The Healing Elements of Obama's Energy Plan


Barack Obama unveiled his energy plan in Lansing today, the capital of the state of Michigan, primary home of the US auto industry.

There are two elements in particular of Obama's energy plan that deserve special attention for the healing touch they apply: to combat vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and to the ailing US auto industry.

And lord knows they -- and this nation -- need a healing touch.

In this energy plan, Obama recognizes that 837,000 troops have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As President, Barack Obama will ensure that more of our veterans can enter the new energy economy. He will create a new “Green Vet Initiative” that will have two missions: first it will offer counseling and job placement to help veterans gain the skills to enter this rapidly growing field; second, it will work with industry partners to create career pathways and educational programs.

Sent to fight a war on terror, many vets now know -- or will have to admit it soon enough -- that they ended up fighting an oil war instead; and there's a great danger lurking -- that they will feel used and sidelined after having served the nation at the risk of their lives. Embracing this fighting force and turning them toward the battle for a new global energy economy is simultaneously uplifting, pragmatic and healing.

Similarly, Obama recognizes the debt the nation owes to its auto industry, which for a century provided the backbone of American prosperity. It could not have been an accident that he chose to deliver his energy plan in Michigan, where he offered a vision of a bold future, way beyond what any US auto company CEO has ever dared to imagine: an industry revitalized by the manufacture of plug-in hybrid cars that get 150 mpg.

Obama will also provide $4 billion retooling tax credits and loan guarantees for domestic auto plants and parts manufacturers, so that the new fuel‐efficient cars can be built in the U.S. by American workers rather than overseas. This measure will strengthen the U.S. manufacturing sector and help ensure that American workers will build the high‐demand cars of the future.

At the heart of the plan is a target to put 1 million of these vehicles on the road by 2015, with the federal government a primary guaranteed customer. Nobody until now has floated a plan for the rescue of Detroit that makes so much sense, aligning the business success of the industry with both domestic job creation and national energy security.

There's much more to the plan, which Joe Romm of Climate Progress called "easily the best energy plan ever put forward by a nominee of either party" in his detailed summary of the plan's elements. If you want to see the plan for yourself, go here (pdf).

Response from the Republican side has been predicatbly immature: mockery combined with false complaints, and a pseudo-heroic promise from McCain that he'd leave the campaign trail to vote to open up domestic waters to drilling. Bill Scher, on his blog, was rude enough to point out that McCain couldn't be bothered to show up in the Senate when the vote was for renewable energy. His missing vote helped fellow Republicans enforce a filibuster that sunk federal support for clean tech three times.

The media, for its part, seemed intent on helping the opposition by becoming fixated on playing a game of flip-flop detection. The focus of coverage has been on whether Obama has shifted his position on offshore drilling and the opening of the strategic petroleum reserve. Both ABC and AP thought this was the most important facet of the energy plan story to emphasize.

Must be they've just gotten too used to an infallible chief executive who can't think of any mistakes he's ever made, and so cannot fathom a man who might change his mind, or learn something new, or soften a postion to achieve a bipartisan result. Come on guys and gals, try thinking about the substance of the plan instead of regurgitating opposition talking points!

The energy plan as a whole contains most of the right stuff. But these two elements alone -- and the way they are articulated -- point to a healing political touch that makes the opposition's cynical sniping and the media coverage that much harder to stomach.

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  • Posted on Aug. 7, 2008. Listed in:

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