Posted by admin on 2008 November 3
Sarah Palin has been practicing her demagoguery again, this time with some partial fabrications from some hard right “news” sources. What Obama really said is that new coal-fired power plants will have to meet certain greenhouse gas standards, and if they are unable to avoid emitting such gases, they will probably go bankrupt from the fines. But all they have to do is find a way to not emit, either that or trade their emissions to someone else who has negative emissions.
There are companies now developing devices to remove and sequester CO2 from the air, like what living plants do only more efficient (one would assume). So basically a coal plant could pay one of these companies to absorb the equivalent of their emissions and everything would be fine.
Here’s my transcript of the relevant part of the audio. The interviewer’s name sounded like “Kai Malnar” to me, but I couldn’t find the name on Google or at the San Francisco Chronicle. I’ll just call her “Malnar” here.
Malnar: Senator, you introduced a bill promoting coal to liquid fuels, and then you said you’d only support them if they emitted fewer greenhouse gases than gasoline. Now, all the scientific evidence points to coal being dirtier than pretty much anything else, so how are you going to square your support for coal with the need to fight global warming?
Obama: Well, I’ve already done it. I voted against the “Clear Skies” bill. In fact I was the deciding vote, despite the fact that I’m a coal state, and that half of my state thought I’d thoroughly betrayed them because I think clean air is critical and global warming is critical. But this notion of no coal, I think, is an illusion, because the fact of the matter is that right now we are getting a lot of our energy from coal and China is building a coal-powered plant once a week. So what we have to do then, is we have to figure out how can we use coal without emitting greenhouse gases and carbon, how can we sequester that carbon and capture it. If we can’t, then we’re gonna still be working on alternatives, but…
Malnar: Alternatives including coal, or…?
Obama: …let me sort of describe my overall policy. What I’ve said is that we would put a cap and trade system in place that is as aggressive, if not more aggressive, than anybody else’s out there. That was the first call for 100% auction on the cap and trade system, which means that every unit of carbon or greenhouse gases that was emitted would be charged to the polluter. That will create a market in which whatever technologies are out there to be presented, whatever power plants that are being built, that they would have to meet the rigors of that market, and the ratcheted down caps that are imposed every year. So if somebody wants to build a coal powered plant, they can, it’s just that it will bankrupt them because they will be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.
That will also generate billions of dollars that we can invest in solar, wind, biodiesel, and other alternative energy approaches. The only thing that I’ve said with respect to coal, I haven’t been some coal booster. What I have said is, that for us to take coal off the table as an ideological matter, as opposed to saying, if technology allows us to use coal in a clean way, we should pursue it. That, I think, is the right approach.
The same with respect to nuclear. Right now, we don’t know how to store nuclear waste wisely, and we don’t know how to deal with some of the safety issues that remain, and so it’s wildly expensive to pursue nuclear energy. But I’ll tell you what, if we could figure out a way to store it safely, then I think most of us would say that might be a pretty good deal.
The point is, if we set rigorous standards for the allowable emissions, then we can allow the market to determine… and technology and entrepreneurs to pursue what’s the best approach to take, as opposed to us saying at the outset, here are the winners that we’re picking, and maybe we pick wrong and maybe we pick right.
So for one thing, he’s not saying the coal industry will be bankrupted. And for another, this is pretty much the opposite of a socialist kind of solution, because he’s saying just set the rules and let the market decide how to meet them. This is one of the reasons I’m voting for Obama, because he’s not about government dictating the economy, he’s about government setting rules and then stepping out of the way for anything but to enforce the rules. That is the appropriate role of government in economic affairs.