Common Tragedies

Thoughts on Environmental Economics

Obama and King Coal

Posted by Rich Sweeney on November 15, 2007

The tar sands article I just posted about also briefly mentioned the Coal-to-Liquid Fuel Promotion Act, introduced earlier this year by Jim Bunning and Barack Obama. This act would provide tax subsidies and loan guarantees for plants to invest in CTL. I knew that Obama was big on coal (he’s from Illinois), but I had forgotten about this specific bill when I posted on the energy platforms of the 08 front runners. While I’m all for letting the market decide which fuels we use once carbon restrictions are in place, subsidizing CTL now is insane. Especially given that there is still tremendous uncertainty as to if and where we’ll be able to capture and store carbon.

For me, this bill significantly undermines Obama’s green credentials. To steal a phrase from former Canadian Environmental Minister Charles Caccia, pledging to fight global warming on the one hand while subsidizing CTL on the other is “attempting to ride two horses galloping in opposite directions.”

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