Local Issues: Energy and the Environment

For all of our military might and economic dominance, America's Achilles heel is the oil we cannot live without. Oil fuels 96 percent of our transportation needs, and it is critical to the manufacture of millions of goods and products in this country. The interruption of even a small amount of oil for just a few days could cause economic panic and soaring prices. A serious embargo could cause untold disaster. Senator Obama has been a Senate leader in pushing for a comprehensive national energy policy and has introduced a number of bills to get us closer to the goal of energy independence. By putting aside partisan battles, he has found common ground on fuel economy standards, renewable fuels, and clean coal.

Energy and the Environment
The oil used in the U.S. transportation sector accounts for one-third of our nation's emissions of greenhouse gases. Barack Obama's plan will reduce carbon in our fuel supply by establishing a National Low Carbon Fuel Standard. The standard would require that all transportation fuels sold in the U.S.contain 5 percent less carbon by 2015 and 10 percent less carbon by 2020. The legislation would let market forces decide the most efficient way to reduce emissions and would spur significant investment in renewable fuels, such as corn and cellulosic ethanol, and biodiesel made from plant oils such as soybeans. According to one estimate, Obama's legislation would reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by about 180 million metric tons in 2020. This is the equivalent of taking over 30 million cars off the road in 2020.

Breaking the Fuel Efficiency Logjam
 Senator Obama led a bipartisan effort to raise CAFE fuel economy standards, which have remained frozen for 20 years because of congressional gridlock. He developed an innovative approach to gradually increase CAFE standards while protecting the financial future of American automakers. The resulting Obama-Lugar-Biden bill would establish concrete targets for annual CAFE increases while giving industry the flexibility to meet those targets. The Obama-Lugar-Biden Fuel Economy Reform Act has gained the support of Senators who had never supported CAFE increases before, and the basic concept of the legislation was endorsed by President Bush in his 2007 State of the Union address.
"There's a way Congress can get moving. Senator Barack Obama plans to reintroduce a bill that would set a 4 percent annual increase in efficiency as a target. . . . Given the long Congressional stalemate, the Obama bill could be an important first step. It commands some bipartisan support, and unlike Mr. Bush's approach, it promises real as opposed to hypothetical results."
-New York Times, Editorial, January 30, 2007

Making a Deal with Detroit: Health for Hybrids
Senator Obama introduced legislation encouraging automakers to make fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles by helping the companies shoulder the health care costs of their retirees. Domestic automakers would get health care assistance in exchange for their investing 50 percent of the savings into technology to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles.


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Expanding the Use of Renewable Fuels
While there are more than 180,000 gas stations all over America, there are only about 1200 that offer E85 -- a blend of 85 percent clean-burning, domestically grown ethanol and 15 percent petroleum gasoline. Gas stations will now be eligible for tax credits for installing E85 ethanol refueling pumps, thanks to a law advocated by Barack Obama and Senator Jim Talent (R-MO). The tax credit covers 30 percent of the costs of switching one or more traditional petroleum pumps to E85. Obama's legislation will help create the infrastructure to support more flexible-fuel vehicles (cars that run on both E85 and regular gasoline). Senator Obama also sponsored an amendment that became law providing $40 million for commercialization of a combined flexible fuel vehicle/hybrid car within five years.
Senator Obama introduced legislation with Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) to require 2 billion gallons of alternative diesels, such as biodiesel, to be produced domestically by 2015. Obama also sponsored legislation requiring oil companies, that made at least $1 billion in profits in the first quarter of 2006 to invest at least 1 percent of the their total reported first quarter 2006 profits into installing E85 pumps.
Senator Obama worked with Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) to introduce the American Fuels Act that would increase the domestic production, distribution, and use of biofuels, including expanded manufacture of flexible fuel vehicles, tax credits for biofuels, and a nationwide distribution infrastructure.
Senator Obama and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), launched a Government Accountability Office investigation of large oil companies to see if they are fighting the installation of alternative fuel pumps. That investigation will be completed in April 2007.
Global Climate Change
We need to take steps to stop catastrophic, manmade climate change. If we do not act, the consequences will be devastating for future generations, especially for the poorest global populations. Barack Obama believes the U.S. must act decisively and creatively to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.
Obama is an original cosponsor of legislation to establish limits on greenhouse gas emissions. To remain below these limits, the bill encourages the market to determine how best to reduce greenhouse gases, rewarding cost-effective approaches through a system of tradeable allowances. Revenues generated from this program will be directed to helping industries and individuals most affected by the limits, and also to fund research and development of new, more efficient, energy technologies.