With the overwhelming endorsement of Barack Obama as the next president of the United States, the world’s number one economy now has a unique opportunity to become a leader in the fight against global warming while pursuing an energy revolution.
Of the many major challenges Obama will face upon being sworn in as president on 20 January 2009, two are very similar to those the European Union has already been grappling with for some time: an increasing dependence on insecure sources of foreign oil and fighting climate change.
In that regard at least, the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) is pleased that the President-elect has already vowed to steer the United States in a totally different direction than the one George W. Bush has chosen for the past eight years.
Obama’s New Energy for America plan seeks to tackle climate change by implementing a cap and trade system to reduce carbon emissions to a scientifically agreed upon reduction target: 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. All pollution credits would be auctioned to ensure industries pay for every tonne of emissions released into the atmosphere.
Equally importantly, he has also promised the US will re-engage with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which should encourage politicians and scientists around the world who are working on the successor to the Kyoto Protocol.
But there is more good news. The plan requires 10% of the nation’s electricity to come from wind power and other renewables by 2012 and 25% by 2025.
It says that an investment of $150 billion over 10 years in affordable, renewable sources of energy will lead to new green industries and five million new well-paying jobs.
Improvements to the electricity grid, aggressive energy efficiency goals, and more money for research are also key components of the plan, as are better fuel economy standards for motor vehicles.
During the two-year-long race for the White House, Obama campaigned under the banner of being able to provide a transformative change which would, among other things, see a rejection of America’s recent unilateralist philosophy in favour of consensus and international cooperation.
A change in American energy and environmental ideology is long overdue. The US, which is the world’s second biggest national emitter of CO₂, has only about 5% of the global population but uses approximately 25% of the world’s energy.
Under his new mandate, made even more powerful since his party, the Democrats, will also control both the Senate and the Houses of Representatives, the 44th president will have the chance he asked for.
EWEA wishes Obama well and reminds him that joining Europe, a global leader in wind power technology, in the complex fight to de-carbonise while also providing a secure, affordable, local, sustainable supply of non-polluting energy will not only help the US, but the entire beleaguered planet.
Indeed, Obama’s election victory might accomplish one other unintentional yet important result. European leaders currently debating the EU-27’s proposed climate and energy package might be encouraged to continue with their intention of achieving agreement by December now they know there is a new ally in Washington.
05 November 2008