Kerry Promotes Energy Independence Plan

Election '04

Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry outlined a 10-year, $30 billion energy plan on Friday and said the proposal will "put America on the path to energy independence and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs at the same time."

Kerry's plan centers on increased support for renewable energy and for alternative motor fuels made from corn and soybeans, as well as incentives for clean coal technology and for more fuel efficient cars and trucks.

"We can control our own destiny, we can create the jobs of tomorrow and we can make sure that no young American in uniform will ever be held hostage to our dependence on oil from the Middle East," Kerry told supporters in Kansas City, Missouri.

Kerry's remarks came at the end of a week that saw oil prices soar to a near record high of almost $45 a barrel.

The Democratic presidential nominee blamed the Bush administration for making the nation more dependent on foreign oil and for not taking action to aid consumers and business feeling the pinch from rising oil prices. The nation's reliance on foreign oil has risen from 58.2 percent in 2000 to 61.7 percent today, according to the Kerry campaign, with roughly a quarter of America's oil supply coming from the Middle East.

"It does not have to be this way," Kerry said. "America will be safer and freer when the resources that fuel our economy are in our hands and when we develop new energy sources in our country."

The proposal calls for the creation of a $20 billion Energy Security and Conservation Trust fund, capitalized with existing federal offshore oil and gas revenues, in order to provide a guaranteed funding stream for energy. The trust fund would be used to meet dual goals, to be met by 2020, of ensuring 20 percent of the nation's motor fuel and electricity come from renewable energy sources.

The proposal earmarks $5 billion for a clean fuels partnership to research fuels from agricultural waste and includes support for increased production of ethanol, a fuel made from corn. It provides $10 billion to help U.S. automakers develop and manufacture more fuel efficient vehicles, as well as $5 billion in consumer tax credits, including $5,000 tax credits to buy cars and trucks that guzzle less gas.

"We will put in place the tax incentives and joint venture efforts that help us build an independent fuel base for America," Kerry said.

There is little doubt the plan is ambitious – the U.S. Energy Department says that today only 1.5 percent of the nation's motor fuel comes from alternative sources and some 6 percent of the nation's electricity comes from renewables.

It also mirrors several things the Bush administration has strongly supported, including increased natural gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and the construction of a pipeline to bring natural gas from Canada and Alaska to the lower 48 states.

The Kerry plan also includes $10 billion for clean coal technology research and support for additional research into hydrogen energy – two things the Bush administration has touted and supported.

Kerry's proposal includes support for nuclear power, but not for the plan to build a federal nuclear waste repository in Nevada's Yucca Mountain – something the Bush administration strongly favors. The Democratic nominee recommends creating a National Academies advisory panel to determine how best to deal with the nation's nuclear waste.

Kerry opposes the aggressive domestic oil and gas drilling on public lands favored by the Bush administration, including the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The Bush campaign says Kerry's plan differs little from what the White House has proposed or is already enacting.

Much of the plan, Bush supporters say, could be closer to reality if Kerry and his running mate John Edwards had voted for the energy bill that has stalled in the Senate.

Republicans have failed to muster the 60 votes needed to force a vote on the bill, which has passed the House of Representatives three times. The energy bill contains the mandatory electric transmission reliability standards Kerry supports, as well as provisions that increase ethanol production and extend renewable energy tax credits.

"John Kerry obstructed the President's comprehensive energy plan which had bipartisan support, including its provisions for renewable energy, conservation and energy development that would reduce our dependence on foreign oil," said Steve Schmidt, Bush-Cheney '04 spokesman. "Now he is proposing policies he worked to block."

But the energy bill contains billions of dollars of tax subsidies for the oil, gas and nuclear industries, as well as a controversial liability exemption for manufacturers of the fuel additive methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE), an oxygenate that makes fuel burn cleaner. MTBE leaks into groundwater from fuel storage tanks, contaminating water supplies with a foul smell and taste.

Sarah Bianchi, the Kerry campaign's national policy director, told reporters Friday that the energy bill has been "held hostage" by the MTBE provision.

The Kerry campaign also said it has figured out how to pay for its $30 billion plan. Kerry said the proposal would be more than offset by some $16 billion in savings from increased energy efficiency use across the federal government and by $18 billion through the reauthorization of the Superfund polluter tax levied on industries to help clean up the nation's most hazardous waste sites.

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