Cleantech Blog’s Parameters for a Workable Energy Policy

Energy is life, the rest runs on it.

Since the 70s through every presidential administration and every Congress, we have had an energy policy that boiled down to fighting the cold war through oil and getting lucky on locally sourced coal and gas.  It’s not a zero planning energy policy, we’ve spent money, defined policies, written rules, set goals, etc.  We’ve just done our planning with 50 year old assumptions and zig zagged our way to idiocy.

One of my first ever blogs over five years ago touched on this topic:

My comments at the time after the 2005 energy bill:

We need to achieve low oil prices, and ensure that no one country is able to control our fuel supply. We have just passed a new Energy Bill. It does not do so. What we do need to do: Drop the ANWR fight and instead break the back of OPEC, slash consumption, and work closely with China.

But first things first.  This time I’d like to simply lay out the parameters of what ought to be in a workable, comprehensive, energy policy for the US in a post cold war era, where economic powers are shifting, where the war on terror is real, where environment matters, and where energy supply sources are changing and maybe getting more expensive.

Cleantech Blog has defined 20 parameters needed in a good energy plan.

  1. Has a clear cut and articulated vision – including acknowledging that energy security is not just  “energy independence”
  2. Deals with both demand and supply issues holistically
  3. Considers least cost path in any change
  4. Is phased in manageable ways
  5. Takes into account our current supply mix, load growth forecasts, and geographic considerations
  6. Includes both transport fuels and electric power
  7. Provides us with least cost or comparative advantage in energy both today and in the future vis a vis our core economic competitors
  8. Provides secure and interchangeable supply of energy resources and flows both domestic and cross-border
  9. Doesn’t destroy our current energy industry
  10. Allows time for energy and industry change
  11. Does the least environmental damage possible, and includes ongoing improvement in environmental impact
  12. Survivable under multiple energy demand growth scenarios and resource supply shocks in a global world
  13. Provides reliable energy to our industry and population
  14. Deals with or changes the current state and federal regulatory and permitting structures
  15. Considers the practicalities of infrastructure change, both lead time, economics, financing, technology, and regulatory
  16. Deals with the political considerations of OPEC and the Middle East
  17. Takes into account supply resources where we do have a comparative advantage
  18. Is fair and equitable during any shift in costs for one region or group
  19. Addresses and capitalizes on technology improvement in the US and globally
  20. Deals with China and India and Brazil as rising consumers and producers of energy resources

The energy policy itself should be simple in concept, and the energy plan hellishly detailed and complex in implementation.  But we desperately need this energy plan.

Energy is life, the rest runs on it.

Sustainable Development Ends Suburban Sprawl

By John Addison (10/3/08) Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed into law SB 375 stating, “This landmark bill takes California’s fight against global warming to a whole new level and it creates a model that the rest of the country and world will use. When it comes to reducing greenhouse gases, California is first in tackling car emissions, first to tackle low-carbon fuels, and now with this landmark legislation, we are the first in the nation to tackle land-use planning. What this will mean is more environmentally-friendly communities, more sustainable developments, less time people spend in their cars, more alternative transportation options and neighborhoods we can safely and proudly pass on to future generations.”

Sprawl has been an enormous problem in California as 38 million people crawl through jammed suburban streets, then chocking freeways, only to finally search for a parking space near work. In California there is a car, SUV, or truck for every adult driver. California has a frightening dependence on oil. Compared with nations, only the U.S. and China guzzle more gasoline than California. Yep, California slurps oil products faster than all of Japan, all of Germany, all of India, or all of Russia.

Recent draughts and wild fires have also brought the early effects of a climate crisis to California, which produces food for much of the nation. With global warming, there is less snow storage of water, more polluted water, and therefore less water. Given an emerging crisis, California is reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. SB 375 will build on AB 32, California’s first-in-the-nation law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Who says that Republicans and Democrats cannot work together? SB375 was a process that involved getting a wide range of issues on the table that included suburban and urban development, climate change, oil dependency, children’s health, air quality, and transportation. Although the bill was opposed by groups like the Western States Petroleum Association (drill baby drill), it was supported by divergent interests including the American Lung Association, the Building Industry Association, the Coalition for Clean Air, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Developers and environmentalists had to work for common ground, both groups achieving important goals but neither getting all that they wanted. All had to compromise and work together to accelerate smart growth, sustainable planning, funding, and development. People avoided the refrain, “It’s my way or the highway.”

Speaking of highways, in the future communities will be linked with more than highways. Development will be encouraged near effective public transportation. Major transportation systems will be linked with high-speed rail if Californians vote in favor of Proposition 1A, as they are forecasted to do on November 4.

Because of SB 375, at the heart of city plans will be people not cars. More Californians will enjoy easy access to public transportation, safe walking, and more local services. In two years, regional plans and city general plans will include specifics for reducing greenhouse gases and integrating transportation with sustainable development.

SB 375, sustainability and smart growth were actively discussed at West Coast Green. As the largest conference and expo dedicated to green innovation, building, design and technology, West Coast Green serves each year as a gathering place for 14,000 designers, innovators, business leaders, and building professionals.

Sustainable communities shared their success. John Knott, CEO of Noisette, detailed how 80,000 people in North Charleston, South Carolina, transitioned from an area of economic depression and crime, to a community of job growth, walkable streets, pathways, and beauty.

At the Conference’s host city, San Jose’s Mayor Chuck Reed described how they are thriving as a city of cleantech innovation with companies such as Nanosolar and Tesla, adding 25,000 green jobs, while moving to 100 percent renewable energy and all major buildings being U.S. Green Building Council LEED certified.

Communities are becoming more healthy, efficient, and livable. So are homes. At West Coast Green 400 exhibitors showcased the latest in resource-efficiency among a stunning array of green and healthy building technologies that allow us to work and live more efficiently in our homes. A wide range of energy efficient appliances, complete kitchens, and LED lighting was on display. No VOC paints, low-carbon materials, and better insulation were on display that improved indoor health. Displayed were the latest in solar power and solar hot water heating. Experts were on hand to help architects, builders, and homeowners with their plans.

Horticulturalists displayed landscapes that improved on the quintessential water intensive and pesticide intensive lawns. Displayed were plants for roofs, walls, and edible gardens.

At the center of the Expo was SG Blocks Harbinger House which brought many of the resources together into a beautiful home that collected rainwater, minimized home water use, brought in all welcomed sunlight while managing the home temperature. Whirlpool energy-sipping appliances were showcased. Vetrazzo counters dazzled without using imported granite. All energy and resources were monitored and managed by Agilewaves.

Al Gore spoke Saturday morning on the final day of the conference. The Nobel Laureate eloquently reminded all of the urgency needed to deal with the climate crisis and offered positive solutions. In the face of draughts, wild fires, hurricanes, and disappearing artic ice, we cannot delay another year. Decisive action is need.

Vice-President Gore reminded us, “Scientists have confirmed that enough solar energy falls on the surface of the earth every 40 minutes to meet 100 percent of the entire world’s energy needs for a full year. Tapping just a small portion of this solar energy could provide all of the electricity America uses. Enough wind power blows to also meet 100 percent of US electricity demand. Geothermal energy, similarly, is capable of providing enormous supplies of electricity for America.” New energy storage and smart-grid technology makes possible the complete transition to renewable energy.

Vice-President Gore called for a moratorium for new coal power plants. He warned of the climate dangers, water, and energy demands of oil from shale, now being approved in Congress. He renewed his call for “100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon-free sources within 10 years.”

Vice-President Gore applauded the innovation and energy efficiency being implemented by those participating in West Coast Green. Mr. Gore sees the opportunity for the U.S. to create millions of jobs and lead the world with innovative products and solutions.

This weekend solar home tours are available across the nation. See first hand the exiting progress and possibilities that are unfolding. Tour

John Addison writes about clean transportation and environmental issues. Over 100 articles and reports are available at the Clean Fleet Report.