Lieberman Rolls Out Energy Independence Plan

By J.R. Pegg

May 7, 2003 (ENS) - Democratic presidential candidate Joe Lieberman proposed a billion energy plan today that he says would cut U.S. dependence on foreign oil by two thirds within 10 years and would improve the nation's environment. The plan calls for increased fuel economy standards, more renewable energy use and a $15 billion investment in clean coal technology, Lieberman said, and will allow the nation to seize control of its energy future.

"For too long our economy and our security have been at the mercy of foreign oil producers," Lieberman told today's audience at the Washington D.C. headquarters of the environmental think tank Resources for the Future.

Lieberman said his plan will make the nation's air cleaner and its citizens healthier.

"But more than that, our nation will be more secure and our economy stronger," he said.

Currently a U.S. Senator from Connecticut, Lieberman is one of nine Democrats vying for the party's nomination to face Bush in the 2004 election. In 2000, Lieberman was the party's nominee for Vice President.

In his speech, Lieberman criticized President George W. Bush for focusing on increased domestic oil and gas production and inviting "oil companies to write his energy policies."

The President has done nothing to reduce the nation's demand for oil even as the risks from growing foreign dependence become increasingly apparent, Lieberman said. liebermanjoe

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Lieberman believes the United States can much more to reduce its dependence on foreign oil. (Photo courtesy Senator Lieberman's office))
At the center of Lieberman's plan is a new approach to the issue of fuel economy. The low fuel economy of many of the nation's cars and trucks is a leading contributor to a growing demand for oil, but efforts to increase federal standards have failed.

"For too long we have been caught in a stale debate between those who say that fuel efficiency standards and unachievable and those who want to micromanage the actions of individual automobile manufacturers," Lieberman said. "That debate has gotten us nowhere."

Under his plan, Lieberman calls for a market based approach through a national fuel efficiency standard that would set the goal of reducing oil consumption by two million barrels of oil a day by 2015.

Automakers should be afforded flexibility in meeting this goal, Lieberman says, and could receive pollution credits for exceeding minimum standards that could be traded between automakers.

"In the old system, companies that figured out how to cut corners were rewarded," Lieberman said. "In the new system, those who figure out how to cut pollution will be rewarded."

The plan calls for the nation to make smarter use of its existing natural energy resources, Lieberman said, and the "centerpiece of this goal" is a $15 billion investment over 10 years into cleaner coal technologies.

The United States has a 200 year supply of coal, Lieberman explained, and new technologies show promise in allowing cleaner use of a traditionally dirty fuel.

The plan puts particular focus on Integrated Gasification-Combined Cycle technology, which Lieberman says can turn coal into clean burning hydrogen. The byproduct from this process - carbon dioxide (CO2) - can be disposed of by "injecting it deep underground," Lieberman said.

"Coal has been an integral part of our past and with this investment we can make it an important part of our future," Lieberman said. "I believe we can protect, and even create, jobs in the hard hit coal production regions of our nation."

Yet many scientists are wary of sequestering CO2 underground inside coal seams and fields of briny water. They say it is uncertain if the gas could be contained and believe large amounts of CO2 could force millions of gallons of salty water to the Earth's surface. anwr

Lieberman has pledged that he will never look to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as a source of domestic oil. (Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS))
Some argue the concept is at best a short term solution but President Bush is also a believer and has pledged $1 billion for development, including several million dollars for studying sequestration.

Lieberman says his plan is much more aggressive than the President's, as is his proposal to speed the deployment of new, clean technologies through a $6.5 billion research and development program to create fuel cells.

Although fuel cell technology is another item touted by the Bush administration, Lieberman's plan is some five times what Bush has earmarked for fuel cell research and has a goal of 100,000 fuel cell vehicles on the road by 2010 and 2.5 million by 2020.

Lieberman says he would give tax breaks for hybrid and natural gas vehicles and would set a renewable portfolio standard that would mandate electric companies purchase 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Lieberman criticized Bush for pulling the United States out of the Kyoto Protocol and said it has caused "one of the most serious breaks between America and the rest of the world."

"We need to rejoin the world in working on a global problem that we contribute to more than anyone else," he said. "This would be one of the best things the U.S. could do reconnect with the rest of the world on a number of issues."

The nation can improve its energy independence without harming the environment or ruining public lands, Lieberman said, and he slammed Bush for continued efforts to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil drilling.

"To have ANWR as the centerpiece of an energy plan is outrageous," Lieberman said.

New drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf is also off limits in the Lieberman plan.

There is a role for public lands in energy development, Lieberman said, but these decisions need to be held to "a higher standard" than what is used by the current administration.

"George W. Bush is blind to reality. The central, unavoidable fact is that we use 25 percent of the world's oil but possess only two to three percent of its reserves," Lieberman said. "We can drill all we want, but the well will soon run dry and our economy will be left running on fumes."