What the frack? revolution vs red tape, power after carbon & temperature check
The newsletter for people "woke" on carbon and climate
|Walter McLeod||Nov 1, 2020||1|
(photo: MarketWatch/Getty Images)
Issue No. 50
Welcome to the latest issue of Carbon Creed - a curated newsletter for people “woke” on carbon and climate.
Well, here we are.
In the final Presidential debate, fmr. Vice President Joe Biden’s pledge to “transition away from the oil industry” elevated climate change to center stage for the final stretch of a campaign year in which the issue has played a larger role than ever.
Mr. Biden’s statement in the closing moments of the debate gave President Trump what his campaign saw as an enormous opportunity to blunt his opponent’s appeal to working-class voters. Mr. Biden’s campaign tried to downplay it, saying he was merely stating that he would phase out longstanding tax subsidies for the oil industry.
Now, American’s of all stripes are asking themselves the question, “Can the nation transition to clean energy from fossil fuels without enormous economic and political disruption?” We’ll know what they decided in just a few days.
IN THIS ISSUE our first two posts take a deep dive into the policies, positions and personalities of both candidates on the climate issue. Our third post reviews Peter Fox-Penner’s new book outlining a path to the clean energy economy. Finally, we feature a new climate podcast hosted by Andrew Simon, formerly of ESPN and Fast Company.
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Seeing green: Biden's clean revolution vs Trump's war on red tape
The U.S. presidential election pits a politician who plans to tie the country’s economic recovery to tackling climate change against another determined to remove as many regulatory hurdles to oil, gas and coal production as possible.
President Donald Trump, a Republican, has focused on dismantling former President Barack Obama’s climate agenda to free the energy and auto industries from the costs of regulations meant to protect health and the environment.
Joe Biden, a Democrat who served as Obama’s vice president, has beefed up his strategy to tackle climate change with a focus on a new massive green infrastructure to re-invigorate the U.S. economy that is reeling from the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.
As deadly wildfires tear through all three states on the west coast and record hurricanes pummel the gulf coast, Americans are reminded of climate change’s risks as the Nov. 3 election approaches.
Biden, heeding calls from his party’s progressives for a faster transition away from fossil fuels, has proposed $2 trillion in spending over his first four-year term and aims to achieve 100% clean electricity by 2035.
Biden’s proposals include upgrading 4 million buildings for energy efficiency, building 1.5 million energy-efficient homes and public housing, and investing in public transportation in cities with over 100,000 residents.
Power utilities have pointed out that his plan depends on rapid advances in nascent technologies.
Biden supports research on high-tech nuclear energy that would be virtually emissions free but likely still have waste issues.
Trump does not have a climate plan on his campaign website. Instead, the site highlights his administration’s focus on unraveling Obama-era regulations. This includes the Clean Power Plan, which he replaced with a weaker standard called the Affordable Clean Energy rule to cut pollution without damaging the coal industry.
Trump has rejected mainstream science on climate. But he said in September while announcing a decision to ban drilling off the coast of Florida that Republican lawmakers told him he could be “the number one environmental President since Teddy Roosevelt.”
Like Biden, he supports advanced nuclear technology.
Biden has resisted a push by his party’s liberal wing to impose a nationwide ban on fracking. The drilling technique increases emissions of gases linked to climate change but supports jobs across the country and has allowed the United States to become the world’s top oil-and-gas producer. Biden also supports investing in coal communities by offering alternatives to mining work.
Trump put in motion a process to remove the United States, the world’s No. 2 emitter of greenhouse gases behind China, from the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement that brought countries together to mitigate global warming, saying it was too costly.
Biden has said he will return the United States to a leadership role on climate change, assertively restoring a U.S. role in future climate negotiations to advance the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.
He has said he brought China’s President Xi Jinping on board with the Paris pact, a claim some former Obama administration officials have said was overstated. Biden wants to make a diplomatic push to persuade China to stop financing coal plants through its belt-and-road initiative.
“What the frack?” where Trump and Biden stand on climate issues
(source: The Environmental Podcast)
Analysts have emphasized pretty wide differences in a head-to-head comparison of the candidates on climate change as the Nov. 3 election nears and as other major economies, including China, have advanced a climate-change blueprint that may leave the U.S., without its own proposal, flat-footed on trade, security and more in the years to come.
Here’s a deeper look at the candidates’ records on carbon and climate.
Accepting the science: Describing the difference between the two candidates often starts with acceptance of the factors behind rising emissions, extreme temperatures and droughts, as well as swelling sea levels that threaten coastlines. While it’s true that the science is evolving, President Trump has repeatedly called man-made climate change a “hoax” but has softened that language. He has said “science doesn’t know” what lies ahead.
He and supporters have stressed the importance of keeping fossil fuels in the energy mix to hold down operational and transportation costs for businesses and households and to help the U.S. cling to a newly fortified position as an oil and natural-gas exporter, which they claim earns a valuable position against geopolitical heavyweights Saudi Arabia and Russia. Additionally, the administration and its supporters are concerned that the U.S. effort to curb its own polluting is not matched in the developing world; this was cited as a factor when Trump moved to pull the U.S. from the Paris Climate accord.
Biden, who calls climate change an “existential threat,” has said the scientific community has a big role to play in shaping policies. He would push the U.S. to rejoin its global peers in trying to turn back the climate-change clock.
Comprehensive plan: Biden has announced a $2 trillion plan to, he claims, create millions of jobs and achieve 100% clean electricity by 2035, a target that has seemed more realistic as solar and wind pricing became competitive with traditional energy sources in just the past decade. Biden has embraced portions of the Green New Deal framework put forth by the Democratic Party’s most progressive arm, but not all of it.
Biden has called for achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 and supports the Clean Cars for America plan, a pledge he made earlier this year but one given fresh emphasis after California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a proposal to halt sales of new gasoline-powered passenger cars and trucks in that influential state by 2035.
The Trump administration has not put forward a specific plan to address the climate crisis, and environmentalists have cried foul at the reversal of roughly 100 environmental rules, some decades-old regulations carried across administrations from both political parties.
The fracking fracas: One of the stickier policy points for Biden has been his stance on allowing new or even maintaining existing oil drilling, including fracking, with particular emphasis on swing state Pennsylvania and its resource-reliant economy. Critical ads have claimed Biden, a Pennsylvania native, would ban fracking; the candidate says that’s not true, that he would only bar new fracking on public lands and water. Most fracking takes place on private property but can impact nearby land. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial board says the state’s voters remain confused about where the candidate stands on fracking.
As part of the coronavirus response, Trump pushed a tax law that gave a $25 billion break to the fossil-fuel industry. He has voiced no plans to curb fossil-fuel subsidies. Biden says he has a plan to end the estimated $20 billion the U.S. spends on fossil-fuel subsidies annually.
Carbon tax revisited: Another of the more controversial environmental-policy points lies with assigning a federal price, or a “tax” depending on who has control of the language, on carbon. The influential CEO group Business Roundtable has just released a series of market-driven climate-change positions that include pricing carbon.
Attempts to create a national cap-and-trade market to introduce buyers and sellers in order to share the carbon burden have largely fizzled over the past few decades. Early in the Trump administration, it was reported that Vice President Mike Pence had met with business leaders about a carbon tax, but more recently the president has been quiet about the topic altogether.
As part of a party platform, Democrats have been generally in favor of such a tax, but most reports show Biden is less likely to make it a priority.
Environmental justice: This year, Trump weakened the National Environmental Protection Act, a law that gives communities of color the ability to provide input on major polluting projects and pipelines being built in their neighborhoods, the left-leaning advocacy group Climate Power 2020 says. Trump has tried to defund environmental justice enforcement at the EPA. His administration says these regulations are expensive and difficult to enforce equally.
The Biden ticket, say political analysts, earned improved marks for environmental justice when Sen. Kamala Harris of California was named as the vice-presidential candidate. She has spoken out on the importance of always including social justice within environmental policy-setting.
Power after Carbon
A book written by Peter Fox-Penner
In Power after Carbon, author Peter Fox-Penner offers a detailed yet eminently readable discussion of what it will take to get beyond the carbon economy. He asks: how does the power industry decarbonize while still meeting its key performance objectives of universally accessible and affordable, highly reliable and abundant, and secure from physical and cyberattacks?
Fox-Penner does not layout a straight-line that can be taken to decarbonize the economy. He offers something more valuable—guidance through the real-world policymaking maze and insights into the pitfalls and pratfalls that may conspire along the way.
Fox-Penner begins the way forward with a review of what has gone before. He is also careful to remind readers that the journey is not only about power generation. It must start with energy efficiency.
Decarbonization of national economies is complicated enough as a matter of technology and infrastructure. Overlay politics and the agendas of various organizations—from political parties to clean energy developers and fossil fuel companies in search of bail-outs—and what’s created is a morass of often conflicting pathways and objectives.
Fox-Penner helps the reader play the “power” game by detailing the pieces and discussing the various dimensional moves that policymakers, regulators, utility executives, and the other stakeholders must make to realize a net-zero economy.
Creed Comments: Fox-Penner has found his voice in Power After Carbon. Over the years, his views have evolved and he now embraces and affirms the future low-carbon economy. We have the technology - electrification is the key. What’s missing is public policy leaders willing to revamp existing public laws and regulations, and stand down the carbon pollution lobby.
A podcast hosted by Andrew Simon
This week, Grist launched Temperature Check, a new weekly podcast about climate, race, and culture. 2020 has been a year of reckoning with racial justice on a global scale, while another global crisis — climate change — continues to grow. But these two stories are actually one and the same: climate justice is racial justice. Host Andrew Simon will engage with inspiring leaders, changemakers, and journalists about the overlaps between climate change and social justice. He’ll look at connections to the environment that are often missed, and how leaders in pop culture are reimagining a better, more just planet.
Andrew is Grist’s director of leadership programming and founding editor of the Grist 50, an annual list of emerging climate and justice leaders. Previously a senior editor at Fast Company and ESPN, he is also the author of Racing While Black: How an African-American Stock Car Team Made Its Mark on NASCAR.
Creed Comments: I listened to the inaugural episode and was totally impressed. Andrew has a great feel for the audio format and his style is very engaging. His lens is original and refreshing, including topics like “What Wakanda Can Teach Us About Climate Change” and “The Hot 10 Climate Songs.” He also conducts a clever interview with Kendra Pierre-Louis, author of "Green Washed: Why We Can't Buy Our Way to a Green Planet." I highly recommend you give it a listen during your next workout or commute.
The Keeling Curve a daily record of global atmospheric CO2 concentration.
Congressional Policy Tracker a summary of current federal energy legislation.
Click Clean your favorite apps and tech company clean power rankings.
Advancing Inclusion Through Clean Energy Jobs a report by the Brookings Institute.
Understanding ESG a series of ESG-focused thought leadership webinars for business and investors, presented by Baker McKenzie.
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