Energize America, Fourth Draft, 13 December 2005

Written by devilstower, Jerome a Paris and Meteor Blades.
Contributing Editors: A Siegel, besieged by bush, btower, chriscol, DoolittleSothere, jkl, mateosf and dozens of other helpful Kossacks.

Following is the fourth version of a Kossack-generated strategic energy plan designed to provide the United States with energy security by 2020. As you may remember, I started this process with Building together an effective Democratic energy policy (I), which came after a number of energy diaries where lots of great ideas and proposals had been brought forward by the Kossack community. The project quickly blossomed into an effort to draft a comprehensive and coherent U.S. energy policy that could be used by Democrats and other energy security advocates. Subsequent versions included diaries by Meteor Blades (Reenergize America - A Democratic Blueprint (Second Draft)) and devilstower (Energize America - A Democratic Blueprint (Third Draft)).

I am grateful that this series of diaries has been so strongly supported by so many of you, and it has been an extremely fulfilling process for all involved.

With this Fourth Draft, we have refined our focus, sharpened our message and begun to build the financial models to support the plan, including both a funding model and target investments for each specific proposal.

To sustain our momentum and keep our work going forward, we now ask you to:

  • help us ensure that the message is clear, the logic sound, the tone appropriate and the depth sufficient. The bumperstickers need to be punchy and explicit; the "elevator pitch" needs to be clear, concise and attractive; and the flyer text needs to be accessible - and convincing - to all Americans.

  • critique the legislative proposals and their associated projected financials: comments on political impact, analysis of assumptions used, costs or benefits we may have overlooked or exaggerated, suggestions to improve the proposed legislative text; input on missing financials would be most useful. That section should be understandable to anyone with an interest in energy policy, but detailed enough to be taken seriously.

  • provide any specific wording, ideas, arguments, et cetera, that you would like included in the plan. (Detailed wording will be much more helpful than general comments at this point.)

We also need your help with the document format. If you have design, graphics, layout or other similar skills, we'd like to hear from you, either in the thread or by e-mail. We expect to finalize Energize America in January or February for consideration as the Democratic Energy Platform, and will be looking to Kossacks to once again build nationwide support for a long-overdue progressive solution to this country's evolving energy crisis.

With all that said, here we go.

The bumperstickers/sound bites

Energize America

Energize America - A Blueprint for U.S.  energy security

Energize America - A Democratic Blueprint for U.S.  energy security

Energize America - The 20/20/20 plan for Energy, Environmental and Economic Security.

Energize America - A path for a healthier America

Energize America will diversify our energy sources, promote energy efficiency and substantially expand America's renewable energy industrial base.

SMART Goals: By 2020, Energize America will reduce oil and gas imports by 20%, reduce carbon emissions by 20%, and generate 20% of electricity from renewable sources.

Note: I will put each of these in separate comments below so that you can indicate which ones you prefer by rating the corresponding comment

The business card version

Energize America - A Blueprint for U.S.  Energy Security

Increase energy diversity to strengthen our national security and economic stability
Energize America will provide 20% of electricity from renewable sources.

Replace current energy policies that leave America vulnerable
Energize America will reduce imported oil and gas by 20%.

Promote energy efficiency and conservation to protect Americans and the environment
Energize America will  reduce carbon emissions by 20%.

Invest in renewable energy to create jobs and enhance America's technological leadership
Energize America will make America the global leader in renewable energy technology, equipment and production.

By 2020, Energize America will:
  • make the nation safer from unstable regions of the world - where most of the global oil supply is located;
  • insulate the U.S. economy from energy supply disruptions - both natural and human-made;
  • create several hundred thousand new American jobs in high-value manufacturing and service industries;
  • preserve the environment for future generations by shifting from fossil fuels to clean and safe renewable energies;
  • enhance U.S. political power and expand U.S. military options;
  • reestablish America as the world leader in renewable technologies and economic growth;
  • significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution

Energize America - A Blueprint for U.S.  Energy Security


The flyer version

Energize America - A Blueprint for U.S.  energy security

America is at a critical crossroads regarding energy policies.  We can drift further down a path of increasing - and increasingly dangerous - dependence on imported oil, or we can boldly choose a future that will Energize America by diversifying our energy sources, promoting energy efficiency and substantially expanding America's renewable energy industrial base.

The risks of maintaining the status quo are simply too great to ignore, especially as petroleum production begins to decline while worldwide demand is rapidly increasing.  Our continued dependence on fossil fuels, combined with this expected growing global mismatch between petroleum supply and demand, threatens to cripple our economy, destroy our environment and hold our foreign policy and military hostage to the whims of unstable regions of the world.  America's political leaders have failed for decades to seriously address this crucial issue. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 is a sad demonstration of that failure in that it compounds our problems by making the nation ever more dependent on imported oil, with little care given to long-term stability or environmental stewardship.

Americans increasingly realize that we must act now to put our country on a path toward energy independence.  This journey will not always be easy, nor will it be quick - but it is an essential and honorable effort that will ensure economic prosperity, strengthen national security and protect our environment for future generations of Americans.

Energize America is a modern day "Apollo Project," similar to President Kennedy's 1960s plan that electrified the world and united the nation around the previously unthinkable goal of landing an American on the moon.

Energize America will make it possible to achieve energy independence within our children's lifetimes.  Just as President Kennedy's call to action inspired a generation, so too will Energize America. The United States can once again serve as a beacon of hope, opportunity and prosperity, but we must act now, with clear focus and national purpose.

By 2020, Energize America will reduce oil and gas imports by 20%, reduce carbon emissions by 20% and generate 20% of electricity from renewable sources. This will:

  • Increase energy diversity to strengthen our national security and economic stability
  • Replace current energy policies that leave America vulnerable
  • Promote energy efficiency and conservation to protect Americans and the environment
  • Invest in renewable energy to create jobs and enhance America's technological leadership

Energize America's goals are "SMART"

  • Strategic - they greatly reduce our dependence on foreign oil and help make America more secure;
  • Measurable - their progress will be visible to all;
  • Aggressive - because we need to begin what will be a decades-long move away from our dependence on foreign oil before it is too late;
  • Realistic - they are attainable with sustained personal commitment and steady political leadership; they will require significant investment but will provide a solid return;
  • Targeted - at developing renewable energy sources, improving energy efficiency and protecting our environment.

Increase energy diversity

Energize America will provide 20% of electricity from renewable sources

America's reliance on imported oil threatens our national security and economic stability.  Foreign relations, homeland security and our economy are intertwined with energy policy.   America imports 60% of the oil it consumes, and U.S.  demand continues to grow in the face of shrinking supply and rapidly growing global demand.  As developing countries increasingly compete with the United States for depleting supplies, oil prices will rise dramatically, setting the foundation for global turmoil as countries mobilize to protect their interests.

Only by building independent and sustainable energy sources and infrasturcture can we avoid potentially catastrophic consequences in the global race for energy security.  Today, interruptions in oil and gas supplies can cause significant disruptions in our way of life.  Energy diversity, and infrastructure diversity, will insulate Americans from these supply disruptions, whether they are caused by natural disasters or political upheaval.

Energize America will make it possible for U.S.  entrepreneurs and companies to invest in American-made energy technology tailored to regional needs, and it will encourage the growth of all renewable energies technologies, known (solar, wind, geothermal, bio-mass and biofuels), tentative (long-life batteries, thermal depolymerisation), and others as yet unknown. It will support demonstration projects for both "coal-to-liquids" technology and "intrinsically safe" nuclear power-plant design.  It will ensure that best environmental practices are consistently applied to the indispensable coal-based power industry.

Promote energy efficiency

Energize America will reduce imported oil and gas by 20%

In addition to diversifying our energy sources, Energize America will help all Americans be more efficient consumers of the energy we have.  The most immediate way to reduce our dependence on imported oil without impairing our quality of life is to eliminate waste, encourage energy-smart consumption and remove obstacles to innovation.  

Innovation is an American birthright.  Forty years ago, the Apollo Project captured the world's imagination.  Twenty years ago, American-made wind turbines were the world's most advanced. For decades, American automotive technology was the most advanced. Now Asia and Europe enjoy an increasing lead in the rapidly growing market for ultra-fuel-efficient cars and Europe has taken the lead in wind energy.  

Energize America will support math and science education to develop the next generation of energy-aware American engineers, and will provide for worker training and retraining to support the migration to a national culture of energy efficiency.

Energize America will mandate the federal government to lead by example and spur innovation by spending federal money only on cars, buildings and other equipment that meet new energy-efficiency standards.

Energize America will help homeowners and consumers to make informed choices in the migration to ultra-fuel-efficient cars and energy-smart buildings.

Invest in renewable energy

Energize America willreduce carbon emissions by 20%.

Global climate change is now undoubtedly linked to human activity and, in particular, to greenhouse gas emissions, whether carbon dioxide or methane from power generation, car exhausts or landfills. In addition to creating economic growth, renewable energies help us protect the environment and to preserve pristine public lands for future use by reducing the need to mine and burn hydrocarbons.  Cleaner land, air and water will make our planet a safer place to live, and can improve the quality of life for all Americans.

Renewable energy technology has matured rapidly.  Once considered economically unfeasible or technically impractical, solar and wind power are now being aggressively deployed worldwide.  Global investment in renewable energy reached a record $30 billion in 2004.  America will not only participate in these important new global markets, but will lead through the development and production of high-value, American-made, exportable renewable-energy solutions.

Energize America will make America the global leader in renewable energy technology, equipment and production.

Energize America will restore America's technological edge through improved innovation and investments in education and industry that will create well-paying jobs and exportable American-made products, while leaving our land cleaner and our nation more secure.

Energize America's agenda includes comprehensive legislation and a funding strategy targeted at transportation, power generation, energy efficiency and protection of the environment.

By 2020, Energize America will reduce oil and gas imports by 20%, reduce carbon emissions by 20%, and generate 20% of electricity from renewable sources.


The Legislative Agenda

Energize America includes a comprehensive set of proposed legislation, which can be implemented collectively or individually.  Not all legislative items are equally important, but all are vital to reforming our national energy posture and putting America on a path of energy independence.


1. The Automotive Mileage and Pollution Credit Act

The Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 established corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards for new passenger cars, currently about 22 miles per gallon (mpg) for all vehicles combined. Passenger vehicles account for approximately 40 percent of all U.S. oil consumption, so increasing fuel efficiency is the quickest way to reduce our foreign oil dependence. Passenger vehicles also contribute about 20 percent of all U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions, so increasing fuel efficiency helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Energize America proposes a fresh approach to both CAFE standards and the current federal rebate on fuel-stingy hybrids.

Energize America proposes to provide Americans who buy a car or pickup truck with a $200 rebate for every mile per gallon the new vehicle comes in above the national average through 2015, adjusted annually. For example, a 2005 Ford Escape hybrid, which has a 33mpg rating, would qualify for a rebate of $2200 ($200 x 11mpg). The rebate program will apply to all qualifying vehicles (whether hybrids, diesels, fuel-cell or other), with a rebate cap of $6,000. Rebates for commercial vehicles will be calculated based upon their relative reduction in the amount of pollution produced by a vehicle in normal operation.

This act will cost an estimated $24 billion in 2007, growing to $58 billion per year in 2025, but will yield energy savings worth $8 billion to Americans in 2008, growing to $125 billion in 2025. The average efficiency of America's car fleet (trucks included) will increase from today's 21mpg to 32mpg. America's fuel-import bill will be reduced by 14% in 2015 (worth $40 billion at today's oil prices) and 24% in 2025 ($85 billion) and carbon emissions will be cut by 254 million tons in 2025 (or 51%, worth $7 billion at current market prices) compared to the situation if nothing were done.

2. Government Fleet Conversion Act

Energize America will require that within two years of passage of this act the government begin to purchase the highest-mileage, lowest-polluting vehicles available for any given task, and that within five years of passage, the entire federal government fleet be replaced by high-efficiency vehicles.  This act will also provide incentives to state and municipal governments to do the same.  Such a program will guarantee to manufacturers a large client base for efficient vehicles, and will eliminate the purchase of many low-mileage vehicles now marketed primarily for fleet purchases.  

While it would be good to begin enforcement of these rules immediately on passage, U.S.  manufacturers are currently unable to offer competitive vehicles in many segments.  A program that spurs the purchase of foreign-made cars and light trucks would likely mean additional erosion in American jobs. To give U.S.  manufacturers a fair chance to compete, a two-year window will thus be provided after signing. For example, if this bill were passed in January 2007, all new government fleet purchases would be high-mileage vehicles beginning in 2009 and the federal fleet would be fully converted by 2012.

With a federal, state and local fleet of approximately [x00,000] vehicles, this program would yield oil savings worth [$xx billion] per year from 2012, thus bringing an equivalent amount in budgetary spending at no cost to public budgets as most public sector cars are renewed every [3] years today. (input with numbers here kindly requested from Kossacks)

3. Bus Fleet Conversion Act

A few municipal mass-transit agencies and school districts are converting their bus fleets from those that burn gasoline and petroleum diesel to those that burn compressed natural gas. A handful are looking at buying hybrid electrics or converting to biodiesel, a fuel made from vegetable oils.  By using incentives for end users and guaranteeing a market to manufacturers, the Bus Fleet Conversion Act will mandate conversion of the nation's bus fleets to natural gas, electric, hybrid-electric or biodiesel over a period of 10 years from the date of signing.

With a nationwide fleet consuming 120,000 barrels of oil per day, this program would yield petroleum savings worth nearly $4 billion per year from 2015. Incentives would be sized to make this act "revenue neutral" to States and localities.

4. Telecommuting Assistance Act

Energize America will establish a tax credit for companies that use telecommuting to reduce employee travel.  The maximum credit will be set at $2,000 per year for a full-time employee who telecommutes five days a week. This will be pro-rated on a $400-a-day basis for employees averaging fewer than five days a week telecommuting. To receive the credit, companies must agree not to outsource the credited position to an overseas firm for a period of at least five years.  In addition, the act will impose a return to older, more relaxed IRS rules to allow telecommuting workers to claim a portion of their house as an office for income-tax purposes.

If by 2015, an estimated one million white-collar workers ([10]% of the relevant work force - again input with numbers here kindly requested from Kossacks) switch to telecommuting an average of two days per week, the fuel savings would amount to 200 million gallons yearly (or $400 million at current prices) for a budgetary cost of $800 million a year. Companies would also benefit from lower office-rental requirements, and all Americans would benefit from less gridlock.

5. Passenger Rail Restoration Act

American passenger rail service could rebound if a single modification were made - increased speed on dedicated infrastructure. Energize America proposes a federal-state-private partnership to build, equip and operate two new high-speed rail lines using existing technology, such as Japan's bullet trains or Germany's Inter City Express trains. One system would be built in the Northeast (e.g., New York City to Washington), and one in the South or West (e.g., Los Angeles to San Francisco).  European experience shows that high-speed trains are more convenient, faster and profitable on high-density or metropolis-to-metropolis lines up to 400 miles.

Federal involvement would be limited to facilitating the permitting procedures and providing a stable regulatory framework over at least 25 years of operations of these high-speed lines, which would be built, financed and operated by the private sector.


A variety of renewable energies have come a long way in the past three decades, particularly wind turbines and photovoltaics. These renewable sources still only provide a tiny fraction of America's (and the world's) electricity. To reach Energize America's goal of generating 20% of our electricity with renewables by 2020, the act proposes to support by legislative initiatives the following programs:

6. Clean Coal Generation Act

Coal is relatively cheap and extraordinarily abundant in the United States. At present, coal generates about half of America's electricity, with dozens of new plants being built across the country. For the next half-century, coal-burning power plants are currently planned to be the primary source of electricity. Given coal's potentially devastating environmental damage, it is essential that we improve every aspect of our use of coal. The act would:

  • Outlaw mountain top removal that is denuding mountains and choking streams across Appalachia. Limit surface mining to areas where "return to contour" is the rule. Ban all dumping of spoil into waterways.

  • Stop serial offenders by steeply increasing fines on failures to protect the environment.

  • Allow easier prosecution of those who use "shadow companies" to evade environmental and safety regulations in the coal industry.

  • Repeal the "Clear Skies Act" and return to the previously passed Clean Air Act provisions. Coal-burning plants should no longer be allowed to expand under regulations that allow them to pollute the way they did 25 years ago. The act sets 2020 as the deadline for bringing all coal-burning plants into full compliance.

The costs of this act will be limited to the federal budget, as they will bear essentially on the coal companies themselves, by forcing them to adapt environmental "best practices." Such practices reflect the need for this industry not to pollute or otherwise despoil our lands, the air we breathe or the water we drink, and will be implemented in a consistent way so as to ensure a level playing field for the industry.

7. Extension of the Wind Energy Production Tax Credit from 2007 to 2015.

The United States will have an estimated 15,000 megawatts of installed wind-power capacity by 2007. An enhanced Production Tax Credit (PTC) could raise that figure in the short run and vastly expand it after 2009 by providing wind-farm entrepreneurs a stable and predictable market.

In a country mourning the lost of manufacturing jobs and aching for clean, low-cost power, wind power offers benefits on both fronts.  Wind-turbine manufacturing would create new heavy-industry jobs at home, jobs whose product can readily be exported.  To enable this future, there has to be a stable, long-term demand for wind power.  Building 10 megawatts of wind generation capacity brings with it approximately 40 jobs over the one-year construction period, and two full-time jobs over 20 years, for a total of 80 person-years of new employment, and an expected 50,000 well qualified jobs under the act in 2015.

The budgetary cost of the PTC would reach a maximum or $700 million a year in 2015, but would turn into a surplus as the newly created jobs generated income-tax revenue in addition to benefits to local economies (where the wind farms are built and operate) and to the communities where the industrial capacity will be based.

8. Five Million Solar Roofs Initiative

Originally proposed as the One Million Solar Roofs Initiative by the Solar Energy Industries Association in 1997, and endorsed by President Clinton, this initiative needs to be pushed much further than has been done so far.

Energize America's plan will put five million electricity-generating systems on American roofs between now and 2012 by tripling the current tax credit of $2,000 to $6,000 for residential solar installations and extending the program beyond its 2007 cut-off.

At an annual cost of less than $400 million over the next 15 years, the program will add 15,000 megawatts of solar electricity, more than 15 times the currently installed amount of such power worldwide, and equal to the power provided by 50 typical coal-fired plants.  By spurring demand, this act will provide ready market for solar products, encourage American entrepreneurs to create new products, and spur the creation of small businesses. It will create an estimated 100,000 jobs in the United States.

9. Renewable Portfolio Standards Act

Nineteen states already mandate that small amounts of retail electricity sold within their borders come from renewables, and other states are considering similar requirements. With milestones set at 5, 10 and 15 years, and assisted by tradable "Renewable Energy Certificates" (RECs) linked to overall kilowatt-hours, this act will require all but the smallest utilities to generate 15% of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020. Companies that generate power from qualifying renewable facilities will be issued RECs that they can hold for their own use or sell to others. Plants that fail to meet the targets will be forced to either purchase RECs from others that have exceeded their goals, or pay fines.  

By focusing the act on net results rather than imposing specific solutions, the act will allow providers to invest in methods most suitable to their areas, and develop renewable energy sources under market mechanisms.  

10. The Federal "Net Metering" Act

Programs that allow homes to sell power back to energy companies during times of high generation (effectively running their meters in reverse) exist in several states, but these programs are a hodge-podge of local regulations. Energize America will provide Federal regulations to standardize this practice and expand it nationwide. We expect consumers to generate 5% of American electrical energy by 2020.

11. Federal Alternative Energy Demonstration Act

By means of venture capital and a federal grant program, this act will promote the construction of one major, experimental alternative power project in each state of the Union or large metropolitan area. Americans need to see alternative energy as both economical and practical. Highly visible projects can help build confidence, validate new technologies, promote public education and develop cutting edge expertise. These demonstration projects could include wind, solar, biomass, biofuel, ocean thermal, geothermal and other energy sources that have not yet been tested in a full-scale model.  The specific Energy Demonstration project deployed in each state will be determined by each state's legislature. State or private funds will be matched by federal funds one-for-one up to $100 million per project, for a total cost of up to $5 billion over 10 years.

12. Coal Liquefaction Demonstration Project Act

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer has given fresh attention to an old technology that turns coal into liquid fuel that, if produced in large enough quantities, could reduce the need for imported petroleum. A significant investment in coal-to-liquids could theoretically fuel tens of millions of America's vehicles until a more sustainable technology became available. However, there are serious questions at every step of the way, from energy-efficient extraction to environmental impact concerns.

The modernized Fischer-Tropsch technique that Schweitzer and others have proposed as the method to convert America's abundant coal reserves into synthetic fuels needs a full-scale test. The act will set the parameters for a public-private partnership to build and operate two coal-to-liquid plants using state-of-art "scrubbers," carbon dioxide sequestration and other strict environmental controls.

13. The Standard Nuclear Power and Demonstration Project Act

While many people have understandable reservations about nuclear power, it can serve as a reliable source of "dispatchable" energy to meet baseload demand, especially over the next 20 years as large-scale renewable energy sources come on line.  Nuclear power is at a standstill because of well-justified environmental and safety concerns.  A new nuclear plant has not been built in the United States for more than 20 years, despite promising technology advances.  To clearly understand nuclear power's potential for cost-effective and environmentally-sound energy, this act would have the federal government:

  • In partnership with industry, mandate the siting, design and construction of a full-scale "intrinsically safe" nuclear power plant to test its suitability as a pioneer for a new generation of nuclear plants;

  • Work with the IAEA to create new standards for the regulation and inspection of nuclear plants worldwide, and for improved regulation of nuclear waste;

  • Investigate and standardize means of waste disposal, while understanding that no solution will be perfect.

  • If the test plant proves itself, and waste disposal problems are resolved, the act would provide incentives for expansion of nuclear power by allowing the construction of additional plants that conform to a standard, intrinsically safe design.  All such plants would require that uniform planning, site evaluation, construction, disposal and operations be carried out to ensure environmental, worker and general public safety, and all such plants would have to meet the regular inspection regime of independent inspectors.


14. Coal Generation Carbon Reduction Act

In close relation to the Clean Coal Generation Act, and the Carbon Reduction Act below, the Clean Generation Act will apply to coal-fired power plants as well as to other large industries that generate significant volumes of greenhouse gases. It will

  • Regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant. Just as the Clean Air Act imposes a gradually more stringent series of guidelines on other pollutants, Energize America's Clean Generation Act does the same with carbon dioxide. By 2020, all coal-fired power plants should be operating at 20% reduced CO2 levels. By 2040, we should require that total production of CO2 be cut in half through both scrubbing and sequestration.

  • Revise pollutant certificate trading. Producers who invest in technology that puts them ahead of government requirements get a payback by selling the "right to pollute" to less-advanced producers. However, these certificates should be regional, not nationwide, to prevent a large "pollution bull's-eye" in the Midwest and resultant spread of these pollutants along a corridor of the east. Energize America would add CO2 certificates (which are already traded on a voluntary basis) to the mix.

  • To ensure that transforming coal into synthetic fuels represents an actual improvement in CO2 production over burning petroleum products, all coal liquefaction or gasification plants should be required to use sequestration or scrubbing from the outset.

15. Carbon Reduction Act

Leading experts believe that average temperatures across the world will climb by several degrees over the coming century. Icecaps and glaciers are already melting, sea levels are rising, and extreme weather events are occurring more frequently. Some portion of this change comes from burning hydrocarbons and producing carbon dioxide. Moreover, burning hydrocarbons causes health problems for many people. By themselves, the potential economic costs of these health effects and a changing climate run into the trillions of dollars.

The Carbon Reduction Act will formalize trading in CO2 certificates, and impose a gradually tightening regime of CO2 emissions standards.  In parallel to the Coal Generation Carbon Reduction Act, it will apply to all industrial sectors that are significant producers of greenhouse gases on a consistent and predictable fashion.

At the same time, the act will call for the United States  to reengage the world community on global climate change.  America must rejoin and lead international efforts to find remedies for the ill effects of climate change, and make sure that worldwide efforts are fair, thorough and do not put U.S. industry at a competitive disadvantage.

16. Federal Energy Policy Enforcement Act

Good energy policy requires reliable, fair and consistent application and enforcement of rules. Specialized agencies like the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission can do their job and enforce these acts only if they have the proper support, political and material. This legislation will increase the agencies' capacity to detect and react to fraud and compliance failures, heighten their ability to punish scofflaws, and ensure non-partisanship by proposing new rules for the nomination of their top officers.

Budgets will be doubled in real terms from their current levels over the next 15 years in order for these administrations to cope with the workload required of them in the implementation of the proposed Energize America legislation, with dedicated and specially trained agents in each agency.

Energize America requires sustained effort and discipline, and these agencies will be the leading actors in ensuring that such effort is shared fairly and brings the desired results for all.


17. National Energy Efficiency Act

Over the past 25 years, conservation has been frowned upon among many Americans because people have believed, as Ronald Reagan once said, that they will "freeze to death in the dark." But conservation doesn't require physical discomfort or giving up modern conveniences. In fact, due to increased efficiencies, Americans are already using 25% less electricity than was predicted 30 years ago.

Moreover, conservation displaces much more expensive and polluting sources of energy.  Amory and Hunter Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute term these savings "negawatts," and it is both the cheapest and most effective type of reform in the short term. The act includes:

  • Development of an energy education curriculum for elementary and secondary schools. Conservation is like driver's education - every generation needs it.

  • Fund the deployment of SUN centers in every state. Under Jimmy Carter, four regional SUN centers were established nationwide to provide outreach to consumers eager to learn how to be more efficient in their energy consumption.  Information provided ranged from the simplest - like weatherizing and shopping for energy-saving appliances; to the most complex - like designing a house to take advantage of natural lighting and heating.  

  • Launch an independent federal review of appliance efficiency with an eye toward boosting standards as new technology becomes cost effective.  This review would also ensure that consumers get accurate, easy-to-understand information about the true energy costs of their appliances.

  • Require all new federal buildings, as well as state and local government buildings constructed with federal assistance to be designed and built with the highest level of energy efficiency feasible, including being as energy self-sufficient as technologically possible on the date the design for each such building is approved.  Currently, the federal government operates under the Energy Savings Performance Contract, which allows private contractors to help federal agencies improve the energy efficiency of their facilities. This voluntary initiative will be made mandatory.

18. Home Improvement Credit Act

Home owners and rental-property landlords who upgrade their dwellings according to a standard, geographically-adjusted conservation-and-efficiency formula will receive tax credits up to 50% of the cost of the upgrade. New or old homes purchased with FHA or FmHA loans will be required to meet conservation standards.  Low-cost loans will be provided under the auspices of the same agencies to cover any needed upgrades.  This will ensure that consumers at the lower economic end of the home-buying spectrum are not disadvantaged with homes that are cheaper to buy, but costly to heat and cool.  

19. Demand Side Management and Profit Decoupling Act

Utilities are often in the best position to know what would generate the most savings in energy use at home or in our offices, but for as long as their income derive from selling more power, they will have no incentive to provide such energy-smart advice. This act aims to change this, by allowing utilities to profit from any energy savings that they can generate for their clients. It will include:

  • tax credits for energy audits and energy-saving investments for clients, up to 50% of the net energy saved over 5 years;

  • accelerated depreciation for all energy efficiency and renewable energy investments.

  • buildings that meet the highest energy-efficiency standards are open for accelerated depreciation for entire project

  • construction that meets EERI standards accelerated to 15-year rather than the current depreciation of 27 and 33 years.

  • a U.S.-wide Demand Side Management program of no less than 2.5% for all utilities (gas, electric) (with the exception that renewable energy sources are not required to be counted in gross revenues).

  • Profit Decoupling:  The federal government will work to establish guidelines with state governments so that all utilities that commit (and maintain) a DSM program of 4 percent of gross revenues will be enabled to capture profits from efficiency programs through profit decoupling.


Our aim is a legislative package that pays for itself over its life to 2020. In order to get there, a general rule in each of the above Acts will be that all incentives should go to goods and services that help improve energy efficiency or energy independence, while taxes or penalties should be borne by energy-intensive or wasteful activities.

20. Energy Research Funding Act ("Energy Cents Make Sense")

This act implements a compounded one-cent per gallon federal gasoline tax, with the tax increasing one cent a month for 10 years.  Proceeds would go to fund, in addition to the Acts above, specific programs, including:

  • general funding of research and experimental pilot projects in renewable energy production;
  •  support for R&D for ultra-dense energy storage (batteries);
  •  Improvements in materials recycling and energy conservation;
  •  Energy subsidies to low-income families

In the first month, the tax would be only one cent, barely noticeable, but with gasoline consumption at 320 million gallons per day, that single cent would generate almost $10 million a month for energy research.  At the end of the first year, the act would be generating more than $100 million a month for energy research.  At the end of the 10-year period, the total tax would be $1.20 per gallon.

Altogether, the program would require a cumulative investment of $36 billion by the third year, which would turn into a net benefit by year six, and would generate massive economic value for Americans in the long run.

We intend to provide detailed yearly budget projections in the next version of Energize America, and we count on professional numbercrunchers amongst kossacks to volunteer to assist us in that endeavor.

Originally posted to Jerome a Paris on Tue Dec 13, 2005 at 05:48 AM PST.

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