Inslee’s 200-page climate plan is the most detailed document any candidate has put together to address climate change. Elizabeth Warren has said she will adopt it as is. Many people would like to view it as a first fleshing out of the Green New Deal.
As such, it is important to recognize what the Inslee document does and doesn’t do. Here are a few points. (For context, this note builds upon our other recent points on climate change.)
- Inslee’s document is very good at documenting areas of government action necessary to address climate change.
– Undoing Trump’s many areas of damage within the executive—environmental planning and regulations of all kinds
– Reestablishing links to international organizations—the Paris Agreement and many others
– Identifying topics to be included in a plan—electric grid, carbon pricing, protecting affected workers
- However that is different from a plan of action. Two issues:
– There isn’t yet a concrete plan for the core electric grid and power sources
This is completely controllable and in the critical path for everything else.
It is a strategic necessity—our generation’s interstate highway system.
It has to be planned nationally, with roles determined for renewable sources.
It will push the envelope on technology. The Chinese are already deploying the highest capacity links ever. Management and control software may be our strength.
– Inslee covers many topics, but doesn’t systematically prioritize sectors or work. The following chart is key:
Where is lowest-hanging fruit both initially and as we go?
What are technological and other barriers to success?
What sequences of steps will be necessary?
How does carbon pricing fit in? What do we do about carbon capture?
- Transition costs are greatly underestimated.
– Inslee talks about protecting unionized coal and oil workers from loss of income.
– Far more affected people will be outside that core: automobile mechanics, manufacturing value chains, service stations, etc.
– Most American car manufacturers risk being left behind—today’s cheap electric cars use South Korean technology.
– We will also—for the same reasons—need to protect workers losing jobs from other technology changes, such as AI.
- International aid requirements are also greatly underestimated. This chart shows the problem:
– Many “All others” countries will be unable to do it alone—we will have to contribute. That’s not just for them; it’s our atmosphere too!
– Inslee focuses on investment, but we will also need to provide financial aid and active assistance.
– MIT Professor Henry Jacoby gives a broader summary of this little-discussed truth:
- Inslee doesn’t cover everything in the Green New Deal.
– No claim to provide jobs for everyone (mostly high-skill jobs)
– Many claims but little detail about aid to “front-line communities”
– Minimizes management challenges of a huge undertaking—e.g. preventing corruption
- The technology picture is fanciful.
– We do need to develop new technologies or be left behind
– We’re not going to be world-dominant in everything—we’re not the only ones trying.
– We’re also not going to bring back the good old days of manufacturing—not any more than we did with iPhones. Most climate jobs will be in deploying technology.
– Market opportunities are enormous, and we can expect success in our areas of strength. But employment and equality of opportunity are part of a bigger story. Fighting climate change by itself won’t bring nirvana.
- Inslee’s tariff and sector protection story is exactly what we’re forbidding the Chinese to do.
– When we need worldwide cooperation, the last things we need are trade wars and tariffs!
– Rules for fair trade have got to worked out in the WTO as part of the Paris Agreement process
– We have to accept the reality of fair competition—whether we’ve paid for the research or not. That’s a necessity for climate and ultimately beneficial economically.
- Inslee’s document—like Green New Deal itself—declares an unnecessary culture war.
– We’re deploying new energy sources to replace fossil fuels.
– For the most part, we’re changing how things work, not what they do.
– The transition will involve everyone, but it’s not a culture or lifestyle question. People will continue to drive (electric) Chevy Suburbans.
- We still need a program of initial major steps. This should include items such as:
– Blue ribbon team on electric grid and power sources with dated deliverables
– Specifics on carbon pricing (why not just take CCL?—it’s progressive)
– Commit to supporting all people hurt by technology transition (& try to scope it)
– Spend real money on test systems to productize carbon capture
– Get serious about what will be needed (by year) to completely change transportation.
– Business roundtable to address application needs
– Back to a leadership role in moving forward on Paris Agreement commitments.
– Fix WTO rules to be consistent with Paris objectives.
– Better understand what will be needed from us (and others) for third-world countries do their part.
– Organize to make the most of climate jobs for the whole population.