The U.S. can no longer afford merely to tinker with alternative energy or to focus on a single energy source. We certainly cannot drill our way out of this problem. A comprehensive energy plan would adhere to six principles: ensure redundancy of supply and diversity of source; support well-functioning energy markets; invest in sound infrastructure for energy generation, transmission and distribution; provide for environmental sustainability and energy conservation based on full life-cycle costs; offer consistent regulation and transparent price signals; and link each energy source to its optimal sector of use.
Some of the specific suggestions Jackson add include:
- An executive order mandating that the federal government purchase products and services that meet the highest energy-efficiency standards.
- Establish a $200-billion “clean energy” bank, modeled on the U.S. Export-Import Bank and Overseas Private Investment Corporation.
- Triple the federal investment in basic and applied energy research and development.
- Create public-private partnerships, finance start-up companies and support existing small and medium-size clean energy businesses.
- End inequitable subsidies between different energy sources, equalizing competition.
- Establish a consistent federal investment framework for all energy options and require a full life-cycle analysis.
- Create a the smart grid, enabling significant expansion of alternative energy supplies.
These are all good ideas and fit with the kinds of plans Obama has been mentioning on the campaign trail. The price tag will be large, but compared to the $335B dispensed (so far) under the Splurge, relatively affordable. The overriding need, of course, is to have a balanced energy policy, rather than an ad hoc grab-bag of handouts to friends and favored industries. Despite the significant cost at least we will be buying something of value. The public has given a mandate for bold action, and obstructionists will only cement their own marginalization.