Monday, September 07, 2020

Democratic Party improvement over the Green New Deal

My usual timeliness here, but I want to highlight this part of the Democratic Party platform:

To reach net-zero emissions as rapidly as possible, Democrats commit to eliminating carbonpollution from power plants by 2035 through technology-neutral standards for clean energy and energy efficiency. We will dramatically expand solar and wind energy deployment through community-based and utility-scale systems, including in rural areas. Within five years, we will install 500 million solar panels, including eight million solar roofs and community solar energy systems, and 60,000 wind turbines, and turn American ingenuity into American jobs by leveraging federal policy to manufacture renewable energy solutions in America. Recognizing the urgent need to decarbonize the power sector, our technology-neutral approach is inclusive of all zero-carbon technologies, including hydroelectric power, geothermal, existing and advanced nuclear, and carbon capture and storage.

The emphasis-added is the environmental improvement over the Green New Deal. While GND is somewhat amorphous, the sometimes-explicit rejection of nuclear and carbon storage constituted a policy choice that no matter how much those technologies could help the fight against climate change, GND supporters preferred opposing the technology.

To be fair, nuclear power hasn't done well in say the last 40-plus years, and a technology-neutral approach would price in externalities from nuclear waste and revoke liability limitations for massive accidents. Carbon sequestration similarly has a checkered history, and it's a joke to think coal, which is already noncompetitive with renewables, could handle an additional 30%-40% surcharge to pay for carbon sequestration. Still, other carbon sequestration might be possible, including carbon-negative sequestration from biofuels, and maybe the long-prophesied, new nuclear technologies can occur. Let them compete and see what they can do.

The promises for massive amounts of solar and wind also aren't exactly compatible with the technology-neutral approach, but we can acknowledge the reality that they are going to be main forms of increased renewable power for the next two decades. The numbers they give within the next five years are impossible under normal political conditions, but not impossible under a massive buildout plan. I don't expect that to happen, but there's nothing wrong pushing for it.

Two other notes: first, the platform is treating large-scale hydropower as the equivalent of any other renewable resource. Traditionally that hasn't been the case, with some reason - hydropower used to be so big a source that it would drown out any incentives for budding new technologies like solar and wind. That isn't the case any more. I personally would have an incentive geared to immature renewable technologies that large-scale hydro couldn't access, but I think it's reasonable for large hydro to compete with other mature, near-zero carbon technologies.

Second, there's the whole weirdness of dropping the plank calling for an end to fossil fuel subsidies. Completely unacceptable, especially the obfuscation regarding which individual people's actions resulted in the plank being dropped - shades of the 2016 Republican platform dropping the call to provide military weaponry to Ukraine. Still, as the link notes, Biden's still saying he'll end subsidies, and that's more important than the party platform.

We just need to make sure in November that Trump is gone in January.


Tom said...

The Democrats cannot afford to give the Republicans yet another club to beat them with. Whatever our eventual plans for fossil fuel subsidy, Build Back Better.... first.

John ONeiil said...

'..nuclear power hasn't done well in say the last 40-plus years..' apart from making twice as much non-fossil power as everything else put together ( in the US, anyway.) If wind and solar had been built out to the same extent in 1980, and then expansion stopped, nearly every turbine and panel would have ceased working long ago. Reactors are being licenced to do another forty years - by which time most of the wind turbines abuilding now will also be junk.