Richardson’s pitch for energy independence exceptionally specific

Prof C Explains
4 min readDec 4, 2007

by J Scott Christianson, Columbia Daily Tribune Columnist

I am always skeptical of books written by presidential candidates. As a rule, the text is just an extended résumé coupled with a laundry list of initiatives that sound good but lack any specifics that might encumber the candidate if he or she later wants to adjust the details of a position. A refreshing exception to this rule is Bill Richardson’s recent book “Leading by Example: How We Can Inspire an Energy and Security Revolution.”

In this book, Richardson draws on his experience as a former energy secretary and current governor of an energy-producing state to lay out a very specific plan for reducing our dependency on foreign oil while addressing global warming. Richardson’s goal is aggressive: A 50 percent reduction in America’s dependency on oil by 2020. But given the situation that we have gotten ourselves into — our economy is now totally dependent on the price of oil, and we currently import more than 65 percent of the oil we consume — only an aggressive plan is likely to have much effect.

Richardson’s plan hinges on making our transportation system less dependent on oil and more dependent on electricity. He proposes tax breaks and rebates to greatly accelerate the adoption of plug-in and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Plug-in cars and trucks run off a battery that can be charged from the electric grid and would work well for those who travel less than 100 to 150 miles a day. A plug-in hybrid also gets its battery charged from the electric grid, but it has a motor as well that can power the car on long trips or when one forgets to fully charge the vehicle. The plug-in hybrid represents the best of both worlds by greatly lowering fuel costs while still giving the user unlimited range.

By shifting our transportation system to electricity, we can tap our domestic energy sources, including renewable energy such as solar, wind and geothermal, as well as clean coal and nuclear plants, to meet our transportation energy needs. Powering a vehicle from the electric grid limits the source of pollution from greenhouse gas emissions to the generation facility — for example, a coal-fired power plant — where CO2 can be trapped and sequestered. This is a much easier way to control emissions than trying to capture them from hundreds of millions of individual automobile tailpipes.

Prof C Explains

J Scott Christianson: UM Teaching Prof, Technologist & Entrepreneur. Connect with me here: