Recently, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama unveiled his plan to deal with the issue of climate change. Obama’s plan is modeled after the one recently signed into law, through an executive order, by California governor Schwarzenegger. In January Schwarzenegger created a statewide low carbon fuel standard. Obama intends to take the California plan nationwide. “This is our generation’s moment to save future generations from global catastrophe by creating a market for clean-burning fuels that can stop the dangerous transformation of our climate,” said Obama. “In states like New Hampshire and California, people are taking the lead on producing fuels that use less carbon. It’s time we made this a national commitment to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and take the equivalent of 32 million cars’ worth of pollution out of the atmosphere.”

A press release put out by his campaign said that Obama believes that we ought to become more efficient with our use of oil, and find a way to remove automobile pollution from the air. “It will take a grassroots effort to make America greener and end the tyranny of oil. This Earth Day should mark the beginning of a nationwide effort to harness our technology, our ingenuity and our will to achieve energy independence in our time,” Obama said. His proposal would require that transportation fuels contain 5% less carbon by 2015, and 10% less by 2020. He also advocates a carbon credit system that would allow fuel providers to sell their credits to those that still used fuels which contained more carbon. He also would allow polluters to borrow credits against future promised cuts.

The campaign says that a National Low Carbon Fuel Standard (NLCFS) would push the market towards fuels that use less carbon, and it would also promote growth in cleaner fuels and technologies. Emissions credit trading is a deeply flawed concept that undercuts the purpose of any legislation that it is attached to. Emissions credit trading is a way for big business and corporate America to buy their way around the law. Credit trading will also create an uneven implementation of the law. The biggest polluters will be able to afford to buy more credits, thus the people most responsible for the climate change problem can buy their way out of having to change.

My impression is that the Obama campaign, much like the Clinton campaign, is a bit short on ideas. It also strikes me that this is a fairly conservative proposal. There is nothing wrong with proposing that the California plan be taken national, after it has been tried, and we have some preliminary data to see if it works. A plan like this may work at the state level, but will it work for the entire nation? The truth is that politicians are trying to dance around the fact that the only way we are going to deal with the issues of oil dependence and climate change is to cut consumption.

Consumption can’t be deeply cut through credit trading programs, or 15-20 year plans. In order to be effective, stricter standards must be equally applied to everyone in all areas.   The market will adjust to that too. The government still needs to spend some serious money subsidizing the research and development of better technology. It is too late to propose plans that might work in decades. Our dependence on foreign oil could very well end up crippling the U.S. economy someday. I don’t care if you are a liberal or conservative. I think we all can agree that this is a frightening thought. Political leaders in both parties need to stop being so cute about this issue, and do their jobs. Our future really does depend on it.

Obama press release

Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at  His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at

Jason can also be heard every Sunday afternoon at 1:30 pm (ET) as the host of The Political Universe Radio Show at
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