Energy and climate change issues seem to be moving up the priority list for Democratic presidential candidates. After keeping the focus primarily on healthcare for the last six months, Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton turned attention to her energy and climate plan on Monday, proposing an ambitious fuel efficiency target of 55 miles per gallon by 2030 - a significant step above what Congress is currently considering.
The efficiency standard is just one part of her plan, which aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by a projected 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050 - the many climate experts feel is needed to avert the most serious consequences of global warming. The plan also calls for the reduction of oil imports by two-thirds from 2030 projected levels.
U.S. automakers have been resisting the efficiency target approved by the Senate (but not the House) of 35 mpg by 2020. Clinton's plan would require vehicles to achieve 40 mpg by 2020. However, her plan includes a $20 billion bond program to help automakers finance factory overhauls to make vehicles that run on alternative fuels.
Clinton also proposes increasing the national renewable fuel goal from the current target of 7.5 billion gallons per year by 2012 to 36 billion gallons per year by 2022, and then 60 billion gallons by 2030.
In addition, her plan would provide for increased battery research and production of plug-in hybrid vehicles.
Concerning the threat of climate change, Clinton, who is currently the Democratic leader in polls, has said, "This is the biggest challenge we've faced in a generation, a challenge to our economy, our security, our health, and our planet."
Other Democratic candidates, including Senator Barack Obama, former Senator John Edwards and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, also support tough fuel economy standards. Republican frontrunners have not committed to specific increases in fuel economy.