We are witnessing the biggest shift in energy priorities since Colonel Edwin Drake first struck oil in Pennsylvania in 1859. The Obama Administration has proposed to dramatically increase spending on renewable energy, with funding (beginning in 2012) from an estimated $15 billion a year raised by auctioning off carbon pollution permits. So polluters will be emitting less, and the money will be funding wind and solar projects.
Oil drilling in California's Santa Catalina Channel, with Catalina Island in the background. (Flickr photo)
The 2010 budget proposal makes some big assumptions, of course. Carbon trading is still relatively untried (outside of Europe, where it hasn't worked out so well) and Congress has to pass a bill to enable it. Want a big number? Obama estimates the auction plan can raise $646 billion in just the seven years ending in 2019. And Obama also thinks we can reduce global warming emissions 14 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, and 83 percent of those levels by 2050.
And Obama is actually funding initiatives that will help achieve the goals, including money for NASA science programs either politically hobbled or fiscally impaired during the Bush years. The Energy Department will be able to work on carbon sequestration, the Interior Department can investigate climate impacts on public land, and the EPA (whose budget expands 34 percent for 2010) can monitor (with $19 million) the emissions from industry.
There will be $3.9 billion in local EPA money for everything from sewage treatment and drinking water to a very welcome fund for families, municipalities and businesses to deal with rising energy costs resulting from global warming legislation.
Oil companies are going to squawk big time, because they're being asked to pay significant new taxes for drilling for offshore oil and natural gas in federal waters, as well as pony up to get the long-stalled Superfund cleanup moving again. When that's added to some tax breaks they're going to lose, it amounts to $31.5 billion over 10 years. Marvin Odum, president of Royal Dutch Shell, called it "a concerning idea," and that's just what he said in public, with the Wall Street Journal listening.
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