2008 Hillary Releases Energy Plan; Frontrunners Have Shifted the Climate Debate
posted by November 6 at 11:30 AMon
Hillary Clinton released her energy plan yesterday, and—like the other frontrunners’ plans—it’s pretty awesome, with a few caveats that I’ll get to in a minute. Because the Edwards, Obama, and Clinton plans are so similar, I’ll just run through what they would do and explain the minor differences at the end.
The good news: All three plans would implement a fully-auctioned cap-and-trade system, aiming for 80 percent emissions reductions by 2050. What that means, briefly: In a cap-and-trade system, the government establishes an overall cap on carbon emissions. Under that cap, all emissions are divided up into credits that represent permission to pollute. Companies are free to buy and sell pollution credits in the marketplace. A 100-percent-auctioned system forces companies to pay for every ton of emissions they produce—creating a market-based incentive to reduce emissions through innovation.
A few differences between the candidates: Obama would use the revenues from pollution credits to develop clean energy and expand programs to help low-income people pay their electric bills. Clinton would invest revenues in energy efficiency programs and assistance to low- and middle-income families. And Edwards would invest the proceeds from his cap-and-trade system in clean energy. Both Clinton and Edwards would repeal subsidies to oil companies. Edwards would also share US technology with developing nations in exchange for binding commitments to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions; negotiate a new international treaty on climate change; and increase fuel-efficiency standards to 40 miles per gallon. Additionally, Edwards would create incentives for states to plan smart growth and transit-oriented development, reduce vehicle miles traveled, and encourage public transportation use—something neither of the other two Democratic frontrunners have made a top priority.
The disappointing aspect of all the plans is their reliance on biodiesel and so-called “clean coal”, two heavily subsidized industries that are completely unsustainable and an oxymoron, respectively.
That said, the really amazing thing about all these plans is how far they all go in terms of promoting efficiency, funding alternative energy sources, capping pollution, and cracking down on industry. Fully auctioned cap-and-trade used to be a pipe dream; now it’s the conventional line from the three mainstream Democratic candidates. At the same time, the “green gap” between Republicans and Democrats has become a national embarrassment. As TerraPass writer Adam Stein puts it, climate change “wraps together energy policy, economic considerations, and even national security concerns in a way that doesn’t fit comfortably into the old frames of conservation and regulation.”