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Posted on on October 22nd, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

The Candidates on Energy Policy

Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) Issue Tracker – ENERGY.

Updated: October 21, 2012

The cost and availability of energy resources have become contentious issues in the United States amid slow economic growth and high unemployment. On the presidential campaign trail, Republican candidate Mitt Romney has blamed rising gas prices on President Barack Obama’s decision to temporarily block construction of the Keystone oil pipeline from Canada to the United States. Obama, meanwhile, has called for investing in alternative energy sources to reduce U.S. dependence on oil and gas.

Still, both candidates have advocated for a reduction in foreign oil imports and for an expansion of U.S. energy production in order to boost the economy and create new jobs. They also agree that increasing energy independence is critical to national security. However, Obama and Romney are at odds over the role government should play in subsidizing energy production–as well as which sectors should be favored–and regulating its environmental impact.


ENERGY was the subject of two Fareed Zakaria programs on CNN/GPS this Sunday.

The second hour-long program was titled GLOBAL LESSONS and told us for a starter that Bill Gates has a dream – HE WISHES ENERGY THAT IS CHEAPER THEN COAL AND IS CLEAN – this seems to be the only way to solve the problems for our aching world – for the US as well.

President Jimmy Carter has installed solar panels on the White House roof, but they were taken down by the Republican Presidents and never put back up by the Democratic Presidents. Those panels were a mere symbol but let us not fake it – their removal was and is a badge of dishonnor to the US Presidency since Carter.

Fareed did not dwell on this but gave positive examples of forward looking countries.

Denmark, after the 1973 oil crisis unleashed on the world after the Yom Kippur war that the Arabs unleashed against Israel,  decided to climb down from its energy reliance 99% on Middle East oil and developed a wind energy industry that made it independent of oil period – this even though later they found offshore oil and gas. They keep the alternate energy afloat thanks to solid taxation of the gas pump. It is $8/gallon in Denmark and there are no complaints. Vestas is the largest wind energy company in the world. 30% of the electricity in Denmark comes currently from wind power, they intend to bring this up to 50% by 2020 and plan for a totally renewable energy base by 2050. No CO2 emissions from Denmark by that target date – no ifs or buts.
I say this because like everyone else’s their wind industry is hurt by competition from government subsidized Chinese products – so without bickering – the Danes understand that they must subsidize their own products so they can compete with the cheaper imports.

Germany developed solar power in particular and surely it is not a very sunny country. What helped was the Feed-in-tariff that obligates an electric company to buy-back of electricity from homes and other solar collector devices. The repayment time for a solar installation is 7 years in Germany and after that it is all the investors gain. This amounts to an income equal to $3000/year after 7 years. The son is the free source of energy and 2% of the Sahara desert could provide energy for the whole world. Germany went solar after the Chernobyl disaster when it was decided not to expand nuclear power. In effect Germany is in the proces of decommissioning its nuclear plants.

France decided to go nuclear  and gets 75% of its electricity this way. After Chernobyl it developed the European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) and never had an accident.

The United States did very little and now fell upon the Fracking Gas – so the system moves on by replacing coal with natural gas that is produced from oil shale strata. This is a step in the direction of a cleaner fuel but it requires serious government supervision of the industry because if gas will come out from water faucets or fires from toilets, that will be the end of this industry – never mind what other pollution occurs to the drinking water from heavy metals and chemicals.

The fifth fuel Fareed talked about is EFFICIENCY or the reduction of the need for fuel. Better insulation of homes, lighter materials for motor vehicles with the introduction of parts made of carbon fiber. Visiting with Amory Lovins at his place in Colorado you see a tropical garden that provides him with bananas and you hear of the 240 miles/gallon vehicle.

In the first program this Sunday Fareed Zakaria hosted Mr. Fred Smith the Chairman and CEO of Fed Ex company who runs 90.000 motor vehicles and 500 planes and who saw his expenses for fuel move up in the last 10 years from 4% to 6%. He said this is a consumption $1300 tax on every American. The country pays for the imported oil $350 billion/year – so the shale gas and oil are going to get the US a turn-around he said.

Then he proceeded and said that the Prius and the Xgevy Volt are great vehicles and a step in the right direction. He also said that now it is 80% cheaper to operate an electric vehicle and the expense is in the vehicle itself – this expense will decrease with better batteries. He spoke of the battery exchange system operated by “Better Place” in Denmark and ended by talking of a great future in aviation for biofuels from algae, urban waste, etc.

Our question is now – will this become part of the US 2012 Presidential Debate on Foreign Policy? The reason why the country was kept in slavery by the oil industry so that it could not follow in the steps of a Denmark or Germany and left in limbo a company like Fed Ex and every single citizen of the US? Will somebody cross his heart and declare he will re-install the Carter panels on the White House roof? Pity there was not a Susan Katz, who asked about President GW Bush, that in a positive way could have asked about the disruption of the Carter efforts on true Energy Independence – the independence from the use of oil?


But then arrived the CFR primer for the Lynn University – Third and Final 2012 Presidential Debate, and though we all understand that historically Energy means Security and is this was always the most important ingredient of US Foreign Policy, nevertheless no mention of Energy was made in this primer. We did expect from CFR to include questions on energy, though we agreed that climate change and the global environment are no subject for the 2012 US elections – BUT ENERGY?

President Barack Obama and former governor Mitt Romney will face off in Boca Raton, Florida, tonight for the final presidential debate. Here is a nonpartisan guide from CFR and Foreign Affairs on the most salient campaign issues. These and other resources can be accessed on the Campaign 2012 Project page.

The Candidates, In their Own Words

A collection of the candidates’ major speeches, statements, and op-eds. Browse the Essential Documents

Comparing the Candidates on the Issues

Fifteen continuously-updated summaries of Obama and Romney’s positions on Iran, Pakistan, defense policy, Afghanistan, and other campaign issues. View the Issue Trackers

Get Up to Speed on Foreign Policy offers more than one hundred primers on a range of issues, from the eurozone crisis to al-Qaeda. Browse Backgrounders

Tonight’s Must-Ask Questions

Four CFR fellows weigh in on the questions they believe warrant discussion during the debate. Read the Roundup

Challenges for the Next President

CFR experts look ahead at the foreign policy issues confronting the next president, including Isobel Coleman on foreign aid, Stewart Patrick on the United Nations, and Elizabeth Economy on China. Watch the Video Briefs

How the Election is Viewed Abroad

Experts from South Africa, China, Brazil, Germany, and other countries share their take on the campaign, and what’s at stake for each country’s relationship with the United States. Browse the Views from Abroad Series

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