Democratic Platform: Energy

Yesterday was the first day of the 2016 Democratic National Convention.  Both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren highlighted climate change and energy policy as priorities for the Democrats over the next four years.

 “This election is about climate change, the greatest environmental crisis facing our planet, and the need to leave this world in a way that is healthy and habitable for our kids and future generations.” -Bernie Sanders

“We believe that oil companies shouldn’t call the shots in Washington, that science matters, that climate change is real. Hillary will fight to preserve this earth for our children and grandchildren. And we’re with her!” – Elizabeth Warren

The contrast could not be greater to last week’s Republican Convention, where one of the few references to energy policy came from Harold Hamm, the likely Energy Secretary in a Trump administration: “Every time we can’t drill a well in America, terrorism is being funded.”  The differences are even more striking in the two parties’ platforms.   Last week, we reviewed the Republican platform.  This week, we review the Democratic platform.

Overlaps with Republican Platform

There are no overlaps in the Democratic and Republican energy policies with two exceptions: support for coal workers and streamlined permitting for transmission lines.

The fight against climate change must not leave any community out or behind—including the coal communities who kept America’s lights on for generations.   …  We will also oppose threats to the public health of these communities from harmful and dangerous extraction practices, like mountaintop removal mining operations.

The two parties have the same goal: protect the welfare of communities founded in 19th century coal.  However, the strategies are opposites.  The Republicans advocate increasing coal production without addressing the growing environmental, health and economic problems associated with the industry.   In contrast, the Democrats want to push 21st century jobs into these communities using modern technology to help these communities. This is a common theme.  One party accepts risks clearly defined by the past, while the other advocates launching into the unknown of the future.

We will streamline federal permitting to accelerate the construction of new transmission lines to get low-cost renewable energy to market, and incentivize wind, solar, and other renewable energy over the development of new natural gas power plants.

While both parties seek streamlined permitting for federal transmission lines, only the Democrats will plan around integration of renewable energy sources.

Climate Change:

Democrats believe that climate change poses a real and urgent threat to our economy, our national security, and our children’s health and futures, and that Americans deserve the jobs and security that come from becoming the clean energy superpower of the 21st century.

The platform has a resounding chorus that climate change is a threat to America but mitigating actions bring broad solutions for America.  More middle-class jobs, a reduction in foreign conflicts, increased innovation, lower energy bills and more people of color and women in STEM careers are all linked to climate change solutions.

Global Cooperation

As discussed last week, the Republican platform completely rejects global cooperation in environmental and energy policies.   The Democratic is the complete opposite.

We believe the United States must lead in forging a robust global solution to the climate crisis.

… In the first 100 days of the next administration, the President will convene a summit of the world’s best engineers, climate scientists, policy experts, activists, and indigenous communities to chart a course to solve the climate crisis.

… We will support developing countries in their efforts to mitigate carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases, deploy more clean energy, and invest in climate resilience and adaptation.

The democrats want to lead the world in solving the climate crisis with global cooperation and support of developing countries in meeting their climate commitments. They plan on polling experts to make the best plan.

Next steps

The platform lays out specific milestones necessary for achieving these goals:

  • Within 4 years, install half a billion solar panels (~100 GW).
  • Within 10 years, clean energy sources will supply 50% of electricity
  • Within 40 years, America will run on 100% clean energy
  • Expand clean energy R&D
  • Maintain the Clean Power Plan
  • Power the federal government with 100% clean electricity
  • Partner with states, cities and rural communities for clean power

As expected of any political platform, details and specifics are missing, but the first step to making a plan is acknowledging the existence of an issue. This platform does exactly that and proposes solutions that create more jobs and a healthier and safer America.

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