Here are some ideas on how to get there for real, and not just take little feel good steps. These are things the next President and next Congress can do that are feasible, not overregulatory, and as market-based as possible.
- Adopt a solar energy bill that will pay Americans who produce such energy a garunteed set rate of a long period of time above the current market rate for electricity in their area. Within this bill, add in massive R&D funding into battery technology (to store the excess daytime energy), and solar panels itself.
Germany adopted something like this a while back and not only are they well on their way to making solar power a third of their total electricity portfollio, but also they have created thousands of jobs designing, producing, and installing solar panels. If you give folks a set profit, they can go to banks and get loans to put up solar panels on their rooves and vacant property. Creating your own solar panel is concrete step towards true energy independence and gives people a realistic thing they can do that is in their immediate interest.
- Adopt high (45-50 MPG) CAFE standard for vehicles, and give consumers (including businesses) tax credits for every MPG over the CAFE standard their entire fleet is. This will give car makers the push to build more effecient vehicles, and car buyers incentives to scrap older vehicles for newer, more effecient ones.
The Federal government can lead by example. As every car in the federal fleet expires, it would be replaced by a plug-in hydrid. The purchasing power of the federal government will also bring down the costs of such vehicles and further help create a market for them. (The later idea is Sen. Boxer's)
- Currently, the US is third in wind energy production, Germany and the Netherlands, which are tiny by comparision, generate more. We should be far and away the biggest producer of wind energy. Again, inventivize consumers (via tax credits) and producers (by giving them interest free loans to build the turbines) to beef up the wind energy market.
- Give up on Ethanol. I know the caucus goers in Iowa will be upset, but politicans have to stop sucking up to them by trying to make corn into fuel. It isn't effecient, and the air quality is worse than conventional gasoline.
- Move trucks from desiel to biodesiel to plug in hybrids as much as possible, and try to make rail shipping more affordable than trucks.
- shut down previously grand fathered in dirty coal plants in places like Texas and California. Replace them at least with new CCT (clean coal technology) plants at least. Better yet, try to supplant them with solar and wind.
- At least try a cap and trade carbon emission system. Matt Stoller says it hasn't worked in the EU, but if our market and theirs were merged, things might change. A carbon tax is a last resort. Try to incentivize, rather than regulate people into finding ways to reduce their carbon output and sequestering the carbon they have to produce.
Some candidates talk about some of these items, but I have yet to hear any of them push for Germany's solar laws. The whole package would make a huge impact, at least, a lot more than just switching out one light bulb for a CFL. I have put in 3 for this year's Earth Day, and my wife hates them so much--because of the dimness and light quality--I may find them all switched back when I am not looking.