Liz Warren And Joe Biden's Climate Plans: Maybe We WON'T All Die In A Fire-nado?
Elizabeth Warren, look what you've done! Suddenly, EVERYBODY is releasing great big policy papers so they can try to keep up with you. Way to go -- now all we need to do is let the cable shows know that there are plenty of ideas to talk about in this election, not just stupid "electability" nonsense. Haha, we are a dreamer like you!
Yesterday, Joe Biden released a great big climate plan, and it is good! And Elizabeth Warren, who's been incorporating climate action across several policy proposals instead of doing one single climate document, released a biggie, a proposal for expanding American industry in green manufacturing, exports, and trade policy. Let's take a look at both of 'em!
Shirtless Joe Biden Washes Nissan Leaf In White House Driveway
Biden's campaign released its plan a few hours ahead of Warren's, although there's reason to believe the plan itself may have been rather hurriedly bodged together in the weeks since Reuters suggested Biden would pursue a "middle ground" on climate, and progressives very rightly responded that that shit would not fly. The plan itself is very definitely not middling; Biden endorses the Green New Deal by name and, as the New York Times notes, even goes further than that plan, which sets definite goals but (by design) doesn't yet commit to "concrete policy steps to achieve them." This sucker has some concrete policy steps, for sure, and what's especially good to see is just how mainstream Green New Deal-inflected plans are becoming among the 2020 Dems.
Biden calls for the US to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, which is a later target than the 2030 goal envisioned by Jay Inslee, who still has the most comprehensive climate plan of any Democrat in the field. You could certainly argue it's a more "realistic" target date than hoping to reorder the entire US economy around green energy in a dozen years, although there's a case to be made that more ambitious goals would mean greater urgency and progress sooner. In any case, the actual means for reaching those goals are fairly similar, regardless of whose plan you're looking at. Like Inslee and Beto O'Rourke, Biden would commit the federal government to use its purchasing power to stoke green industries, mandating that all government cars and light trucks be electric and that government contracts meet a green standard. Biden's plan even adds a new element, calling for climate impact to be considered in all permitting decisions -- which, as The Atlantic points out, "could have led to a different outcome in the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipeline battles."
Central to Biden's plan -- and to Warren's, and Inslee's, and for that matter the Green New Deal -- is the contention that climate can't be shunted off into a separate box from other policies, and that addressing climate will be central to economic growth, not a drag on profits (outside the fossil fuel industry). Biden would establish a "new, cross-agency Advanced Research Projects Agency focused on climate," to be called ARPA-C, which would focus on solving the problems we don't yet have answers for, like developing a new generation of nuclear energy plants that will be safer and less expensive [editrix's note: YARGH UGH PTOOEY], developing batteries that can store vastly increased wind and solar electricity output, developing low-carbon building materials (concrete is very carbon-intensive now), finding low- or no-carbon fuels for aircraft and heavy transport, and accelerating carbon capture and sequestration tech. All told, Biden wants to spend $1.7 trillion over 10 years directly on research, development, and energy efficiency, while also "leveraging additional private sector and state and local investments to total to more than $5 trillion."
And Biden, the rail commuter, wants a huge investment in electric-powered high-speed rail, which if we try really hard might get us equal to Japan or Europe in the 1990s. Better than being stuck forever in the Diesel Age.
Biden would pay for it all by -- hey, here's an innovative notion! -- repealing the 2017 tax cuts, as well as by eliminating subsidies to fossil fuel industries and ensuring that "polluters bear the full cost of the carbon pollution they are emitting" through a carbon taxing scheme similar to that floated by Barack Obama, but murdered by Republicans and coal-humping Democrats like Joe Manchin and his gun.
Biden and Warren both point out, very accurately, that even if the US reaches net-zero carbon emissions as quickly as humanly possible, the rest of the world needs to slash its emissions too, or we're all up shit creek by the end of the century. To that end, Biden's plan commits to returning the US to leadership on climate, after the four years Trump has spent blowing up both climate policy and the very idea of international cooperation.
Rejoining the Paris climate agreement would only be a start; Biden calls for a world climate summit to get all major nations to commit to more aggressive reductions in greenhouse gases. Beyond that, Biden's plan details how he'd use every facet of international trade and diplomacy to push other nations to curb emissions, from using international frameworks to push China and India to slash emissions and develop green energy, to imposing "carbon tariffs" on products from polluting nations, to pushing the International Monetary Fund to prioritize debt relief for nations doing the most to cut emissions. There's a whole lot of detail in this section and we're barely scratching the surface. The Times notes the international emphasis "gives Mr. Biden, a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a chance to highlight his credentials in the international arena," so thanks for putting the emphasis on campaign strategy, guys -- again, the US can't exactly go it alone on this.
Now, about the "plagiarism." The initial version of the plan included a number of lines that had been cribbed word-for-word from other groups' reports and action plans, and hey, remember how Biden dropped out of the 1988 primaries after he plagiarized generously from British politician Neal Kinnock's speeches? The campaign admitted it had screwed up, acknowledging,
Several citations, some from sources cited in other parts of the plan, were inadvertently left out of the final version of the 22-page document. [...] As soon as we were made aware of it, we updated to include the proper citations.
We can understand sloppy citations, folks, but that still doesn't explain leaving quotation marks off the cited passages. After the update, the document now includes both the sources and the appropriate quotation marks. Yeesh, don't make us call you Melania, OK? At least the Biden camp didn't try to blame Twilight Sparkle for the "error." UC Santa Barbara political scientist Leah Stokes argues on Twitter that the sloppiness suggests the Biden plan barely existed a month ago.
But at least that explains Biden's commitment to transitional career training and green jobs for the sons of Welsh coal miners.
It's Warren Time!
Warren's green manufacturing plan, like Biden's, says the economy and addressing climate are inextricably connected. She too would focus on investing in new tech, research, and manufacturing; Biden has an ARPA for climate, and Warren wants to establish the "National Institutes of Clean Energy." (Hats off to Brian Kahn at Gizmodo's Earther, who notes the acronym is "NICE, which I'm pretty sure automatically means it gets $69 billion in funding.") Warren would invest $2 trillion (over a decade) in R&D and federal procurement to spur green industrial growth, and again, she has way more detail in her plan than we can summarize here. She calls for a "Green Apollo Program" to develop the clean technologies we don't yet have (haw haw she is coming for your hamburgers!), and a "Green Marshall Plan" to help other nations make the transition to clean power as well.
Warren also had Moody's do some analysis at her plan, and they found that over a decade the Warren proposal would create well over a million jobs and boost the GDP by a full percentage point all on its own compared to baseline projections. And isn't this a nice note on international security?
The plan may also help mitigate the humanitarian crisis created by climate change, although that is outside the scope of this analysis.
Oh look, Elizabeth Warren is planning to do more to prevent migrant caravans than Donald Trump is!
Warren's plan, to a somewhat greater degree than Biden's, also emphasizes economic justice. While both plans call for directing both jobs and environmental cleanup resources to poor and minority communities that have been devastated by fossil fuel production and burning, Warren goes a bit further in incorporating a key Green New Deal plank, calling for those green government contracts to also have a $15 minimum wage, paid family leave, and full union protections built into them. (That's also a frequent refrain in Inslee's plan.)
And like Biden, Warren calls for every part of US diplomatic and trade policy to aim at bringing other nations on board with carbon reductions and expansion of nonpolluting energy. If you think of a climate-related issue we haven't mentioned here, don't assume it's not in either plan -- go take a look, because we haven't even tried to cover everything. We love having too much to read!
Yr Wonkette is actually getting just the teeniest bit optimistic that, after decades of being held back by corporate interests, it's starting to look like we may finally do something about climate. Yes, decades later than we should have, which will make it harder and more painful, but for once we're not feeling doomed. Multiple polls suggest that, for Democrats at least, climate has become the second-biggest issue for 2020, after healthcare. We're so happy we're gonna go ride our electric scooter to do some shopping this evening.
[NYT / Atlantic / Mother Jones / Earther / Business Insider / Elizabeth Warren campaign on Medium / Joe Biden campaign / Image: Auwahi Wind Farm & Kim Starr, plus Warren by Gage Skidmore and Biden by Center for American Progress. Creative Commons license 2.0]
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