To facilitate comparisons I broke down the candidates' energy plans into 14 significant policy areas, with an additional note on the detail level of the plans and a final "miscellaneous" category for special ideas found in each. Every one of the proposals has something that seems unique and useful, but not all will do as much to solve our energy and climate problems.
|Energy policy area||Edwards||Obama||Richardson||Clinton|
|Plan detail level||Medium||Low||High||Low|
|CO2 reduction goal||15% by 2020, 80% by 2050||80% by 2050||20% by 2020, 80% by 2040, 90% by 2050||No policy|
|Post-Kyoto||Yes: binding greenhouse reductions in trade agreements||After we take first step; help developing countries with our technology||Mandatory world-wide limits, help finance leapfrogging in developing countries||No policy|
|CAFE||40 mpg by 2016||4% annual increase||35 mpg by 2016, 50 by 2020||No policy|
|Renewable electric standard||25% by 2025||No policy||30% by 2020, 50% by 2040||20% by 2020|
|Bio-fuels||Goal of 65 billion gallons/year by 2025 (corn ethanol first, then cellulosic)||National Low Carbon Fuel Standard: reduce fossil carbon in fuels by 5% in 2015, 10% in 2020; expand E85 and biodiesel||life-cycle low carbon fuel standard - 30% lower by 2020||Part of Strategic Energy Fund|
|Carbon tax or cap and trade?||Cap and trade||Cap and trade||Cap and trade||Cap and trade|
|"Clean coal"||freeze on new coal power until sequestration in place||No freeze; use cap and trade market to decide||by 2020 new plants have to emit 90% below today's||Fund R&D on "clean coal"|
|Energy R&D||$13 billion/year New Energy Economy fund||No policy||Energy and Climate Investment Trust Fund - several billion dollars/year||Part of Strategic Energy Fund|
|Solar/wind production tax credit||make permanent||No policy||10-year extension; add storage technology tax credit||No policy|
|Oil company subsidies||Repeal||No subsidies that increase global warming||Invite oil companies to become energy companies||Eliminate tax breaks, create new "Strategic energy fund" - oil companies can invest in renewable energy themselves, or pay into the fund|
|Distributed generation||$5000 tax credit, R&D, smart meters, smart grids||No policy||No policy||No policy|
|Public transportation||No policy||No policy||increase funding, tax incentives for passengers||No policy|
|Buildings||weatherizing and other efficiency||No policy||goal of 50% savings by 2030; incentives and regulations on retrofits and new buildings||No policy|
|Improving Efficiency||Goal-based; cut US govt energy use 20%, add R&D dollars||Market-based; don't prejudge what works||Strong federal standards; efficiency resource program through utilities||Market-based; invest in R&D|
|Other ideas||GreenCorps - volunteers adding renewable/efficient infrastructure||domestic auto makers get health care assistance for efficiency investments||100 mpg car, smart growth, bike and walking trails, more specifics||"Apollo Project-like program" for energy independence|
All of these are significant improvements over present US energy policy. Senators Clinton and Obama have actually introduced some of their ideas as legislative proposals this session, but so far they haven't won enough support to be enacted into law. Richardson and Edwards clearly favor government regulatory-based approaches to improving efficiency and introducing technologies, rather than the more market-based approaches of Clinton and Obama, though even Obama introduces regulatory constraints with his CAFE improvements and Low Carbon Fuel standard, and they all force regulation through "cap and trade" and post-Kyoto international agreements, something Republicans have clamored against for decades now.
I don't think any of these plans is perfect, but all will be helpful. If I've misinterpreted or missed something from one of their policy statements on energy, please let me know.