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THE NATION

Obama to outline energy package

October 08, 2007|Judy Pasternak | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama today plans to propose spending $150 billion over 10 years on new clean-energy programs, including proposals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to develop new energy sources, according to senior campaign advisors.

The energy package, which Sen. Obama (D-Ill.) is expected to outline in a speech at a library in Portsmouth, N.H., centers on a requirement that polluters pay for every ton of carbon emissions they release, as opposed to having rights to release some or all of the carbon dioxide they already send into the atmosphere.

Obama's call for polluters to pay for all carbon emissions is the central element of his version of a "cap-and-trade" system, a common feature in greenhouse-gas-reduction proposals.

Under cap-and-trade plans, pollution rights would be auctioned, sold or given to businesses, which could then resell or trade them to other businesses that need to purchase additional pollution rights.

A national cap would be imposed on the total carbon emissions.

Obama supports a mandatory reduction of carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and an 80% reduction below 1990 levels by 2050 -- the same cuts sought by California and more ambitious than the 50% reduction by 2050 targeted by European countries.

Among the major candidates in the Democratic field, only New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a former Energy secretary, has announced a target that goes further: a cut of 90% by 2050.

Obama wants to use the bulk of the revenue from any auction of pollution rights for a venture capital fund to promote new technologies, to help improve energy efficiency and to help Americans caught in a transition that could lead to such changes as higher electricity bills.

Former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), a fellow candidate, has proposed a system under which some pollution rights would be auctioned off to businesses and some would be given away.

One Obama campaign aide characterized Obama's package as "a very important policy proposal."

Significantly, Obama is to suggest that he may be willing to ban new coal-fired power plants that fail to use the latest technology to prevent carbon dioxide from getting into the atmosphere.

Some in the utility industry say that so-called carbon- capture and -sequestration technology is a long way from being affordable and reliable enough for commercial use.

Obama has wrestled in the past with how to reconcile the interests of his home-state coal-mining industry with the pollution problems posed by coal.

In the Senate, Obama staffers said, he successfully pushed to increase funding for research into carbon-storage technology by $200 million for the 2008 fiscal year.

As part of his $150-billion proposal, Obama plans to suggest a $50-billion Capital Technologies Venture Fund, with $10 billion a year invested over five years, to help move new clean-energy technology to market.

This is similar to the $50-billion Strategic Energy Fund proposed by rival candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton. Sen. Clinton (D-N.Y.) wants to finance the project by requiring oil companies to invest in renewable energy or pay into the fund.

Like Clinton, Obama backs a requirement that 25% of electricity come from solar, wind, geothermal or other renewable sources by 2025.

--

judy.pasternak@latimes.com

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