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Friday, July 09, 2010

Jenkins 'Empanelated' At Grist

Over at online environmental magazine, I've been featured among a panel of "seven of Grist's favorite journos and wonks" each offering their two cents on what (if any) changes to climate and clean energy strategy should be made now that cap and trade is on the ropes.

Part 1 focuses on what to do with the remainder if this quickly-waning Congressional year, while Part 2 focuses on longer-term strategy. Here's my response to each question:

Grist: If it's true that a carbon price is impossible this year, what policies should energy reformers rally around in the short-term?

Jenkins: The focus for the remaining few weeks left has to be on substantive steps forward we can take without ceding ground or giving up too much in the way of opportunity cost. There's not a lot of time left to rally support for new ideas, so it has to be something that's already on the drawing board, like vehicle electrification and other efforts to win our freedom from oil. One big opportunity that's been ignored is the America Competes Act, which would authorize a number of key provisions to strengthen our clean energy innovation system in the United States. Some of those provisions could be put into Senate energy legislation. And there's the Clean Energy Deployment Administration, which could be an important part of financing emerging, innovative technologies. I would hate to see that fall through the cracks.

Grist: Given that the pursuit of cap-and-trade has fallen short yet again, is there reason for energy reformers to reassess their broad legislative strategy?

Jenkins: The policy approach of the last five years -- McCain-Lieberman through McCain-Warner through Lieberman-Warner through Waxman-Markey and the American Power Act -- has run its course. We should rethink a strategy that can be more politically and substantively effective in 2011. The broad contours are: We should try much less to make dirty energy more expensive and focus much more on making clean energy cheaper in unsubsidized terms in the long term. That doesn't mean that there's no role for carbon pricing, but it's a different role than it has under Waxman-Markey. First, it's a mechanism to provide the long-term, stable funding we need to make public investments in clean energy technology innovation, demonstration, and deployment. Second, price plays an important role in helping close off some externalities, helping make the market work more efficiently, and providing a synergistic demand pull for more mature clean energy technologies.

If you look at what Americans support in poll after poll, it is clean energy technology. There's very little support for clean energy technology in the current approach, because the money in cap-and-trade has been used as the bargaining chip for efforts to get an increasingly weaker carbon cap in place. Put investment in clean technology front and center -- and oh, by the way, we're going to pay for this with a modest fee on carbon.

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1 comment:

David Kroodsma said...

Awesome. Nice work! The more current climate legislation fails, the more we need this approach.