In a nod to conservation-minded voters, Democratic Presidential nominee John Kerry has proposed a 10-year, $30 billion plan to move the U.S. closer to energy independence. The linchpin of Kerry's ambitious plan would be providing financial incentives to manufacturers and consumers to increase the energy efficiency of the nation's automotive fleet. The plan also calls for the nation to derive 20 percent of its power from renewable sources—including solar, wind, ethanol and biodiesel—by 2020.
One-third of the proposed $30 billion would be allocated to automakers to retool plants to build new types of vehicles, Consumers would get tax credits on the purchase of new high-tech, fuel-efficient automobiles. An additional $5 billion would be spent on a public-private research initiative to investigate making fuels from agricultural waste, while another $10 billion would pay for retrofitting and boosting the efficiency of the nation's aging coal-fired utility plants. The Kerry camp says that the high price tag overall would be partially offset by the reinstatement of a Clinton-era tax on polluters.
The plan clarifies many of the ideas Senator Kerry has touched on repeatedly during the campaign. Claims that greater energy independence would bolster job growth, improve air quality, and tighten security have been common in Kerry's stump speeches around the country over the last several months. Kerry's plan highlights a key difference between the two candidates, as the Bush energy bill—thus far unsuccessful despite two Congressional votes—calls for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to reduce dependence on foreign oil (a dubious proposition) while increasing subsidies for fading industries like oil, timber and coal.