by 2015 which he estimates would translate into a CAFE standard of 40 mpg. Dean wrote more broadly in favor of “a significant and aggressive increase in CAFE standards for cars, SUVs, and light trucks over the next ten to fifteen years” and suggested a standard of “37.5 mpg for all cars, SUVs and light trucks by about 2015.” Kerry noted that he has co-authored legislation “that would increase standards to 36 mpg by 2015.” Noting that “we now have the know-how and technology to make cars and SUVs that go twice as far on a gallon of gas by using more efficient engines and transmission, including hybrid cars,” Clark promised to “set new standards to raise the fuel economy and reduce the emissions of cars.” Climate Change: All eight candidates agreed that the current level of scientific evidence that human activity is causing global warming and warrants immediate precautionary action. Likewise, they also all agreed that the United States has not shown adequate international leadership in addressing this issue. However, only Kucinich and Lieberman expressly stated that they supported ratification of the Kyoto Protocol to curb greenhouse gas emissions while Moseley-Braun said she “believe[d] the Kyoto Protocol [to be] a good start” and Gephardt indicated “it may be possible for the U.S. to sign the Kyoto Protocol … as long as our allies maintain flexibility in negotiations.” Kerry charged that “because of the Bush Administration’s inaction, the binding targets set in the Kyoto Protocol are no longer achievable;” he would therefore “immediately reengage the international process [that would lead to] a strong, effective, and meaningful international agreement. Edwards was similarly critical of the Bush Administration and the need to “reengage the international community on this issue and commit itself to mandatory and absolute greenhouse gas reduction targets. Clark and Dean also expressed support for re-entering negotiations with the international community to address carbon emissions with Dean adding that “developing countries must commit to emission reductions along with developed nations.” All the candidates indicated that they would pursue binding CO2 emissions reduction measures with Gephardt speaking generally about “all the stakeholders … develop[ing] a CO2 reduction plan” and Moseley-Braun promising to “look for the most up to date information regarding reduction measures.” Kucinich said he is “supportive of legislation aimed at curbing these emissions.” Dean and Edwards both expressed support for Senator Jeffords’ Clean Power Act as well as for a cap-and-trade mechanism for carbon dioxide. Cap-and-trade is also favored by Lieberman who cited his Climate Stewardship Act which “would reduce the net emissions of major sources of greenhouse gases in our country to 2000 levels by 2010 and 1990 levels by 2016.”Kerry added his support for “capping carbon pollution from power plants.” Clark also supported “a market-based trading program [that] will reduce costs in fighting global arming and spur innovation.” Fossil Fuels: When asked if they supported increasing, decreasing or maintaining the current level of tax incentives available for the domestic coal, oil, and natural gas industries, Dean, Kerry, and Moseley-Braun all responded “decrease” while Kucinich said he supported “a large decrease in these subsidies.” Lieberman felt that “each [tax subsidy] should be looked at in its own right” because “there are several areas in which I would expand the program — likely at the expense of other, nonessential tax incentives that I would roll back.” Clark said he “favor[ed] continued research and development support for fossil fuels [but] subsidies for oil, gas, and coal should be reviewed to ensure that they are aligned with our highest energy and environmental needs and values.” Gephardt would increase incentives “to continue to encourage more domestic oil and gas production to enhance energy independence during the transition period to more renewable production” while Edwards said “we must encourage more cleaner-burning fuels, such as natural gas and clean coal [and] the domestic production of oil in environmentally-responsible manners.” All eight candidates supported permanently protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil exploration and development with Dean, Gephardt, and Kucinich questioning the need to drill there as a solution to U.S. energy needs. Lieberman added that he is “proud to be [a] chief sponsor” of the Arctic Wilderness Act that would make the site into a protected wilderness. Generally consistent with their separately-expressed views on climate change, all eight candidates stated that they supported federal regulation of carbon dioxide emissions by fossil fueled power plants. In response to a question asking how the candidates might reduce U.S. oil consumption by 1 million barrels per day by 2013, Kerry said that his “energy plan, with its emphasis on both efficiency improvements and the development of alternative fuels will get us to this goal and well beyond.” Kucinich said “a combination of mass transit systems, vehicle with double or triple the efficiency, and smart growth communities will reduce our oil consumption.” Moseley-Braun promised to “embrace strong federal activity that moves utilities towards the use of alternative sources of energy.” Dean’s approach would be a combination of increasing CAFE standards to 37.5 mpg by 2015 and requiring that “10% of motor fuels comes from American biofuels” and that his energy plan would “wean us off foreign oil completely by 2024.” Lieberman noted that the CAFE standards he favors would “save 2 million barrels of oil per day by 2015.” Gephardt stressed that his “Apollo 21” plan “calls for U.S. energy independence in a decade” and would require that “by 2020, 10 percent of motor fuel sales should be ethanol and other renewable fuels.” Edwards broadly outlined several policy initiatives including “invest[ing] far more in developing fuel-efficient technologies – including fuel cells, … tax breaks for fuel-efficient cars, … [and] the development of new biorefineries to make ethanol and methanol from agricultural waste products such as corn stalks.” Finally Clark offered eight initiatives he would pursue including “promot[ing] the use of fuel-efficient cars, … accelerat[ing] the use of hybrid vehicles, …expand[ing] the use of renewable, non-petroleum fuels, … plan[ning] for smart growth, … [and] promot[ing] mass transportation.” The candidates were also asked what action they would take to address projected natural gas supply shortages and prices increases. In response, Kucinich proposed “a national effort to improve the efficiency of our homes [e.g.,] tax credits to insulate homes” while Edwards supports “incentives to develop and distribute liquefied natural gas [as well as] maintaining the home heating oil reserve.” Gephardt favors “provid[ing] tax credits for the development of more storage capacity and pipeline modernization.” Suggesting that “more drilling is [not] the answer,” Moseley-Braun supports “increased use of alternative and renewable energy sources” while holding “companies and utilities accountable for any price fixing.” Kerry believes the U.S. needs to “work with our neighbors in Canada and Mexico to increase our natural gas supplies, … increase the efficiency with which we burn natural gas and use electricity, … and support environmentally responsible new production to increase our supplies.” While not supporting “new drilling in protected areas in Alaska, the Rockies, or off our coasts,” Dean would “improve efficiency and implement demand management” as well as “increase our supplies of renewable energy” and “responsibly increase supplies … from North America, the Caribbean and abroad.” Stressing the need to “diversify our supplies of oil and gas over the next decade,” Lieberman proposes to “incentivize efficiency and conservation throughout our economy,” to provide “adequate financial incentives … to bring natural gas down from Alaska,” and developing “liquefied natural gas projects throughout Latin America … to provide the U.S. with additional sources of energy in its own hemisphere.” Finally, Clark would “emphasize the need to promote energy efficiency and renewables to ultimately reduce the rate of natural gas demand” while supporting research to develop “unrestricted reserves … in environmentally sound ways.” Nuclear Power: When asked if they support construction of new nuclear power plants, Kerry, Kucinich, and Moseley-Braun all responded “no.” Dean also said “no” … “until we resolve the issue of storing nuclear waste safely” while Lieberman similarly answered “no'” … not at this point … unless and until we find adequate answers to the problems of waste disposal safety and security.” Gephardt also said “no” … “until such a time that plant security is better assured [and] we must solve the problem of storage of spent nuclear rods and other hazardous materials.” Edwards said that he did “not support federal subsidies for the construction of new nuclear power plants” while Clark said he hadn’t “seen convincing evidence that increasing America’s use of nuclear power will make us safer, more prosperous, or help protect our environment.” All eight candidates said that they did not support a proposal considered by the U.S. Senate during its 2003 debate on energy legislation that would extend federal loan guarantees, estimated to be worth $30 billion to the nuclear industry, for the construction of new nuclear power plants. However, when asked if they supported the relicensing of existing nuclear plants in the United States, there was more of a split among the candidates with Gephardt and Kucinich both stating their opposition to relicensing while Moseley-Braun answered that she “would only support relicensing of plants that are determined to be the only present available source of energy in a region.” Edwards and Kerry simply responded “yes” to the question while Clark also said “yes” while calling for “tough, no-compromise criteria for extending operating licenses … [and] mak[ing] sure that the owners of those plants are doing everything they should be to protect them from terrorist attack.” Lieberman also said “yes” noting that “there must be a much more searching consideration of the safety and security risks posed by any particular plant.” Dean did not offer a response. When asked if they supported protection of the nuclear power industry from the full cost of liabilities due to accidents, Edwards and Lieberman both responded that they supported reauthorization of the Price-Anderson Act. Dean noted that he felt “Price-Anderson played an important part in developing America’s nuclear industry … [and that] he does not believe that the Government should leave existing facilities hanging out to dry.” On the other hand, Gephardt, Kerry, Kucinich, and Moseley-Braun all said “no;” Clark also said “no” adding that he did “not believe it is the government’s responsibility to fully protect the nuclear industry from liability for non-terrorist related risks or accidents.” Finally, when asked if they supported establishment of a high-level nuclear waste facility at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, only Edwards responded “yes.” However, Moseley-Braun said “not in its present state” while Dean said he would “not send nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain unless and until it is proven to be a scientifically viable solution, something that has not occurred yet.” Citing “shortcomings” with Yucca Mountain, Clark responded “no” as did Gephardt, Kerry, Kucinich, and Lieberman with Gephardt and Lieberman both noting their earlier votes against the facility.
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