Issue Position: Energy
Senator Obama believes that America must commit to a new national energy policy focused on improvements in technology, investments in renewable fuels such as wind and solar power, and greater efforts in conservation, efficiency, and waste reduction. Shifting from our current investment and consumption practices to this new direction will be one of the great leadership challenges in the coming decade.
With the Department of Energy telling us that U.S. demand for oil will jump 40% over the next 20 years and with countries like China and India adding millions of cars to their roads, the price of oil is approaching a breaking point.
In addition to the high economic costs of our foreign oil dependence, the current consumption of fossil fuels has threatened the future health and well-being of not only our citizens, but our natural resources and air quality as well. Investments in cleaner and more efficient energy technologies must play a central role in mitigating these threats to our health and our environment.
Recognizing the importance of energy security to national and economic security, Senator Obama has proposed the creation of a Director of National Energy Security in the Office of the President. This position, akin to the National Security Advisor, would oversee and coordinate all administration efforts on national energy security and policies.
Senator Obama is a leading advocate for increasing the use of renewable fuels to reduce our nation's reliance on foreign petroleum. In 2005, he enacted into law a tax credit for installing E-85 ethanol refueling pumps at gas stations across the country.
In the 109th and 110th Congress, he joined with Senator Lugar to introduce the American Fuels Act to increase domestic production, distribution, and end uses of biofuels. Among other improvements, the American Fuels Act would expand the manufacture of ethanol-capable vehicles, offer tax credits to spur cellulosic fuel production, require clean-fueled transit buses bought with federal dollars, and provide incentives to ethanol plants to invest in E-85 blending equipment on their premises.
In January 2007, Senator Obama joined Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa in reintroducing the Biofuels Security Act, which calls for 60 billion gallons of renewable biofuels in the nation's vehicle fuel supply by the year 2030. Senator Obama also authored legislation with Senator Cochran, the Alternative Diesel Standard, to require 2 billion gallons of alternative diesels - - including agriculture feedstocks such as biodiesel - - as part of the 40 billion gallon national diesel pool.
Given that major supermarket chains are expected to comprise 15% of the vehicle fuels market in the coming years, Senator Obama has also called upon the 14 largest supermarket and discount stores that sell gas to also install alternative fuel pumps.
As the author of the Fuel Economy Reform Act, Senator Obama has worked to gain bipartisan support for an innovative approach to raising automobile fuel efficiency standards (also known as "CAFE" standards) and break two decades of inaction and deadlock on reforming fuel economy laws. This proposal has attracted cosponsors from both parties - maintaining support from long-time champions of improving fuel economy standards while attracting support from traditional opponents. The bill would establish regular, continual, and incremental progress in miles per gallon fuel efficiency by an increase of four percent annually, and preserve flexibility by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to vary the rate of improvement and how best to technologically achieve those fuel economy targets. President Bush endorsed a similar approach in his State of the Union speech in January 2007.
Investing in New Technologies
Senator Obama introduced the "Health Care for Hybrids Act" to provide health care assistance to domestic automakers in exchange for their investing 50% of the savings into technology to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles. His proposal has been praised by President Bill Clinton, the University of Michigan's auto research center, and numerous newspapers.
In May 2007, Senator Obama, along with Senator Harkin, authored the National Low Carbon Fuel Standard Act (S. 1324), which requires a 10% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the national transportation fuel pool by 2020, a reduction of about 180 million metric tons of emissions in 2020 - the equivalent of taking over 30 million cars off the road. The Obama-Harkin fuel standard embraces the growth of the renewable fuels market, including corn-based ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, and biodiesel as a key component of fighting climate change, while creating incentives for lower carbon emissions in their production.
Working to Lower High Gas Prices
Oil companies are enjoying record profits while consumers are suffering from record high gas prices. In the 110th Congress, Senator Obama has introduced the Oil SENSE Act to eliminate unnecessary tax breaks to the oil industry. A version of the bill was passed by House of Representatives in January 2007.
In the 109th Congress, Senator Obama sponsored legislation, the FILL UP Act, requiring oil companies that made at least $1 billion in profits in the first quarter of 2006 to invest at least 1% of the their total reported first quarter 2006 profits into installing E-85 pumps.
Senator Obama also worked with Congressman Rahm Emanuel to obtain several million dollars to establish the first ethanol-to-hydrogen refueling station for refueling Chicago natural gas bus fleets.