NEWS Why the Democrats and Republicans are Both Right on Climate


Why the Democ­rats and Repub­li­cans are Both Right on Climate


Daniel M. Kammen

Over the past two years, two thought­ful, inno­v­a­tive, and dra­mat­i­cally dif­fer­ent plans to address global warm­ing have been pre­sented to the Amer­i­can pub­lic by the Demo­c­ra­tic and the Repub­li­can Par­ties.  Both plans would move the nation sig­nif­i­cantly toward a sus­tain­able future.

The first, the Clean Power Plan[1] (CPP), intro­duced by Pres­i­dent Obama, calls on states to reduce car­bon pol­lu­tion from the power sec­tor by 32 per­cent below the 2005 base­line by 2030.  The CPP fur­ther makes $8 bil­lion avail­able to retrain and aid coal-​​workers and their fam­i­lies.  This is a size­able tran­si­tion fund for an indus­try now val­ued in total at less than $50 bil­lion, a tenth of what it was just a few decades ago.

The sec­ond is the Car­bon Div­i­dend Plan[2] (CDP) which was recently pro­posed by the Cli­mate Lead­er­ship Coun­cil which is head­lined by for­mer Repub­li­can Sec­re­taries of State James Baker and George Shultz, as well as for­mer Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Paul­son, two for­mer Chair­men of the President’s Coun­cil of Eco­nomic Advis­ers, and a Chair­man of the Board of Wal­mart.  The CDP calls for a mod­estly ris­ing car­bon tax, with div­i­dends paid directly back to Amer­i­can fam­i­lies amount­ing to roughly $2,000 per year for a fam­ily of four.

Both plans have a great deal to like.  The home run strat­egy for Amer­i­can job cre­ation and indus­trial lead­er­ship is to imple­ment both the CPP and the CDP.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment esti­mates that the CPP will yield cli­mate ben­e­fits to the U. S. econ­omy of $20 bil­lion, and health ben­e­fits of $14 – $34 bil­lion, and to each year avoid 3,600 pre­ma­ture deaths, 1,700 heart attacks, 90,000 asthma attacks, and 300,000 missed work and school days[3].  With so many of these ill­nesses in lower-​​income areas and in minor­ity com­mu­ni­ties, the CPP is of tremen­dous ben­e­fit to poorer Amer­i­cans and to the national bud­get as well.  To be fair, some, but not all, of these ben­e­fits would also come from the CDP, although they are less clear-​​cut because emis­sions reduc­tions could come from other sec­tors of the econ­omy beyond electricity.

The CDP includes a pro­vi­sion for bor­der taxes on for­eign imports from nations that do not imple­ment some form of car­bon pric­ing, pre­sum­ably with a dis­pen­sa­tion for the world’s poor­est nations.

Together the CPP and the CDP build a vibrant, intensely job-​​creating energy sec­tor that would be far larger than either plan accom­plishes alone. The CPP does not pit one state against each other, but pushes each state to develop its own car­bon reduc­tion plan.  Both red and blue states are find­ing this eas­ier and more prof­itable than pre­vi­ously imag­ined.  The power sec­tor reduced its car­bon emis­sions 21 per­cent between 2005–2015, pri­mar­ily by switch­ing from coal to gas. It is well on the way to com­ply­ing with the Clean Power Plan.

The CPP will accel­er­ate the tran­si­tion to money-​​saving energy effi­ciency, and to a job-​​rich renew­able energy sec­tor[4].  Coun­tries such as China, Bangladesh, Den­mark, Ger­many Kenya, Korea, and Por­tu­gal have seen tremen­dous man­u­fac­tur­ing and job growth as they made their elec­tric­ity sec­tors more diverse, clean, and job-​​producing.

As inno­va­tions spread in the energy sec­tor, the ben­e­fits of the CDP come into play.  The car­bon div­i­dend to U. S. fam­i­lies is esti­mated by the U. S. Trea­sury to directly ben­e­fit finan­cially the poor­est 70 per­cent (some 223 mil­lion peo­ple) of Amer­i­cans.  A fed­eral infra­struc­ture invest­ment would fur­ther stim­u­late this deal, bring­ing jobs to the capital-​​intensive energy sec­tor across the country.

Of equal or greater impor­tance, how­ever, is the fact that the U. S. and EU energy sec­tors are grow­ing by less than 1% per year, but in many other nations energy demand is grow­ing by 5% per year or more.  The CDP pushes other coun­tries to adopt car­bon poli­cies, mak­ing them ready-​​markets for the prod­ucts that the invig­o­rated U. S. energy sec­tor will deliver.

Because the energy indus­try is about sys­tems inte­gra­tion, not sim­ply indi­vid­ual tech­nol­ogy com­po­nents, coun­tries need com­pany part­ners that are expert and trusted to deliver inte­grated pack­ages.  This is a hall­mark of the U. S. energy sec­tor, from the com­plex and exten­sive oil and gas indus­try, to com­pa­nies like Bech­tel and John­son Con­trols, to the fastest grow­ing part of the U. S. econ­omy, the clean energy innovators.

The real beauty of the two pro­pos­als is how well they can work together for the ben­e­fit of all Amer­i­cans, and at the same time, the global environment.


Daniel M. Kam­men is a pro­fes­sor of energy at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley, direc­tor of the Renew­able and Appro­pri­ate Energy Lab­o­ra­tory, and Sci­ence Envoy for the U. S. State Depart­ment. Twit­ter: @dan_kammen; URL: http://​rael​.berke​ley​.edu






[1] https://​www​.epa​.gov/​c​l​e​a​n​p​o​w​e​r​p​l​a​n​/​f​a​c​t​-​s​h​e​e​t​-​o​v​e​r​v​i​e​w​-​c​l​e​a​n​-​p​o​w​e​r​-​p​lan

[2] https://​www​.clcoun​cil​.org/​w​p​-​c​o​n​t​e​n​t​/​u​p​l​o​a​d​s​/​2​0​1​7​/​0​2​/​T​h​e​C​o​n​s​e​r​v​a​t​i​v​e​C​a​s​e​f​o​r​C​a​r​b​o​n​D​i​v​i​d​e​n​d​s​.​pdf

[3] https://​www​.epa​.gov/​c​l​e​a​n​p​o​w​e​r​p​l​a​n​/​f​a​c​t​-​s​h​e​e​t​-​o​v​e​r​v​i​e​w​-​c​l​e​a​n​-​p​o​w​e​r​-​p​lan

[4] http://​rael​.berke​ley​.edu/​g​r​e​e​n​j​obs

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