09 September 2008

Clean Tech: Why Some Believe McCain is Best Choice for Clean Tech Investors

PORTLAND, OR - MAY 12:  U.S. Senator John McCa...Image by Getty Images via Daylife This is not a political blog and I am not going to make an endorsement of either the Obama-Biden or McCain-Palin ticket. (Not yet, anyway.) Cop-out? Nada. Why?

I am decidedly Independent, with a capital "I." I've never been a party man and have never voted a straight party ticket or platform. I have friends on both sides of the aisle -- and more who are in the middle, like the majority of Americans. I have both moderate-Republican (Teddy Roosevelt is my favorite president) or Reagan-Dem leanings (Lincoln and Jefferson share second place).

I believe in free and fair trade; am for free market capitalism and early supports (credits, incentives) for market creation. I think the playing field should be level; so, if we're going to give huge subsidies to one group in a sector, the others should be given the same or similar benes, or no one should. I believe in the production tax credit and am against a windfall profit tax (better to just get rid of the oil subsidies).

I am a globalist who wants to see America lead the new green economy. I believe the US was right not to ratify Kyoto Protocol without concessions from China and India; but I also believe that those countries deserve to accelerate their economies by virtually any means necessary to get their people out of poverty. (And further, I think they can leapfrog their way to it without destroying their environment.)

I also believe that we need a multitude of solutions, what British economists Gwyn Prins and Steve Rayner called a "silver buckshot" rather than "silver bullet" approach to energy independence and reducing climate change risks and impacts.

That means wind and nuclear; solar and natural gas; biofuels and clean coal; cellulosic and corn-based ethanol; smart grid and more oil drilling; it means hybrid electric vehicles and stricter CAFE standards; it means a tax credit for R&D and promoting energy efficiency.

In other words, as is true with my politics, it's not an either/or question, but an and/both question.

Which is why I was intrigued by Neal Dikeman's assertion in his Cleantech Blog that the McCain-Palin ticket is the best choice for cleantech investors.

Wow, how can that be? From what I've heard, Obama has the most aggressive energy plan going. He will (according to his website)

  • Provide short-term relief to American families facing pain at the pump
  • Help create five million new jobs by strategically investing $150 billion over the next ten years to catalyze private efforts to build a clean energy future.
  • Within 10 years save more oil than we currently import from the Middle East and Venezuela combined.
  • Put 1 million Plug-In Hybrid cars -- cars that can get up to 150 miles per gallon -- on the road by 2015, cars that we will work to make sure are built here in America.
  • Ensure 10 percent of our electricity comes from renewable sources by 2012, and 25 percent by 2025.
  • Implement an economy-wide cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.
How can McCain beat that?

Dikeman calls Obama's plan the "shiny copper penny" plan, by which he may be referring to the negotiator's art of persuading your opponent to take the nice shiny copper penny and give you the wrinkled old paper money, which has more value.

His conclusion? That while Obama's plan is indeed the most aggressive, that is also one of its faults. Dikeman argues that Obama's plan puts green goals ahead of costs to the economy or the American people and has the US tackling climate change solo, rather than bringing the world together to solve it.

He also notes that Obama has a "very limited resume of actually authoring any legislation on energy or the environment; no experience in domestic energy policy; and was anti-drilling (or was until he realized that like two-thirds of Americans support it)."

Obama, in Dikeman's view "supports [a] climate change plan that would represent a wealth transfer from the central US to the coasts and result in a several hundred billion dollar per year new tax on energy (that's on the order of the Iraq war size)."

On the other hand, McCain's platform includes

  • Expanding domestic oil exploration;
  • Promoting and expanding the use of domestic supplies of natural gas;
  • Changing how we power our transportation sector;
  • Becoming a leader in a "New International Green Economy";
  • Committing US$2B annually to advancing clean coal technologies;
  • Constructing 45 new nuclear power plants by 2030 with ultimate goal of 100;
  • Creating a permanent Tax Credit equal to 10 percent of wages spent on R&D;
  • Proposing a Cap-and-Trade system that sets limits on Greenhouse Gas Emissions while encouraging development of low-cost compliance options;
  • Greening The Federal Government A Priority Of His Administration.
  • Move The United States Toward Electricity Grid And Metering Improvements To Save Energy.
  • Addressing Speculative Pricing Of Oil , but not imposing a windfall profits tax.

Dikeman's conclusion? McCain's "energy plan is balanced, focuses on the force multiplier's like R&D tax credits, batteries, and smart grid, and cleaning up cheap domestic resources like gas, coal, nuke, and ethanol, not the shiny copper pennies like a US Venture Capital Fund, PHEVs, and cool sounding names like 25x25." (Wow, tell us how you really feel, Neal!)

He also notes that McCain is the "only candidate to actually author a climate change bill...[and has] picked a VP with lots of domestic energy experience (the state of Alaska is basically an oil company) who while pro drilling is not pro Big Oil."

Where Dikeman faults McCain is for his spotty legislative record on environmental protection and the fact that he hasn't pushed CAFE to the extent that he should. McCain could also be more aggressive on the production tax credit, according to Dikeman; where Obama supports a five-year extension.

The bottom line, according to Dikeman, a founding partner at the boutique merchant bank focused on cleantech sector, Jane Capital Partners LLC, and chairman of Cleantech.org, is that McCain's plan gets "the crown on energy and cleantech, because it's real and focuses on the long term force multipliers that will keep us competitive, clean and safe in the most economic manner, not Obama's shiny copper penny plan."

Read more at: http://snurl.com/3ofkc

What do you think?

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