Ask the Experts: Obama Energy Goals Realistic?

January, 2011

read the whole debate

During his State of the Union speech last evening, President Obama articulated two national goals that jumped out at me: 80% of electricity from "clean" energy by 2035 and one million electric vehicles "on the road" by 2015 (just five years from now). 

An optimistic view was offered by Dan Kammen, on leave from UC Berkeley as green energy "Czar" at the World Bank:

"This goal, which sounded exceedingly optimistic only a few years ago, is now one that we can absolutely shoot for. In an electricity modeling effort that I have been doing, a modest price on carbon and smart growth policies consistently gets to 60% decarbonized (relative to the 1990 baseline, not the current level). This would put the country well on the way to the 80% 2035 target. A steady stream of innovation and progressive policy choices is needed, but it is entirely in the range of goals that could be pursued as we think about scale-ups of wind, solar, geothermal, and ocean energy, and then potentially the two most controversial ones of carbon capture and nuclear power (pending regional resource, political, and risk appetites)."

State looks for way to mediate costs of electric cars

January, 2011
ABC Local

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The push to get more electric cars out on the road comes with a wrinkle. California's tiered rate system was put in place to discourage high energy use and make the state more green. The more electricity you use, the higher the rate.

A new Purdue University study says that means Californians will end up paying the highest costs for charging electric cars. The Purdue study shows a plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt for example, would increase a household's electrical usage by 60 percent.

Even accounting for charging at night at off-peak rates, the Purdue study says costs in California will still be higher than elsewhere because the state's rates are 35 percent higher than the national average.

UC Berkeley renewable energy expert Dan Kammen is currently writing the World Bank's energy strategy. He says the Purdue study is premature.

"California has been working through the governor's office and California Energy Commission, the PUC and Air Resources Board on a system to make the state ready for electric vehicles and that would involve special charging rates, special times, charging centers where you can bring in fleet vehicles or private vehicles to charge," Kammen said.
"California is working through important and innovative plans to make these vehicles the first choice for motorists whether private or fleets and take advantage of the fact that electricity is so low carbon," Kammen said.

The Ecological Impact of Biofuels

Fargione JE, Plevin RJ, Hill JD.  2010.  The Ecological Impact of Biofuels. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics. 41(1):351-377.