Amanda Little is a distinguished environmental journalist, so one might expect that her book Power Trip: From Oil Wells to Solar Cells -- Our Ride to the Renewable Future would be edged with a certain disdain for those industries that relay heavily on oil. But instead, as she writes about her her visits to oil rigs, NASCAR races and everything inbetween we find her taking an honest, non-judgmental look at many petroleum-loving cultures. As you read Power Trip you see an author enjoying the trip -- meeting military leaders, farmers and even T. Boone Pickens -- much to her own surprise. There's never a feeling of elitism in her writing, she honestly wants to know how we got to our current energy crisis, so we have a chance of getting ourselves out.
We asked Little what her thoughts were on Obama's proposed drilling plans and her hopes for Obama's larger energy strategy.
Glo: Do you think President Obama's new offshore drilling plan is a necessary evil right now to get America off of foreign oil?
The offshore drilling plan will do next to nothing to get America off of foreign oil, but I support it nevertheless. It's a necessary evil for political reasons--a gambit designed to win votes for climate policy. A number of Senators who have been withholding support for the climate bill have complained that America isn't doing enough to develop its own oil reserves. Offhore drilling is a political concession-- and I think, a necessary concession -- that will bring Republicans to the table on comprehensive energy and climate policy and, if all goes well, garner new votes.
Glo: In defense of his plan, Obama said, ... this announcement is part of a broader strategy that will move us from an economy that runs on fossil fuels and foreign oil to one that relies more on homegrown fuels and clean energy. And the only way this transition will succeed is if it strengthens our economy in the short and long term. Is this really the best short term plan?
The climate bill will add a cost to carbon, which will in turn make renewable and alternative fuels more cost-competitive with fossil fuels, accelerating the shift to a clean energy economy. The benefits of getting climate legislation passed outweigh the burdens of opening up coastal regions to oil exploration and development.
Glo: What do you hope to see in the rest of Obamas energy strategy?
We need a bold price on carbon -- that is the holy grail. Bold enough to begin leveling the playing field between renewables and fossil fuels, to drive innovation in clean technologies and make America competitive in the global economy. Props to the Obama administration's recent decision to finalize standards for CO2 emissions from vehicles--a huge step given that transportation acounts for nearly a third of our greenhouse gas emissions. I'd like to see a much more aggressive push for research and development in clean tech-- particularly on the smart grid and batteries or other energy storage devices that can dispatch renewable energies on demand.
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