John Edwards on the Issues
June 7, 2007
I am adding yet another candidates issues statement. This time it is John Edwards, former candidate for Vice President, and former senator.
We live in a time of dramatic change and great, global challenges. John Edwards believes we must confront those challenges directly with equally great ambitions, starting today.
Restoring America’s Moral Leadership in the World
America’s leadership role in the world has grown out of our compassion and moral strength, as well as our unparalleled economic and military strength. We can be proud of our long history of using our strength to fight for the freedom of others, but our standing in the world has been badly tarnished. America can once again be looked up to and respected around the world. The first step is by immediately withdrawing 40,000-50,000 troops from Iraq, with the complete withdrawal of all combat troops from Iraq within 12-18 months — allowing the Iraqis to assume greater responsibility for rebuilding their own country. It also means working to restore our legitimacy by leading on the great challenges before us like the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the genocide in Darfur, extreme poverty, and living up to our ideals in the fight against terrorism.
The 47 million uninsured Americans often do not get the care they need. Each year, about 18,000 die as a result. Despite the problems of the uninsured and unnecessarily low quality care, our health care system is the most expensive in the world and insurance premiums have grown faster than wages for almost 50 years. John Edwards believes we need to reform our health care system to provide truly universal coverage – not mere access to insurance – and get better care at lower cost. Read More »
Every day, 37 million Americans wake in poverty. Our response to that reality says everything about the character of America. John Edwards has called for a national goal of eliminating poverty within 30 years, with policies rooted in the core American values of opportunity for everyone and responsibility from everyone. We can reach that goal by creating and rewarding work, strengthening families, helping workers save and get ahead, transforming our schools, expanding access to college, breaking up areas of concentrated poverty, reaching overlooked rural areas, and expecting people to help themselves by working whenever they are able. Read More »
Strengthening America’s Middle Class
The backbone of America is its middle class. But middle class families are struggling. Wages have fallen in recent years even as the economy has grown. At the same time, the costs of necessities like health care, child care, and education have grown. President Bush’s tax policies have increased the share of the tax burden borne by middle-class workers. Our economic policies must reward work, help families save for the future, and fight the rising costs of middle-class life.
Our nation’s dependence on oil and other fossil fuels is contributing to global warming and jeopardizing our national security. To protect our future, John Edwards believes that Americans must be patriotic about something other than the war. We must act now by investing in clean, renewable energies like wind, solar, and biofuels to create a new energy economy, developing a new generation of efficient cars and trucks, and putting new energy-saving technologies to work in buildings, transportation, and industry.
Our generation must be the one that says, ‘we must halt global warming.’ Our generation must be the one that says ‘yes’ to renewable fuels and ends forever our dependence on foreign oil. And our generation must be the one that builds the new energy economy. It won’t be easy, but it is time to ask the American people to be patriotic about something other than war.” – John Edwards
Our generation must be the one that ends our nation’s dependence on oil and ushers in a new energy economy. We need energy independence from unstable and hostile areas of the world, from global warming pollution, and from the old ways of doing business. If we harness American ingenuity to reach for transformative change, we can emerge from the crisis of global warming with a new energy economy that stimulates innovation, brings the family farm back to life, and creates more than 1 million jobs in America’s farms and industries. Today, John Edwards called for America to embrace three great goals for this generation:
- Halt global warming by capping and reducing greenhouse gas pollution and leading the world to a new global climate change treaty.
- Create a new energy economy and 1 million new jobs by investing in clean, renewable energy, sparking innovation, a new era in American industry, and life in family farms.
- Meet the demand for new electricity through efficiency for the next decade, instead of producing more power.
As a result of the Edwards plan, by 2025 America will import 7.5 million fewer barrels of oil a day, produce 65 billion gallons of ethanol and other biofuels a year, generate 25 percent of our electricity from renewable sources, and produce more than 2 billion fewer tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year. Within a generation, America’s cars and trucks will be virtually petroleum-free.
Halting Global Warming by Capping Carbon Emissions
The planet has gotten nearly 1 degree Fahrenheit hotter over the past 30 years and will get another degree hotter due to greenhouse gas pollution already in the atmosphere. The ten hottest years on record have all occurred since 1990. If we don’t change course soon, we will see dramatic climate changes and a different planet. The last time the Earth was 4 or 5 degrees warmer — 3 million years ago — there was no ice in the Arctic and sea levels were 80 feet higher. [Hansen, 2/26/2007; NRDC, 2007]
- Earlier this year, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — an international network of over 2,000 climate scientists — concluded that evidence of global warming is “unequivocal” and human activity is “very likely” the cause. [NYT, 2/3/2007]
- Next month, the panel is expected to report that, without changes, within decades climate change could cause hundreds of millions of people to suffer water shortages and tens of millions to be flooded out of their homes annually. By 2080, hundreds of millions could starve. [AP, 3/11/2007]
The Edwards Plan:
- Cap and Reduce Global Warming Pollution: Edwards will set an economy-wide limit on the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. He will build on the precedent of the Clean Air Act of 1990 — which limited pollution causing acid rain through a sulfur dioxide cap-and-trade system — to reduce pollution in a cost-effective and flexible manner.
- Use Science to Set the Caps: Edwards will cap greenhouse gases at levels that the latest climate science has determined to be necessary to avoid the worst impacts of global warming. He will cap greenhouse pollution starting in 2010, reduce it by 15 percent by 2020, and reduce it by 80 percent by 2050, consistent with the most aggressive plans under consideration in Washington.
- Make Polluters Pay: Edwards will auction off a portion of the pollution permits to raise $10 billion a year for a New Energy Economy Fund to jumpstart clean, renewable, and efficient energy technologies and create 1 million jobs. Other permits will be sold or given away.
- Lead the World toward a New Global Climate Change Treaty: Climate change is an international problem and the U.S. can never solve it alone. China is building the equivalent of one large coal-fired power plant a week and is expected to pass the U.S. as the world’s largest polluter of carbon dioxide in 2009. [NYT, 3/17/2007; WSJ, 3/3/2007]
To lead the world toward a new, effective climate change treaty, Edwards will:
- Make Our Own Commitments to Restore Our Moral Leadership: The U.S. has 4 percent of the world’s population but produces a quarter of its carbon dioxide emissions. It is one of only three developed nations that has refused to limit its greenhouse gas pollution. By adopting caps, Edwards will help the U.S. regain credibility in the world without sacrificing American competitiveness. [Irish Times, 2/14/2007; Greenwire, 10/31/2006]
- Involve Developing Economies: Any climate change treaty must include developing countries, which emit significant amounts of carbon and could otherwise serve as a haven for polluters. However, these nations are poorer than the U.S. and emit far less carbon per capita. To bring them to the table, Edwards will share America’s clean energy technology in exchange for binding greenhouse reduction commitments. If necessary, he will insist that strong labor and environmental standards in our trade deals include commitments on climate change. This new deal will require global participation, promote shared responsibility, and let American workers and businesses compete on a level playing field.
Creating the New Energy Economy and 1 Million Jobs
In the past, America squandered opportunities to lead the world in energy technology. Bell Labs invented the solar cell in New Jersey in 1954, but today 90 percent of solar panels are manufactured overseas. GM made the first modern electric car, but today Toyota and Honda lead the world in hybrid cars. Oil companies are slow to sell alternative fuels at their gas stations, while Brazil increased the share of new cars that run on ethanol from 4 percent to 70 percent in only three years. [Economist, 3/10/2007; HybridCars.com, 2007; GM, 2007; Edmunds.com, 2007; Khosla, 2006]
John Edwards believes that American entrepreneurs, farmers and manufacturers can lead the world in technology to generate clean, reliable energy and use it more efficiently. “Clean tech” is the hottest new area of venture capital funding. California-based Tesla Motors sells an electric roadster that gets 135 miles a gallon and can go from 0-to-60 in four seconds. In rural America, hundreds of small renewable energy companies are generating new jobs in ethanol and other biofuels, wind, and solar. The increased demand for the machinery of renewable energy — such as wind turbines, solar panels and biomass engines — is an opportunity to create “green collar” jobs and reenergize America’s manufacturing sector. [Newsweek, 6/21/2006; Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, 2006; Makower, Pernick, and Wilder, 2006; Apollo Alliance, 2006]
The Edwards Plan:
- Create the New Energy Economy Fund: To jumpstart our investment in the future, Edwards will create the $13 billion-a-year New Energy Economy Fund. The fund will be financed by greenhouse gas polluters through the sale of emission permits and by ending taxpayer giveaways for big oil companies, including special tax subsidies and sweetheart terms in offshore drilling leases. The resources will double the Department of Energy’s budget for efficiency and renewable energy, accelerate new energy technologies to market and help new businesses get started, encourage consumers to buy efficient products, and provide transition assistance to workers in carbon-intensive industries.
- Invest in Renewable Sources of Electricity: Renewable energy has been seen as socially desirable but costly. However, wind is already competitive with conventional sources in many markets. Solar could be competitive within three to eight years. [RAND, 2006; Economist, 3/10/2007]
- Make 25 Percent of Our Energy Renewable: Edwards will require power companies to generate 25 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2025. A large expansion of renewable energy can reduce costs under current trends, according to a 2006 RAND study. In Texas, a similar requirement achieved its goals quickly with negligible costs through the accelerated development of wind power. [RAND, 2006]
- Dedicate Resources to Renewable Energy: Edwards will double the Department of Energy research budget, allowing it to reduce the cost and accelerate the marketability of current technologies to put clean solar, wind, and biomass into more communities. He will also encourage private investment by making permanent tax credits for the production of renewable energy; they currently expire at the end of 2008.
- Maximize the Potential of Cleaner, Safer Coal: Coal will be an important source of U.S. and global electricity for decades, but it is responsible for more than 30 percent of America’s carbon dioxide emissions. Edwards will invest $1 billion a year to research ways to burn coal cleanly and recycle its carbon underground permanently. He will also strengthen mine safety laws to ensure it is mined safely. Two large power companies, TXU and American Electric Power, recently announced plans to build experimental plants to capture carbon. [NYT, 3/15/2007 and 3/17/2007; McFarland, Herzog, and Jacoby, 2007]
- Transform the Auto Industry to Lead the World in Cars of the Future: Edwards believes that everyone should be able to drive the car, truck or SUV of their choice and still enjoy high fuel economy. American automakers have the ingenuity to lead the world in building the clean, safe, economical cars of the future.
- Reduce Oil Imports by 7.5 Million Barrels a Day by 2025: America’s need for imported oil forces it to rely on unstable and even hostile countries. Edwards called for a national goal to reduce oil imports by 7.5 million barrels a day by 2025 – nearly a third of the oil projected to be used in 2025 — and get us on the path toward energy independence. [DOE, 2007]
- Help U.S. Automakers Modernize: Edwards will provide $1 billion a year to help U.S. automakers advance and apply the latest technology, including biofuels, hybrid and electric cars, hydrogen fuel cells, ultra-light materials, and drive train improvements. These resources will be financed from the New Energy Economy Fund and also help manufacturers meet higher fuel economy requirements. With a strong ethanol industry that includes cellulosic ethanol and hybrid and electric technology, American cars and trucks can be virtually petroleum-free within a generation.
- Produce 65 Billion Gallons of Ethanol a Year by 2025: However, although millions of ethanol-ready cars are on the roads, only about 600 of the 169,000 gas stations have pumps for E85, a blend of ethanol and gasoline. Edwards will require oil companies to install ethanol pumps at 25 percent of their gas stations and require all new cars sold after 2010 to be “flex fuel” cars running on either gasoline or biofuel. The New Economy Energy Fund will develop new methods of producing and using ethanol, including cellulosic ethanol, and offer loan guarantees to new refineries. [RAND, 2006; DOE, 2005; USDA, 2005]
- Raise Fuel Economy Standards: American cars and trucks are less efficient than they were two decades ago, despite the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards. Standards in China, Japan, and the European Union are between 40 and 100 percent higher. Edwards will raise standards to 40 miles per gallon by 2016, a step that could single-handedly reduce oil demand by 4 million barrels per day. [Pew Center on Global Climate Change, 2004; Reicher, 2007]
- Open the Electricity Grids to Distributed and Renewable Generation: Traditionally, electricity has been produced at large, central power plants and transmitted through miles of power lines. Distributed generation of electricity promises reliable, clean, cost-effective production that is less vulnerable to natural disasters and attacks. Farms, factories, schools, and communities ought to be able to establish their own power sources and compete with traditional plants to sell wholesale capacity, as New England has pioneered. [DOE, 2000; New England ISO, 2006]
To open up the grid to innovation, Edwards will:
- Create Millions of Local Sources of Renewable Energy: Edwards will provide up to a $5,000 tax credit for homes and small businesses that invest in onsite generation of renewable energy like solar, wind, and geothermal power. He will also encourage local generation of renewable energy through “net metering,” which allows families to sell extra power back to utilities for credits against their electricity bills.
- Encourage Distributed Generation: Edwards will cut the red tape that hinders new energy producers from selling their power to the grid. He will require utilities to consider distributed generation as a means of lowering costs compared to new investments in centralized production and transmission.
- Research the Next Generation of Small Scale Renewable Energy: Edwards will invest in researching more profitable sources of renewable energy generation. For example, biomass engines producing both heat and power that can be three times more efficient than traditional distribution. [Hill, 2001]
Meet the Demand for More Electricity through Efficiency
Americans can get more power out of the electricity now available, typically at half the cost of producing more supply. Duke Energy CEO James Rogers calls efficiency the “fifth fuel,” and energy expert Amory Lovins says that “efficiency is cheaper than fuel.” Between 1977 and 1985, the economy grew by 27 percent while oil use fell by 17 percent. Once again, there are large energy savings possible today in energy generation, transmission, and use in homes, factories, and offices. For example, if every home installed five compact fluorescent lightbulbs, it would eliminate the need for 21 power plants. However, in our current system, utilities earn profits by selling power not meeting energy needs more efficiently. Ordinary Americans often lack the tools they need to use energy more efficiently. [ACEEE, 2006; Reicher, 2007; Globe and Mail, 2/24/2007; The New Yorker, 1/22/2007; McKinsey, 2006]
The Edwards Plan:
- Meet New Demand for Electricity through Efficiency for the Next Decade: Electricity demand is projected to increase by 1.5 percent a year between 2008 and 2018, on average. Edwards called for a national goal of meeting this demand by getting more power out of the electricity we use now, instead of producing more electricity. As a result, electricity use would be 15 lower by 2018 and renewable energy would have a better opportunity to gain market share. Increased efficiency includes managing peaks in demand and modernizing the electric grid and is largely achievable with current technology. [DOE, 2007; EPA Energy Star, 2006]
- Make Efficiency Profitable for Utilities: Most utilities profit from selling electricity, even when it would be cheaper to help their customers use less energy. Edwards will call on states to decouple utilities’ energy profits from sales, as California and nine other states have done, so they can focus on serving customer needs. States can also reward utilities for meeting green energy targets. [National Regulatory Research Institute, 2006]
- Expand Smart Meters and Smart Grids to Use Energy More Wisely: By simultaneously displaying energy use and price, smart meters encourage consumers to use less energy and to use energy when it can be generated less expensively. Utilities can also use information technology to monitor electricity demand, allowing them to plan their production more efficiently. [Nemtzow, 2007; Regulatory Assistance Project, 2006]
- Invest in Weatherized Homes and More Efficient Buildings and Appliances: Upgrading home furnaces, ducts, windows, and insulation can cut energy bills by 20 to 40 percent, year after year. However, the existing Department of Energy weatherization program reaches only 100,000 homes a year while more than 28 million remain eligible. Similarly, appliance efficiency standards have greatly reduced the energy use of refrigerators and air conditioners, but better use of the Energy Star program could save even more. Edwards will reverse the Bush budget cuts to the weatherization program and instead expand it to $500 million a year. He will call on states to create updated energy building codes. Finally, he will raise federal efficiency standards for appliances and maximize the potential of the Energy Star program by working to get more efficient appliances in stores and educating buyers and builders. [Reicher, 2007; ACEEE 2005]
- Reduce the U.S. Government’s Energy Use by 20 Percent and Make the White House Carbon Neutral. The U.S. government is the nation’s single largest energy consumer, with a $15 billion energy bill in 2005. However, its investments in energy efficiency have been cut in half since 2001. Edwards will overhaul federal buildings and vehicles to emphasize efficiency, reducing the use of energy by 20 percent, and expand the government’s use of renewable sources. After taking energy efficiency steps at the White House, he will purchase carbon offsets to make it carbon-neutral. [DOE, 2006; Alliance to Save Energy, 2007]
- Create GreenCorps: Idealistic young Americans can help fight climate change by conducting volunteer energy audits, weatherizing homes, installing home solar panels, and training neighborhood groups to do the same. Edwards will create a GreenCorps within AmeriCorps to create opportunities for them to serve