Democratic and Republican presidential nominees Barack Obama and John McCain, and every member of Congress will be receiving a wake-up call from some of the longest-serving and most respected public servants in American history.
Their message: A "long-term energy crisis" threatens American prosperity and national security.
The signatories include a bipartisan group of former secretaries of state and defense, former senators and other former White House operatives. Among them: Colin Powell, James Woolsey, James A. Baker, III and William S. Cohen.
The prime target of their ire is partisan bickering. Their central message is that real solutions have to rise up out of the wreckage of an energy policy that we have now. Fighting over whether to tax oil companies or give them access to more public lands is not enough.
"For too long, our approach to energy has been conflicted, contradictory, and shortsighted," the signatories, organized by the Institute for 21st Century Energy, write. "We demand more energy and complain about high prices, but we restrict energy exploration and production. We embrace the promise of energy efficiency, but we are slow to make adjustments in our energy-intensive lifestyles. We take the production of electricity almost for granted, yet we oppose the construction of new power plants and transmission lines. We are betting on the development of new and transformational energy technologies, but we underinvest in the energy research and development needed to bring it about."
They offer some concrete solutions and strategies, though some are contradictory (make policy that reflects current climate science, but drill more oil as soon as possible). Some suggestions are more concrete than others, reflecting no doubt the difficulty in crafting a coherent bipartisan policy on such a complex issue. Significantly, though, the first four suggestions have to do with losing less energy and reducing the environmental impact of our energy consumption to avoid angering the climate. (The fifth is contradictory: Drill for more oil domestically.)
Here are the 13 planks of the group's platform. (The language of each title is from the letter; the language of the description is The Daily Green's.)
Aggressively Promote Energy Efficiency
Increasing building efficiency and appliance energy consumption standards should be priorities, and a new business model must be developed so that energy companies can be rewarded for saving, as well as selling, energy.
Reduce the Environmental Impact of Energy Consumption and Production
The group offers no specific proposals beyond rhetoric: "We must address the impact of our growing energy consumption on the environment and climate, while recognizing that any approach must be both economically viable and environmentally effective."
Invest in Climate Science to Guide Energy, Economic, and Environmental Policy
More science and understanding equals better policy, assuming the policy-makers understand and heed the science.
Significantly Increase Funding for Research, Development, and Demonstration of Advanced Clean Energy Technologies
"The United States is currently spending 50% less on energy research and development than during the 1970s oil embargo," the group writes. "We spend less than $4 billion a year on clean energy R&D, which is less than we spend in three days on imported oil today.
Immediately Expand Domestic Oil and Gas Exploration and Production
Spend less money on foreign oil, invest in jobs at home and fulfill what is sure to be ongoing demand for oil and gas, whether we'd like it to be otherwise or not.
Commit to and Expand Nuclear Energy Use
If we already get 20% of our electricity from nuclear power, without any air pollution, and haven't built a power plant in 30 years, we ought to start building more nuclear power plants. But we need to figure out how to recycle or otherwise deal with radioactive waste.
Commit to the Use of Clean Coal
We currently get 50% of our electricity from coal, so we have to invest more in technology that can burn it more cleanly and/or bury greenhouse gas emissions underground.
Increase Renewable Sources of Electricity
Predictable government programs are essential to developing new renewable energy technologies.
Transform Our Transportation Sector
U.S. transportation is 96% reliant on petroleum, but alternatives are available and need to go mainstream.
Modernize and Protect U.S. Energy Infrastructure
"Blackouts, brownouts, service interruptions, and rationing could become commonplace without new and upgraded capacity," the letter reads. "Critical energy infrastructure must also be adequately protected from both terrorist threats and natural disasters."
Address Critical Shortages of Qualified Energy Professionals
About half of the 1 million people employed in the energy sector will retire within a decade, but American colleges and universities are graduating fewer people skilled in math, engineering and science.
Reduce Overly Burdensome Regulations and Opportunities for Frivolous Litigation
Folks like to use electricity, but they don't want power plants (particularly nuclear power plants) and transmission lines and other energy infrastructure nearby and visible. The letter writer's don't say it outright, but reducing community input and increasing federal authority to decide where energy companies build and expand is a key to this suggestion.
Demonstrate Global Leadership on Energy Security and Climate Change
Basically an amped up Bush doctrine: Contribute to global agreements on climate change, but only with China and India and other developing countries, and figure out ways to freely trade renewable and clean energy technologies internationally.
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