Changing Planet

Details of Obama’s Plan to Reduce Dependence on Foreign Oil Emerge

The White House has released more details about the Energy Security Trust that President Barack Obama first mentioned in February’s State of the Union address. Obama introduced the plan—which aims to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil, improve vehicle fuel efficiency and protect consumers from gas price spikes—during a speech at Chicago’s Argonne National Laboratory. “By investing in our energy security,” he noted, “we are helping our businesses succeed and we’re creating good middle class jobs right here in America. The only way to really break this cycle of spiking oil prices—the only way to break that cycle for good—is to shift our cars entirely off oil.”

The Energy Security Trust focuses on shifting America’s cars and trucks off oil entirely by investing in research for advances in electricity, domestically produced natural gas and homegrown biofuels as cost-effective alternatives to fossil fuel. Over the course of 10 years, the trust will provide $2 billion in research dollars from federal oil and gas development revenue.

The plan, the White House said, builds on an earlier report and on strategies that resulted in reductions in carbon dioxide of 13 percent since 2007, highlighted in a new study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It is intended to solidify America’s position as a world leader in advanced transportation technology. Feelings regarding the measure, however, are mixed. Some are praising the investment in research and development funding in light of sequester cuts, while others see little success for the proposal without a dramatic increase in oil and gas leasing on federal. Energy production on the nation’s federal lands would be among the top responsibilities for Sally Jewell, whose nomination to the post of Interior Secretary was advanced by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee today.

Meanwhile, a new report states that by 2050 it is possible to cut car petroleum use by 80 percent—a much easier feat than cutting carbon dioxide emissions by a similar amount.

EPA Could Delay Climate Rules for Power Plants

A year ago, the EPA unveiled the proposed New Source Performance Standards, which would require all new coal- and gas-fired power plants built in the U.S. to emit no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour of electricity produced. According to The Washington Postthe Obama administration is likely to miss its April 13 deadline for finalizing the rules and may be considering revising them. Some industry critics have expressed concern with the EPA’s proposed rule. Four moderate Senate Democrats also urged the President in a letter to scale back provisions for coal-fired plants. Revamping the new-source rules to lay out a separate standard for coal-fired power plants could take another six months, according to legal experts, but it might give the EPA a better chance of defending the rule in court.

Biofuels Suffer from High Prices

The punishment Midwest corn yields took from the drought has pushed corn prices so high that nearly 10 percent of the nation’s ethanol plants stopped production this past year. The credits refiners use to meet the EPA’s renewable fuel mandate that results in ethanol being blended into gasoline are spiking, too. The 10-fold increase in the price of the credits is causing some to be concerned about an increase in gasoline prices. In fact, this year U.S. drivers could face an increase in these prices of nearly $13 billion.

The Climate Post offers a rundown of the week in climate and energy news. It is produced each Thursday by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.

Tim Profeta is the founding director of the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. The Nicholas Institute is part of Duke University and focuses on improving environmental policy making worldwide through objective, fact-based research in the areas of climate change, the economics of limiting carbon pollution, oceans governance and coastal management, emerging environmental markets and freshwater concerns at home and abroad. In his role at the Nicholas Institute, Profeta has continued to use his experience on Capitol Hill to engage in climate change debates. His research has focused, specifically, on market-based approaches to environmental regulations—particularly energy and climate change policy. Other projects engage his expertise in environmental law and air pollution regulation under the Clean Air Act.

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