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Energy Smart from Illinois? Foster in Congress ...

by a siegel Sun Mar 9th, 2008 at 12:50:27 AM EST

Yesterday, Illinois held a special election to fill the seat of the Dennis Hastert, the former Republican Speaker of the House, who resigned his seat.  Rather than a seemingly corrupt, extreme right-winger who (at times) makes other Republicans seem almost in the reality-based community, Illinois-14 will be sending someone of substance to the Congress, a man with serious scientific credentials and successful business experience.  Bill Foster is now Congressman Bill Foster.

In short: YEAH!

And, that is very true when it comes to the energy and environmental arenas. Oberweis would have been a disaster on, well, any energy or environmental issue that we can put on the table.  Foster should serve as a substantive voice to help guide US policy toward a prosperous, climate-friendly society.  He also is a successful businessman, which colors his positions both in good and, as will be seen, potentially dangerous ways.

Energy that is Safe, Secure and Affordable

That is the title for Foster's energy page.  A framing for a move toward a better energy future that would gain support from most Americans.

What are some of his policy concepts.

  • Global Warming: He calls for increased scientific resources toward enhancing understanding of Global Warming to help guide better decision-making as to how to address it.  As one of three physicists in Congress, his voice on scientific issues might carry more weight than what might be expected from the most junior member.
  • USG Energy Resources: Foster calls for moving from subsidizing oil drilling toward renewable energy (quite a change from a Republican holding this seat) and efforts to foster tomorrow's energy professionals.
  • Energy Conservation:  Here is an area where Foster shows an understanding of just how easy it can be and how hard it is:
Steps that Pay for Themselves: There are a large class of energy-efficiency improvements that can be made today and pay for themselves within a few years. Examples include better home insulation, replacement of old and inefficient long-haul commercial vehicles, and replacement of incandescent with fluorescent light bulbs. The reason these changes are not made are a combination of human nature, lack of time and information to make the right decisions, and day-to-day economic traps that people and businesses find themselves in.

Bill Foster believes that government has a role in helping people make the decisions that are best for themselves in the long run. This role includes: better consumer information on life-time costs, loans and other incentives to upgrade to energy-efficient insulation and lighting systems, and (as a last resort) mandatory efficiency standards for equipment.

For example, a long-haul trucker may be operating an inefficient older vehicle, but not have enough money (or credit) to buy a new one, even though the savings in diesel oil would pay for a new truck within a couple of years. In cases like this, a government backed loan to purchase a newer, efficient truck would result in energy savings for the country, more profits and income for the trucker, and eventually more tax revenue for government in a win-win-win scenario.

Okay, any disagreement?
  • R&D: Geothermal & Thermal Solar: Okay, great. These are two (of many) arenas that could likely benefit from more R&D resources.
  • Carbon Capture & Sequestration: Well, here there might be some disagreement. CCS merits R&D but not wholesale embracing or counting on it to work effectively and cost-effectively.  It might work. It might work at an affordable price.  It might ... Or, it might not.
  • Stabilization of Oil & Gas Prices:  Not sure how much power the USG truly has here, unless some form of tax enables controlling the price more than OPEC and the oil majors do.
  • Worldwide CO2 market. Foster supports a Cap & Trade, a mandatory, global program. "Although many mechanisms can provide a market price for carbon emissions, Bill Foster prefers a market-based, cap & trade system to promote a reduction in CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions in the US. This provides an immediate money-making incentive to companies to reduce pollution -- which increases the chances of early adoption -- and produces a well-defined limit on the degree of greenhouse gas emissions."
  • Responsible Development of BioFuels: Coming from a farming district, with much corn on the farms, it is impressive that Foster didn't simply embrace corn ethanol but called for caution in moving forward. "There are both opportunities and dangers in biofuels.  ... As always, good business judgment is essential."
  • Worldwide Responsibility calls for this to be global action, for an honest sharing of lessons between nations, and "an honest discussion of energy consumption". (Okay, how did a Republicand district elect someone this deeply in reality? Oh, yeah, in part because his opponent was so far from it.)
  • Nuclear Power: Foster argues for an honest accounting of the costs related to nuclear power which may (or may not) make it cost uncompetitive with other new energy options.
This Congressional campaign policy statement has much to embrace and much to consider. Foster does offer much to Congress and the nation. Consider this LCV endorsement:
"Bill Foster's impressive credentials and his unique ability to apply his scientific background to solving problems such as global warming and the quest for energy independence, make him the best choice for the people of this part of Illinois," said LCV President Gene Karpinski.  "Congress needs leaders like Bill Foster."

"For too long, special interests in Washington have put ideology ahead of facts and denied science when it didn't suit their politics. Bill Foster will help change that mindset."

"Dependence on the dirty fossil fuels of the past hurts our economy, makes national security more difficult, pollutes the environment and threatens devastating changes in our climate.  Bill Foster understands this and he will work for solutions that lessen our dependence on foreign oil and the negative balance of trade that comes with it, and he is committed to further strengthening our economy by creating the green jobs that come with investment in alternative energy"

Yes. Yes! YES!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now, before we totally lose perspective, we should be clear that while Foster might be a tremendous improvement over Hastert, perfection he is not.  Consider this paragraphy/point in his energy statement.

An honest discussion of energy consumption: It is important that as we reengage the world on reducing energy consumption, we have an honest discussion on the appropriate level of reduction. We must find the middle ground between economic growth and environmental stewardship.

"the middle ground between economic growth and environmental stewardship"?  WTF?  Foster's own words point to how we can be Making Green by Going Green.    Representative Foster, it is not the 'economy versus the environment' but the Economy AND the Envionment.  Representative Foster, time for you to consider and embrace The E2 Solution. It makes scientific, economic and, by the way, political sense.
Let me tell you in no uncertain terms.  It is not an "or" situation.  It is "and".  We must have both the environment and the economy. There is no economy to care about without an environment that can sustain us and our children.  And, there is no economy worth having if it devastates the world we live in and that might destroy the world of our children.

E2 ... Environment and Economy.  Economy and Environment.

What is truly misleading in the Environment or Economy formulation is that we truly don't need to make this choice.

Pursuing smart energy policies that reduce our Global Warming impact will strengthen the economy, not weaken it.

Bill Foster is nearly quite literally a rocket scientist. He gets energy efficiency and the payoffs. He is smart enough and capable enough to understand that this is a win-win-win solution space (along with avoidance of massive loss-loss-loss space through action on Global Warming).  Even with change from this campaign policy statement, Foster will be a tremendous addition to Congress. But, we can expect him to continue learning. Hopefully that learning will lead him away from economy versus the environment to a realization that it is Economy AND Environment.


At last someone in Congress who understands the difference between a kW and a kWh!

On nuclear:

Nuclear Power: Foster argues for an honest accounting of the costs related to nuclear power which may (or may not) make it cost uncompetitive with other new energy options.

The costs? Build the plant, buy the fuel, operate the plant, reprocess the fuel, dismantle the plant.

The problems for nuclear in the US are regulatory and legal uncertainty and the dispersal of ownership. Plus, of course, the totally harebrained situation on spent fuel but this hot potato is entirely of the Federal gov's making and firmly in its lap.

PS: Adam, for some reason, the formatting is passably messed up.

by Francois in Paris on Sun Mar 9th, 2008 at 01:17:18 AM EST
Yes, he's an improvement. Heck, it wouldbe hard to find worse.

Nevertheless he has said he'd be a Blue dog, which isn't helpful on a lot of issues.

Where is he on the Iraq war ? A lot of Blue Dogs are war-mongers.

Where is he on FISA ? A lot of them are anti-constitution.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sun Mar 9th, 2008 at 10:52:17 AM EST
RE -- FISA he has said that he opposes retroactive immunity, in a reasonably strong statement.

As for his non-energy policies, suggest looking at his website.

Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart. NOW!!!

by a siegel (siegeadATgmailIGNORETHISdotPLEASEcom) on Sun Mar 9th, 2008 at 12:29:21 PM EST
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