Mar 26, 2008

Flashback - Ralph Nader returns with some 1970's eco ideas

Haase comment: Tragic that he has better answers than who will win, I just hope they listen to him this time.

From "Nader Returnsabout his "presidential platform on energy and the environment".

question Why should voters consider you the strongest environmental candidate?
answer I was a big advocate of renewable energy back in the '70s -- all forms, from wind power to photovoltaic to solar thermal to passive solar architecture. I was a very early opponent of nuclear power. As a lobbyist, I was instrumental in the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, along with legislation to control air pollution and other toxic substances. I was also involved in the passage of the first motor-vehicle efficiency laws back in the '70s. So my words on this issue as a candidate reflect what I've done, rather than what I hope to do.

question Going forward, what sets your environmental platform apart from the other candidates'?
answer I'm basically promoting a massive conversion from a hydrocarbon-based economy to a carbohydrate-based economy. I'm not talking about corn ethanol, which has a very poor net energy- and water-usage characteristic. I'm talking about industrial hemp. I'm talking about plant life that can be efficiently converted to fuel -- like sugar cane, agricultural waste, cellulosic grasses, and certain kinds of biomass that can be grown with a spectacular ratio of energy inputs to outputs. I'm talking about a very fundamental remodeling of our economy -- a conversion from industrial-age, 19th-century technologies like the internal combustion engine to renewable, sustainable technologies of efficiency and production. We should have vehicles that get well over 100 miles per gallon.

question Let's get more specific about how you would implement this massive shift. You propose a carbon pollution tax, for instance. How would that work?
answer You tax inefficient technology and you tax pollution. The carbon tax would not be a credit exchange [as in a cap-and-trade program], which can be easily manipulated. It would be a straight-out tax on hydrocarbon production at the production source -- where it's far, far removed from consumers and forces better choices of technology from the get-go.

question Your website says, "No to nuclear power, solar energy first." How do you plan to phase out nuclear and phase in renewables?
answer Oh, this is easy. The first thing you gotta do to stop nuclear power is prevent government guarantees of Wall Street loans to nuclear power companies to build plants. They will not get private-sector financing without a 100 percent Uncle Sam guarantee. You appeal to conservatives and liberals who don't like corporate welfare and say, "Let's stop rigging the playing field and cut off loan guarantees to nuclear power."

As far as the renewables are concerned, you can do it in two ways: You can basically eliminate all direct and indirect subsidies to fossil fuels and nuclear and say, "Let's have a level playing field." Or you could actively increase tax credits and subsidies to solar power because it has superior environmental and geopolitical benefits. Furthermore, the government's a big customer -- it can take its entire procurement power and direct it toward solar energy and sustainable technology.

Keep in mind that we're currently paying six, seven dollars a gallon for gasoline if you include all the military expenditures to safeguard the global oil pipeline. That's something that taxpayers are paying for, even if it doesn't show at the pump.

question Nuclear makes up 20 percent of America's electricity supply. Coal makes up more than half. Would you phase out coal as well, or do you believe in the promise of advanced coal technology?
answer There's no such thing as clean coal. Anybody who's been down in a coal mine knows that. You've got to phase out all fossil fuels: first coal and oil, then natural gas.

question How quickly would you phase out fossil fuels?
answer If we had the will, we could convert most of [the infrastructure] in 20 to 25 years, and that includes a significant portion of the housing and building stock, which you'll replace with different types of structures and solar architecture, and retrofit existing buildings for solar water heating and photovoltaic.

question Do you see renewable energy costing consumers more than conventional electricity?
answer If you include the costly military and environmental externalities of fossil fuels and nuclear, solar has been cost-competitive for years. If you exclude the externalities of finite fuels, wind power is already competitive, passive solar architecture is competitive. Meanwhile, the price of photovoltaics and other forms of solar-generated electricity are coming down very fast every year, and are on an upward curve of innovation -- with new technology, refined ways of producing the film, etc. They will be uniformly competitive within the next 10 years.

Remember that consumers are paying [for today's energy system] in many other indirect ways: strip mines, acid runoff into lakes and streams, pollution in their lungs, medical costs. Sixty-five thousand people a year die from air pollution, half of them from coal-burning utility plants. Those are just a few of the external costs operating here.

question What do you think of Al Gore's climate activism? Has he been an effective agent of change?
answer At last. Where was he when he was vice president? We couldn't get him to make a speech on solar energy. But now, like Martin Luther King Jr. said, he's "free at last, free at last," and he's made a major contribution.

question Many have called George W. Bush America's worst environmental president, and some critics have said that if you hadn't entered the 2000 race, Gore would have been president, and therefore Bush's irreversible environmental damage never would have happened.
If you're going to blame me for Gore's loss -- and Gore doesn't blame me, by the way -- then you've got to credit me for Gore's Nobel Prize for his alerting the world to global climate change, for all of his successes with books, and for his millions of dollars of appreciating Google stock.

question Maybe you should get an honorary percentage. On to another topic: Who is your environmental hero?

answer There are several. One is David Brower. Another is Barry Commoner, who wrote Making Peace With the Planet, among other great books on the environment. The third one is Amory Lovins.

question What do you do personally to lighten your environmental footprint?
answer I consume very little except newspapers, and I recycle them. I don't have a car. I'm the antithesis of the over-consumer.

question Are you going to offset your footprint from the planes and cars?
answer I think that's an indulgence. I don't trust these offsets. We can do a lot more than that.

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