"A Planet In Peril:" A Closer Look At The Obama Energy Plan - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

"A Planet In Peril:" A Closer Look At The Obama Energy Plan

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America's President-elect Barak Obama is heading to the White House with a new plan for the country's energy future.

His policy to battle global warming is considered one of the most aggressive of any administration. But the struggling economy could limit which policies can be pushed forward.

News 8 caught up with a local leader in science, Tony Haymet, Director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UCSD. He shares his notes on how the president should handle energy use and carbon emissions over the next four years.

"The challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime - two wars, a planet in peril," President-elect Barack Obama.

Some of the highlights of President-elect Obama's environmental plan include reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent, below 1990 levels by 2050. This, cited by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, a non-partisan policy center

Obama says he will implement a mandatory, economy-wide green house gas cap and trade program. That means selling all emission permits at auction so companies will have to pay for every ton of carbon they release. Money raised would be used to develop renewable energy and to subsidize consumer energy bills. By one estimate, the program could raise the average family energy bill more than $700 a year.

"We can't do it on the cheap. There are some things that we can do to conserve energy, but all of those steps are going to require a little bit of hardship and a little bit of pinching," said President-elect Barack Obama.

Obama wants 10 percent of all consumed energy to come from renewable resources by 2012. He'll also extend the renewable energy tax credit for another five years.

In 2006, California passed a law with similar ambitious targets: the California Global Warming Solutions Act or AB-32.

"I think President Obama is wise to look at what we've been able to do in California, and I think we will have 10 percent renewables in California by 2012," said Doctor Tony Haymet, Director of SIO at UCSD. "We have very ambitious targets under AB-32 and I think we can meet those targets. It requires a crash campaign our best and brightest, but I believe we can do it."

Obama is also looking at transportation and the future of alternative fuels as a way to reduce emissions.
He proposes a $7,000 tax credit for the purchase of advanced technology vehicles, with a goal of one million plug-in electric cars by 2015. The plan is to establish a national low carbon fuel standard, which would require fuel suppliers to reduce carbon content by five percent in 2015 and 10 percent five years later.

"I think President Obama is right to focus on emissions from automobiles. Our friends in Europe are going to have 60 mpg cars pretty soon. Our friends in china are going to have the same, we need to be up there," continued Doctor Haymet.

Obama wants to permit the EPA to use the 1990 Clean Air Act to manage carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and manufacturers. In doing so, he will be the first president to regulate carbon dioxide and declare it a dangerous pollutant.

"I think the president is right. We need to regulate CO2, candidate Bush was willing to regulate CO2 in the year 2000," Doctor Haymet explained. "I think the current president needs to catch up with that candidate's policy."

President Obama says he wants to find safer ways to use and store nuclear waste. But contends, nuclear power must be part of a comprehensive energy solution.

"First of all most important thing is to reduce our CO2 emissions and alternative energy, renewable energy is the way to do that. I think nuclear energy has to be on the table," Doctor Haymet added.

Initially Obama opposed new offshore drilling, but now says he will consider it as part of a larger strategy to lower energy costs.

"We only recover about 30 percent of the oil from each well. A company like BP is actually proud of the fact that they pull up about 40 percent," said Doctor Haymet. "So I'm one of those who thinks we need to invest in new technologies to get the oil we are already missing in oil fields we've already developed. I think that's more cost effective than drilling all over the place."

Over the next four years, Haymet recommends the new administration take a careful look at climate change.

"The science of climate change is not over. We need to continually monitor new gases that we use for great technology for example in making silicon chips that some of those gases inadvertently contribute to global warming," said Haymet.

To read the details of President-elect Obama's environmental policy in its entirety, click here >>
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