This commentary was originally published by The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission.
While most people were following the developments at the G20 meeting and the Climate Change Summit last week, or immersed in watching the outcomes of key elections in several states such as Virginia and New Jersey, I was waiting to learn the results of a referendum in Maine.
Last Tuesday, Maine voters approved a measure that prohibits the construction of a transmission line that would have delivered hydropower generated in Quebec to New England. New Hampshire refused to permit construction of the same transmission line last year.
The largely ignored vote in Maine may have a greater effect on the future of the United States than any of the highly publicized events of the past week. When states and localities block electricity transmission projects that are in the national interest, they threaten the country’s ability to mitigate climate change.
Effective climate change mitigation depends critically on the ability to substitute electricity for gasoline as the primary transportation fuel and to substitute carbon-free fuels for fossil fuels as the country’s primary source of electricity.
But the nation’s electricity transmission grid is woefully inadequate to accomplish these …
Late Friday, the House passed President Biden's infrastructure bill, the Build Back Better law. As The Washington Post aptly observed, the bill is the biggest climate legislation to ever move through Congress. It also attracted key support from some Republicans, which was essential to passing it in both houses of Congress. Biden is pushing for an even bigger companion bill, but the infrastructure bill is a huge victory in its own right.
One major area of spending is transportation. Some of that goes for roads and bridges. But as The Washington Post reports, there's a lot of money for rail and mass transit:
Our society has finally reached a turning point on climate.
I’m not referring to the “point of irreversibility” about which the United Nations warns us: In nine short years, the cascading impacts of climate change will trigger more and greater impacts — to the point of no return.
Rather, we have reached the turning point of political will for climate action. There is no going back to climate passivity or denialism. Choosing to electrify and greenify is a progressive agenda, a mainstream agenda, and an industry agenda — though all of these agendas differ.
Reconciling these interests, Congress will pass one, if not two, major spending bills this fall, which would invest as much as $750 billion in climate investments to decarbonize, electrify, and build resilient infrastructure. This achievement is not the Green New Deal, nor the full vision of the Sunrise Movement, but it borrows parts from …
In his first week of office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order, "Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad," that responds to climate change with an emphasis on environmental justice. Notably, the order creates a government-wide "Justice40 initiative," which sets a goal for disadvantaged communities most impacted by climate change and pollution to receive at least 40 percent of overall benefits from federal investments in climate and clean energy.
In attempts to provide key foundational principles for the initiative, the White House recently released a draft guidance document that details how federal agencies should advance the programs covered by the Justice40 Initiative. While the interim guidance provides some direction for the scope of the initiative, the commitment to direct 40 percent of spending to disadvantaged communities is not so straightforward.
The hope of Justice40 is that frontline communities, the ones most burdened …
On Wednesday, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed a package of four clean energy bills. These bills move the state to the forefront of climate action. They ban new fossil fuel plants and set aggressive targets for the state's two major utilities, requiring emission cuts of 80 percent by 2030, 90 percent by 2035 and 100 percent by 2040. This is not only a major step forward for the state; it should also clear the path to closer collaboration among Washington State, Oregon, and California on climate issues.
In signing the bills, Brown observed, "As we have all been experiencing, climate change is no longer a distant threat. It is here. In Oregon, and across the West, we are feeling its impacts every day."
The bill setting the state's aggressive targets passed the Oregon Senate on …
Some events last week sent a strong signal that the tide is turning against fossil fuels. Each of the events standing alone would have been noteworthy. The clustering of these events dramatizes an important shift.
To paraphrase Churchill, this may not be beginning of the end for fossil fuels, but at least it is the end of the beginning of the campaign against them.
Two of the events involved striking decisions in lawsuits in other countries involving fossil fuels. A federal court in Australia ruled that the government had a "duty of care" toward its young people to protect them from climate change. Accordingly, it could be found guilty of negligence if it failed to take their interests into account when considering a request to expand a coal mine. The court said that "it is difficult …
Season 5 of the Center for Progressive Reform's Connect the Dots podcast continues with Episode 4: That's an Order. Keep reading for a summary and to listen to the episode.
President Biden put climate policy front and center on his campaigning platform and wasted no time in pushing his agenda when he took office. The president has proposed $14 billion in spending on initiatives to fight the crisis in the nation’s 2022 budget, and he has appointed cabinet officials with informed backgrounds to offer guidance. He’s also altered tax incentives to favor clean energy over fossil fuels and promised to spur a job revolution that will protect workers in this sector. But the U.S. is operated by three branches of government and federal powers are limited. It’s often the case that the "real work" is done on state and local levels. So, how …
Season 5 of the Center for Progressive Reform's Connect the Dots podcast continues with Episode 3: Banking on the Planet. Keep reading for a summary and to listen to the episode.
A couple weeks ago, Elon Musk hosted Saturday Night Live, a gig typically reserved for A-list movie stars, Grammy Award winners, and stand-up legends. But Musk has risen to fame through his electric vehicle and clean energy company Tesla.
Musk and Tesla have become a social, political, and cultural force in our country, driving an interest in environmental business, investing, and innovation. Through his company, Musk has put renewable energy on the map. His creations may be notoriously expensive, exclusive, and well beyond the reach of many Americans, but the movement he’s leading is growing. And mainstream investors are starting to put money behind it.
When it comes to innovation and clean energy, there’s …
Season 5 of the Center for Progressive Reform's Connect the Dots podcast continues with Episode 2: Capture the Enemy. Keep reading for a summary and to listen to the episode.
Companies using fossil fuels like oil, natural gas, and coal are facing heavy pressure to reduce their carbon footprint. If they don't, they could get hit with financial penalties or be completely shut down. In response, these corporations have come up with a treatment of sorts — it's called carbon capture and sequestration, or CCS for short.
The idea is that the industry can continue operating as it always has, but as a caveat, it will install a system to strip carbon from emissions. The carbon will be funneled through pipelines deep into the ground, where it will be buried forever. As a result, plants can keep running, businesses rally on as usual, there's less pollution in the …
In 2020, the world banded together to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, in 2021, the world continues to change, and we seem to be progressing forward. In turn, the spotlight shifts to another great calamity: climate change. The environmental crisis has made headlines with the Biden administration making climate mitigation and renewable energy top priorities.
With these advancements, researchers, corporations, innovators, and activists around the world are being tasked to follow suit. To stay united and take on another challenge: the transition to clean energy. But what does that entail exactly? How does a shift to renewables affect the average American household?
Scientists and …