I am currently in India for work, so watching the Presidential Debates at times is difficult. Because I am 12.5 hours ahead of the US west coast, they usually start between 5.30 am and 6.30 am. We leave for the office at 7am, so I rarely get to see a full debate, even if I feel the overwhelming desire to wake up early. But I had decided to get up early and watch the last debate.
The VP of the company, who is also over here with me, said to one of the people at the site “Well, Matt needs to watch the debate to make up his mind who to vote for.” Which is silly because the day Joe Biden pulled out of the primaries I knew who I was going to vote for. But it did make me take a step back and think about what were the reasons I was voting for Obama.
1. Iraq War- Turns out that whoever the next president is will probably have three-quarters of the troops out by 2012 because that is what the Iraqi leaders are going to demand. So the difference between McCain and Obama in the real world, not the campaign trail, is negligible.
2. Afghanistan- Here Obama gets the nod because as a Democrat, he will be better positioned to bring in NATO and EU alies to create a solution. McCain, who stood in line behind Rumsfeld in leading the charge to Iraq represents the neo-conservative interventionist foreign policy that so much of “Old Europe strongly dislikes. Also, he has a much more cogent policy towards Pakistan, which is going to qualify as a failed state in six months. However, the distinctions are again minimal in the real world. Both will be able to go to NATO countries with fresh faces and fresh plans and be able to ask them for their ideas and assistance. France, Germany, possibly even Japan would be willing to send more support troops and possible even special forces if the US was more recognizing of the needs of these countries and more congenial towards them.
3. Energy/Environment- I group these two together because we need to realize that going forward, they need to be linked. Environmental degradation, especially climate change, is caused by our abuses of energy and not finding solutions. Problems that have been staring at us for 50 years! I am a firm believer that we are sowing our own destruction. But more so, the United States and Europe will not be hurt relatively as much as developing and third world nations who’s population are particularly dependent on the changing environment and at a dangerous risk from changing climate and rising sea levels.
4. Gay Rights – It is pretty hard to get further to the left of me on Gay Rights. This coupled with Obama’s long held view on Iraq has led me to vote for him. McCain’s position is still reactionist and is a blatant rejection of the human rights that we preach in this country.
5. Reproductive Rights – McCain’s selection of Palin truly made his opinion on this matter clear. McCain has long claimed to be a proponent of the Pro-Life stance, though there wre many doubts as he began his run. I firmly hold the belief that abortions should be avoided. We should encourage adoption and do everything we can from morning after pills to spreading condoms to sex education to decrease teenage pregnancy and other solutions to prevent pregnancy. But to me, it is still a woman’s right to choose. McCain believes he has the right to take that choice away.
I admit that when McCain won the Republican nomination, that I would rather have either Obama or Biden, and possibly even Hillary, but I would not have had major issue with him. His historical political positions that for the most part I agree with (other than gay rights and abortion). He is the first Repulican to embrace global climate change propose legislation to help solve the problem. He was one of the first to criticise the Bush Administration for their failures in administering Iraq. He was anti-torture and anti-tax breaks (a position he has since flip-flopped on, sadly). He believes generally in less regulation, which in general, is usually a good thing (the devil is in the details, as they say.) However, when he chose The Idiot Sarah Palin as his running mate, he lost any ability to receive my vote. Unless of course Obama admitted that he was a secret-Muslim-terrorist hell bent on race wars and using his Christian Pastor Jeremiah Wright to rewrite the constitution.
McCain’s positions above made me believe that Obama was the best candidate to lead this country. His ability to unite this country and possibly to unite the world behind a world led by America were reasons I could fully support his candidacy. McCain’s obvious drawbacks made him have to do something very special to win my vote. Below, I list out what he needs to do to gain that vote.
I want McCain to propose an environmental plan that radically changes how we look at the world.
First world nations, who have led the charge to deposit CO2 into the atmosphere, have the obligation to clean it up, even if India and China won’t follow immediately. They will soon have no choice as environmental awareness and assurance of sustainability becomes apart of international trade and finance agreements. But we, as America, as the highest per-capital distributor of CO2, should lead the charge. What does McCain have to do?
1. Explain that the US will immediately start acting upon its obligations of the Kyoto Protocol. This basically limits our Greenhouse gases and enters us into the International Emissions Trading Scheme.
2. The US will lead the charge in creating a new internatioanl agreement that will follow Kyoto after it is over in 2012. The US must lead and must do its best to engage India, China, Russia, and Brazil, the four largest emerging economies and some of the biggest polluters in the world. It is very important to engage these countries as over the next 50 years, they will be the drivers of the international economy. These countries must have engagement and some ownership of it. Getting them involved in the process is extremely important.
Even if China and India decide to not sign on to this new treaty the US must lead. China and India have basically made the argument that the western world released carbon during their industrialization; now it would unfair to limit their carbon emissions during their industrialization. It is a realistic argument. However, it is very bad in terms of the environment. The US must continue to encourage rapprochement with the two countries. Because both have so many people in such environmentally precarious areas, they are both more at risk for natural disasters and man made environmental destruction destroying human welfare than the US. They will come around and the US needs to make sure that every opportunity exists for them to come into the climate control regime at the earliest possible moment. Hopefully, India and China will eventually be the leaders.
3. The US will insititute a carbon tax on industry in the US. Economists internationally favor the carbon tax over a cap-and-trade scheme because it does much more to limit carbon emissions and it doesn’t create a false market, like a cap-and-trade scheme can. Also, a carbon tax is fairer to small and medium sized companies.
4. McCain will take back his ridiculous $300b proposal to buy mortgages (at book price!) and use that money instead to generate alternative energy. Specifically, investments in solar, wind (offshore wind is particularly interesting), tidal, geothermal, and yes, even nuclear. He will do this by creating a government venture capital firm that will be pledged to create alternative energy technologies. This government venture capital firm will be managed by ______. Ok, so I originally thought Al Gore would be a fantastic choice, however, I realize that many people are not fans of him. So how about someone appointed by McCain and must be approved by the Seante.
5. McCain will pledge a new law to increase CAFE standards, the mileage standards for motor vehicle fleets in the US to increase the average to 40 mpg before 2015. Currently, the goal is 35 mpg by 2020, as signed into law in Jan 2007. However, this law has numerous waivers that car manufacturers can apply for. McCain should reject those waivers. The technology exists. We have cars that easily get 40 or 50 mpg. Right now. We have hybrid technology that can help the heavy trucks necessary for construction to shift their petrol usage when they aren’t working hard. We need to continue to decrease the amount of petrol we consume, and the carbon that we emit from it. Petroleum, petrol, or gasoline in the US makes up a full 44 percent! of our carbon emissions.
We must move away from large SUV’s. We must drive less. We must embrace smaller cars and car pooling, taking the bus, and biking.
6. McCain will mandate that every single power municipality must provide the ability for homeowners and business to sell excess energy generated by renewable forms back to the municipality. Specifically, we need solar cells on every house. We need a wind turbine in the back yard of every home in America. Every farmer should power their home from wind. Every apartment complex should power the AC and heat from solar cells. Solar cells are currently going thru a revolution where they will not have to be in the sunniest areas of the world, will not have to be kept pointed directly at the sun to work, and most imporantly, are cheap. If municipalities focus on this, we can start to decrease our dependence on coal and oil in this country. Coal makes up over 50% of the power in the electrical lines. Natural Gas makes up another 16%. If we can reduce those two items we can cut the amount of carbon emissions significantly.
Currently, many US states use net-metering, where individuals can sell power back to the electrical grid, and get credit for it. However, most states limit the amount of energy individuals can sell back to the grid.
As the US is short on energy, and energy costs are increasing, we need more energy. Also, in many cities and states individuals don’t get the same price for the energy they sell as the energy they purchase. That is in fact non net-metering at all.
And yes, Tacoma does have a net-metering program. You should go get involved.
7. McCain will double the tax incentive for efficient buildings from $1.80/sq ft to $3.60. As we have greater incentives to produce more energy efficient buildings, we can decrease our dependence on oil and coal. There are also significant incentives in place already to encourage efficient buildings. These should be expanded so that new buildings are encouraged to install their own energy supplies. So that new buildings do a better job incorporating public transporation and bycicling employees.
8. Create greater incentives for nuclear power plants. Many people object to nuclear power plants because they are obviously dangerous. And they do produce waste that is extremely difficult to get rid of. However, with Breeder Reactors a significant amount of waste is destroyed. Also, the limited amount of nuclear waste created by nuclear reactors is less of a detriment to our environment then the billions of pounds of carbon b
eing emitted into the atmosphere. McCain claims already he wants 45 new reactors by 2030. Hopefully, with the above steps, that many won’t be necessary.
9. Massive investment in batteries. One of the largest problems with solar, wind and tidal power is that it is inconsistent. The sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow. Tidal power is subject to massive infrastructure issues and easily breaks. Because industry needs a constant supply of power, occaisionally losing power due to loss of wind is unacceptable. We need battery power to be able to store up power that is being produced so that it can be used at a later date. Coal and nuclear power plants are great because they provide a constant energy supply. Petrol is great because as long as it is in the car, power is available. But solar energy is hard to find at midnight. We need an expansion of batteries in cars so that cars no longer are dependent upon petrol stations to function. Can batteries eventually power a house or an apartment complex? We won’t know until we try.
11. Carbon Sequestering – This is one of the most complex issues and also very difficult to articulate. Even if we continue to reduce the amount of carbon emmissions, the amount of carbon going into the atmosphere is still increasing at an absolute levels. We need a way to reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. That basically means more plants and using carbon sequestering to take carbon out of the air and pump to the bottom of the ocean or into old coal mines. We are almost to the point where the technology is commercially viable. It needs to be in place now.
1. CAFE Standards increase as described above
2. Renewable energy provides 40% of the energy in the US by 2020. Currently it is at 15%.
3. 10% of carbon released by businesses and power plants sequestered by 2015. 30% by 2020. 75% by 2050.
4. 25% of all energy should come from net-meetering related activity by 2020.
The reason that this is so important right now is that our economy is heading into a very bad place. The financial crisis and the drying up of credit is starting to have an impact on businesses. Various other indicators of economic performance from jobless rates to the purchasing manager’s index (PMI) are all showing the economy is in a downturn, possible already in recession, and quite probably headed into depression. Almost all economists agree that the the best way for governments to drive economies out of depressions is to increase spending, usually on public works in order to create jobs. McCain could create a plan to do that. Paul Krugman, the most recent winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics (yes, it was done for work 20 years ago, but still) has already started arguing for broad public infrastructure projects.
As the economy declines we will need to create jobs. Green collar jobs in America, leading the environmental and energy revolution is how we should proceed. Significant money to find winners in solar, wind, tidal and geothermal will provide us technologies that we can sell to the rest of the world. America was once the most dominant country in terms of computer technology. We need to create another type of technology dominance. During this economic downturn, there isn’t a better time to try to fix our massive environmental issues and energy dependence.
As I said above, right now, Obama has my vote. His positions on other issues outside of the environmental/energy are clearly closer to what I hold. But also, his energy policy pushes the United States much more towards alternative energy and getting away from dependence on foreign dictators. McCain advocated for offshore drilling, energy solutions that would have no impact within 10 years. His running mate has advocated drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR) even though that would also have no impact within 10 years, and would produce .4% to 1.2% of the world’s oil (for consumption in 2030, the estimate when it would hit the market).
McCain’s plans to get us away from oil simply aren’t good enough. He needs to do more to get me support him. The plan listed above would get me on board. I sincerely hope he does propose it.