How States Can Lead on Clean Energy
June 10, 2017
Gov. Terry McAuliffe / Washington Post Op-ed & Michael Gerson / Washington Post Op-ed
Opinion: Climate change poses a serious threat. Unchecked, it will affect everything from our water quality to the air we breathe to whether and where residents can make investments or buy a home. The science is real. And the stakes could not be higher. Climate policy is the new culture war, driven by nearly theological passions. Here is the climate bottom line: to avoid the worst climate disruption, it will be necessary to keep more than 80 percent of existing coal reserves in the ground, unexploited.
Here's How States Can Lead on Clean Energy
Gov. Terry McAuliffe / Op-ed for The Washington Post
(June 9, 2017) -- Climate change poses a serious threat to every Virginian's way of life. Unchecked, it will affect everything from our water quality to the air we breathe to whether and where residents can make investments or buy a home.
The Hampton Roads region is the second-most vulnerable area in the United States, behind New Orleans, to the costly impacts of sea-level rise. Because it is home to the largest naval station in the world, sea-level change threatens not only our infrastructure but also our national security.
We also have $92 billion worth of residential property at risk of damage from increased storm surges. Half of Virginia's counties face increased risk of water shortages by 2050 caused by climate-related weather shifts.
Virginia may be particularly vulnerable, but this story is not unique to our state. The effects of climate change will increasingly pose a threat to communities and economies in every corner of the country and the world.
This threat demands an immediate and global response. And many countries have stepped up to the plate. Unfortunately, in the era of President Trump, the United States is not likely to be one of them.
So far, the president and his administration have shirked their responsibility to lead on this issue. Trump ordered the Clean Power Plan to be dismantled, and he has reneged on the United States' commitment to meet goals set at the Paris climate talks.
In the absence of federal leadership, it is up to the states to fill the void. I was proud to put our commonwealth on a list of states and cities dedicated to the principles of the Paris agreement even in the absence of federal leadership. But we were working hard on this issue even before Trump pulled out of Paris.
Last month, I signed an executive directive to begin the process of establishing a statewide cap on carbon dioxide emissions by Virginia's electric utilities. When complete, these regulations will significantly reduce the commonwealth's contribution to global warming and make Virginia a leader in the clean-energy economy.
In the coming decades, clean-energy technology will be a source of incredible economic growth. From 2015 to 2016, solar installations in Virginia nearly quadrupled. The number of Virginians employed by the solar industry rose to 3,236, significantly exceeding the dwindling number of coal jobs in our state.
I am proud that, despite our reputation as a Southern state hostile to renewable energy, Virginia is the first state in the Trump era to take action to cut carbon and create clean-energy jobs. But we cannot meet this threat alone. It is imperative that others pick up the mantle of leadership that Trump dropped.
Each state that steps forward will enhance our national response to this crisis and have the opportunity to contribute to a market-based approach to clean-energy innovation that could transform our economy and create jobs in every corner of the country.
The order I signed directs my administration to develop clean-energy regulations that would allow Virginia utilities to trade carbon credits in a multistate market.
By capping carbon emissions and allowing utilities to trade credits, we will create an incentive in Virginia to innovate and provide cleaner and cheaper energy, which benefits our environment and the families and businesses that pay power bills.
As more states take action to participate in these markets, we can work together to cut emissions and costs through innovation. We can begin a new chapter of American energy independence. And we can restore our nation's standing as a leader in the global response to climate change.
The science is real. And the stakes could not be higher. We simply cannot afford for politicians in Washington to put their party or the special interests ahead of our country. I am proud that our commonwealth is leading the way on climate and energy issues, and I hope my fellow governors will step forward soon. Our states, our economy and our future depend on it.
Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, is the governor of Virginia.
Forget the Paris Accord. Here's What Can Really Fight Climate Change
Michael Gerson / Op-ed for the Washington Post
(June 5, 2017) – Climate policy is the new culture war, driven by nearly theological passions. Or actually theological passions -- with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi claiming that President Trump's withdrawal from the Paris climate accord was a "dishonor" to God.
While God certainly values his creation, he is probably less concerned with the details of implementing the Paris agreement. Both detractors and supporters share a similar temptation of exaggeration.
Trump claims that a relatively modest, entirely voluntary agreement that essentially maintains the current momentum of reductions in carbon emissions would somehow destroy the US economy. It wouldn't.
Some advocates seem to imply that a relatively modest, entirely voluntary agreement that essentially maintains the current momentum of reductions in carbon emissions would somehow save the world. It can't.
Here is the climate bottom line, as far as science can currently describe it: In order to keep the rise in average global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius and thus avoid the worst climate disruption, it will be necessary to keep more than 80 percent of existing coal reserves in the ground, unexploited. The same will be necessary for more than 50 percent of natural gas reserves.
Those who believe this will happen through some global regulatory regime enforced by the United Nations are inhaling not carbon dioxide but nitrous oxide. Developing nations will not accept the argument that developed nations -- having built their own hydrocarbon-based prosperity -- can now pull up the carbon ladder.
The best hope for keeping hydrocarbons in the ground is for non-carbon-based alternatives -- ones that don't disappear at night or when the wind doesn't blow -- to cost less. Putting a price (such as a tax) on carbon emissions would help. But the only sufficient, realistic path is technological innovation, producing non-intermittent, non-carbon-based sources of energy that cost less than coal and natural gas.
This technology will eventually develop in the normal course of innovation. But the timelines of innovation and climate degradation are not the same. Every ton of carbon released into the air can have climate effects for hundreds of years.
To avoid the worst climate disruption, we need to speed up the technological timeline. And this will take massive, urgent, strategic, public and private investment in energy research and development.
Why didn't Trump propose this rather obvious, market-oriented alternative to the Paris agreement? A normal president -- Republican or Democrat -- might have said: "The difficulty with this particular agreement -- support it or oppose it -- is that it is caught in 20th-century thinking, seeking answers to technical challenges through bureaucracy.
The problem is too big for that approach, and our ambitions are too small. We incur an enormous risk in using current energy technologies, yet we can't expect hundreds of millions of people in the developing world who want middle-class lives to forgo the most cost-effective sources of energy.
So today I'm announcing an unprecedented project of research into advanced energy sources, matched by investment pledges from the private sector. This is the way America will lead -- through the development of climate-saving technologies that can eventually be employed by the entire world."
But we do not have a normal president, as Trump's Paris agreement unsigning statement made clear. Trump is applying the worst kind of populism to foreign affairs. The problem he seeks to solve is a global conspiracy against American workers.
A conspiracy utilizing climate science as a type of subversion or sabotage. A conspiracy including our closest allies, friends and trading partners, who "went wild, they were so happy" at the prospect of greater American poverty and suffering.
This is far, far away from the post-World War II American foreign policy tradition -- which located American success in an expanding order of economic, political and social freedom.
Trump is critiquing not "globalism" but the Atlantic Alliance that prevailed in the Cold War and a Pacific strategy that has deterred aggression and increased mutual prosperity through trade for more than half a century.
"No people can live to itself alone," said that pernicious globalist Dwight Eisenhower in his second inaugural address. "The economic need of all nations -- in mutual dependence -- makes isolation an impossibility; not even America's prosperity could long survive if other nations did not also prosper. No nation can longer be a fortress, lone and strong and safe. And any people, seeking such shelter for themselves, can now build only their own prison."
That prison is Trump's most ambitious building project.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.