Poll: Climate Top Issue for Dems, Beto Releases Serious Climate Plan

April 30, 2019

At least in one poll, climate is a top issue for registered Dems. And, maybe surprising to some, Beto O’Rourke is out with the first serious policy proposal to deal with it.

The Hill:

Climate change action is the top issue for Democratic voters, according to a new national poll out Tuesday.
The CNN poll found that 82 percent of registered voters who identified as Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents listed climate change as a “very important” top priority they’d like to see get the focus of a presidential candidate. 
The issue was trailed by universal government-provided health care, at 75 percent, and executive action on stricter gun control measures at 65 percent. Impeaching President Trump ranked fifth on the list of priorities for Democratic voters, at 43 percent.
The poll is the first national survey to show climate change rising to the top of the ranks among issues Democrats plan to focus on in the 2020 election.

Only 14 percent of Republican voters in the same poll listed climate change as a major threat.

Poll here.

Rob Meyer in the Atlantic:

The first 2020 presidential candidate out with a comprehensive climate-change policy is … Beto O’Rourke?
I was surprised, too. The former congressman from Texas, whose campaign has previously been somewhat skimpy on policy proposals, debuted on Monday a $1.5 trillion proposal meant to rapidly move the economy away from fossil fuels and slow the advance of climate change.

“We will ensure we are at net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions by the year 2050, and that we are halfway there by 2030,” O’Rourke said in a video posted to Twitter. His plan calls climate change “the greatest threat we face—one which will test our country, our democracy, and every single one of us.”
O’Rourke says his proposal is the “most ambitious climate plan in the history of the United States.” Certainly it is—so far—the most wide-ranging climate plan debuted by any Democratic presidential candidate in the 2020 race, though a number of contenders say their own proposals will come out shortly. And it makes for a dramatic contrast with the agenda of President Donald Trump, who has repealed major federal rules restricting carbon pollution and staffed the federal government with former fossil-fuel lobbyists.

It certainly doesn’t lack for length. The new proposal, running more than 2,500 words, has nearly doubled the policy content of O’Rourke’s campaign. Previously, his website devoted only one page to policy, detailing a 3,000-word “vision for America” that ranged across 13 different issues.

There are several different ways to address climate change through federal policy. O’Rourke’s plan tries to do all of them at once.
First, the government can try to make carbon pollution more expensive by regulating or taxing it. O’Rourke says that on his first day in office, he would reverse all of Trump’s climate-related orders, rejoin the Paris Agreement, and tell the Environmental Protection Agency to restrict air pollution from power plants and car tailpipes again.

He would also ask Congress to pass a “legally enforceable standard” that would force the United States to zero out its carbon emissions by 2050. What is this “standard”? Though the proposal’s language is cleverly vague, O’Rourke seems to be describing some kind of carbon tax—his exact language is “a clear price signal to the market”—that scales up as the mid-century deadline approaches.
Second, the government can try to make clean energy cheaper. O’Rourke says he will spend $200 billion on a new R&D program to study technologies that can reach his zero-carbon goal.
Finally, the government can buy things: solar panels, wind turbines, public transit, electric-car charging stations, and adaptations (such as seawalls) that will help people prepare for the worsened weather to come. O’Rourke says he would ask Congress to cut tax breaks for oil companies, using the resulting $1.5 trillion to fund new climate-ready infrastructure.
O’Rourke also promises to connect $500 billion in federal spending—spending that would happen anyway—to his climate goals. The federal government already tries to “buy American,” favoring U.S. companies and manufacturers; under O’Rourke’s plan, it would also “buy clean,” favoring steel, glass, and cement produced in a climate-friendly way. Some scholars associated with the Green New Deal have proposed similar new programs.

O’Rourke’s proposal goes much further than either Trump- or Obama-era policy. It will also face virtually guaranteed political opposition. But it combines a mix of approaches. Some of his proposals require new congressional legislation; some can happen through annual budget negotiations; some can be authorized by the president.
Take his proposed advanced-energy R&D program. The United States actually has an active energy R&D program, called ARPA-E, or the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. Trump has proposed closing ARPA-E every year since he took office, but some Republicans and Democrats in Congress have resisted him. As such, ARPA-E now has a budget of $366 million—a record haul for the small agency.

But that all-time record is still 550 times smaller than O’Rourke’s $200 billion proposal. O’Rourke says that $200 billion is “an amount equal to what we invested in our nation’s journey to the Moon,” but I think that may actually understate the monetary scale of the proposal’s ambition: In inflation-adjusted dollars, $200 billion exceeds the cost of the 15-year Apollo program.

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20 Responses to “Poll: Climate Top Issue for Dems, Beto Releases Serious Climate Plan”

  1. Terry Donte Says:

    5 trillion divided by 300 million is 16667 dollars for every man women and child in the country assuming a zero did not slip somewhere along the line. Since our kids will be paying the 22 trillion plus this 5 trillion , not us-we will be dead, we will be dumping a huge debt on every single one of them . How are they supposed to have a life with a debt of 200,000 plus on each of them the day they are born? Plus interest. All for 3/10tha of a degree Fahrenheit temperature rise in the last 400 years.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      your assumption is that we will. spend zero on energy if we don’t adopt a smart plan to save a livable planet.
      We’ll spend the 5 trillion – the question is, stupidly or wisely.
      example: 2 trillion spent by recent GOP admin on war for oil

    • dumboldguy Says:

      We don’t seem to have a problem dumping a huge debt on them because of the Trump tax cuts for the greedy rich and the corporations, or for ramping up programs to send men to the moon and Mars for no good reason, or for the oil wars as Peter mentions. What is your REAL problem, Terry? Why do you suffer from such confirmation bias?

    • realthog Says:

      So what I think you’re saying, Terry Donte, is that rather than redistribute our resources to save the lives of our descendants, even if that ends up being (arguably) more expensive, we should instead do nothing and thereby kill them.

    • andrewfez Says:

      After the Reagan, Bush, and Trump tax cuts, Republicans have zero credibility in concern-trolling about the debt and deficit. They themselves are Keynesian’s that spend and cut when they are in office, then pretend to act shocked as soon as the political pendulum swings the other way and Dems get subsequently elected, inheriting the mess they created regarding such debt. They’ve even admitted this was and is their strategy.

      Iraq – an illegal war on a country that hasn’t attacked us – will cost $6T itself in the end.

      Bush authorized $100B to rebuild stuff in Afghanistan we knocked over. $100B is about what it would cost to put 9 hours of Lithium battery storage on our east coast 72GW grid at GM and Musk’s target prices, which would allow a market driven solar and wind build out, resulting in that grid producing clean electricity 90% of the time at costs below our current electricity rates.

      • andrewfez Says:

        Oh and those trillions we’ve spend on illegal wars: it has just created more terrorism and oil price instability, and has created humanitarian crises much greater than those produced by the ‘evil’ dictators we were supposed to be opposing secondary to our fake concern for their civilian population. In other words we wasted those trillions and have nothing to show for it, other than huge gains in defense contractor stock prices.

        At least if you spend $5T on public works projects, it stimulates the economy, and adds a liquidity injection into the middle class – the US’s traditional economic engine. This results in a lower debt to GDP ratio so it pays for itself. And by the way our crumbling infrastructure gets a grade of D by our engineering societies. Flint and other places in the US have large amounts of lead in their drinking water. We need big public works projects to happen to make america great again.

        If your not voting Sanders, you’re asking more more of the same from the last 40 years.

      • jfon Says:

        Nine hours’ storage is very sketchy. If you have a week of generally calm, cloudy weather, you’d burn through that on your first night, and then get progressively deeper into the red following on. Even assuming substantial overbuild of wind and solar. Germany has over 100GW of wind and solar installed, when peak demand is usually only about 70GW, but wind and solar still only make less than 30% of their power, over a year. For a winter week when both wind and solar were performing at half their average, you’d need double the capacity to cover the day’s demand, then double again to fill storage, plus storage losses.
        Peak demand on the east coast is well over 72GW. Just New England, New York and the PJM are using over 128GW peak at the moment. Add transport and heating to that, plus industrial heat, if you’re serious about cutting emissions.
        https://www.electricitymap.org/?wind=false&solar=false&page=country&remote=true&countryCode=US-PJM

  2. dumboldguy Says:

    We shouldn’t make the mistake or thinking that a high number of people saying that something is “extremely important” is the same as them ranking it number one on a priority list of issues. Many things other than the environment and climate change are ranked higher on voter’s priority lists (or not far behind).

    PS Another classic Trumpism in the clip re: a hurricane—“One of the wettest we’ve seen in terms of water”. That’s one of the dumbest things he’s said (in terms of dumb). Way to go DUHnald!

    BTW, WashPost today talks about Trump passing the 10,111 mark in the tally of his lies. That includes 21 “bottomless Pinocchios”—-three or four “pinocchio” rated lies that have been repeated 20 or more times. For those not aware, the Post has a fact-check column that awards up to four “Pinocchios” for lies or misstatements of fact. Trump’s total exceeds the sum total of ALL the people they’ve ever rated
    (according to Trump, of course, that’s fake news from the fake media).

    • jimbills Says:

      Additionally, it shouldn’t be equated with how much that priority extends to their own personal expenses and comfort. Does it mean taxes go up for them? The price of gas goes up?

      Repeatedly in the past, a Republican just has to mention the cost and all enthusiasm goes out the window. Washington state just voted down a carbon tax, and yes it was heavily influenced by FF ads, but it also said one of our most liberal states in the country couldn’t pass a simple carbon tax because the majority of citizens were worried about cost.

      • Andrew Feazelle Says:

        If you’re not expending carbon then you’re not paying the tax. My car is out charging in the driveway and I’m indifferent to the $4+/gallon gas we have out here.

      • jimbills Says:

        Good for you, but not really my point. I’m saying that the hope that the majority of Americans care about climate change doesn’t necessarily mean that it extends into personal sacrifice.

        Yes, the individual, especially if they have a decent personal income, can go out and buy a new 30K+ car, but would the majority of voters support raised personal expenses? Could they all go out and buy new cars? Would they support raised taxes? There’s just previous little evidence they would and a lot of evidence that they wouldn’t.

        To me, the O’Rourke plan is intentionally vague. He probably realizes the political landmine of getting into details that can be nitpickeded as too burdensome on voters.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          Look up just about any recent poll and note where climate change appears in the ranking of “Extremely/Very important” issues. So what if it’s higher among Dems than Repugs? From GALLUP, OCT. 15-28, 2018

          Healthcare, The economy, Immigration, Way women are treated in U.S. society, Gun policy, Taxes, Foreign affairs,Way income and wealth are distributed in the U.S.,The recent confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, U.S. trade and tariff policies,

          Climate change

          Investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 U.S. election

          Wake up and smell the skunk cabbage (and overflowing cesspool in DC)

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      Some hurricanes are much wetter than others, depending on how fast they move and whether they linger near shore. Harvey was super-wet, others pull in drier air as they move and/or have more distinct bands.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        We knew all that, but thank you for reminding us. When you say “wetter”, you are of course speaking “in terms of water” like our President-by-accident, aren’t you?

  3. J4Zonian Says:

    “the proposal’s language is cleverly vague:”

    O’Rourke:
    “move the economy away from fossil fuels and slow the advance of climate change“

    “net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions by the year 2050”

    So if FDR were taking an O’Rourkian approach: here’s what he might have said on December 8, 1941:

    “Yesterday, something really terrible happened, in my opinion, and we should maybe try to kind of do something about it or we could all be under fascist rule in no time. We should move our economy away from farming and toward some kind of you know, machine things, and start to work on thinking about slowing the advance of any overly conservative governments who happen to be in Asia. We should have a couple of platoons ready to fight in Hawaii by 1945, and a bunch of planes and ships and stuff ready to attack any hostile forces in the Aleutians by 1960. After that we can start to think about what it might be like to attack Italian forces in Ethiopia, and go after the German Solomon Islands. We must meet this crisis with all the force we can put together.

    *(The Solomon Islands colony was given up by Germany in 1899. Apparently our imaginary FDR isn’t any more up-to-date than BOR is on climate.)

    Instead of a woefully inadequate plan designed to change nothing about the US oligarchic empire that O’Rourke serves as a mindless tool, we need to massively sequester carbon with forestry and agriculture so we reach not net zero emissions by 2050 but actual zero emissions by 2030 or earlier.

    O’Rourke’s position on climate is like corporate Democrats’ position in the world—a comforting lie appearing to oppose the more radically fascist leanings of the Republicans, but not enough to stray from their slower drive toward fascism and ecological destruction.

    For civilization to have a reasonable chance of survival, we have to elect one of the progressive POTUS candidates who will act appropriately on climate, elect more Green party members locally and into state and federal positions, and move the progressive congressional Democrats into leadership positions.

  4. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    He would also ask Congress to pass a “legally enforceable standard” that would force the United States to zero out its carbon emissions by 2050.

    It’s frustrating that so many presidential campaign “promises” are well beyond the office’s power to keep. Yes, presidents have the bully pulpit, and can control a lot via their administration’s agencies and bureaus, but Congress is answerable to their parties and donors (note I didn’t mention voters), and has great capacity to water down even the most important efforts.

    • andrewfez Says:

      A few weeks ago Beto was saying we need net zero by 2030. Then all of a sudden he changes it to 2050. He was saying ‘Medicare for All’ during the TX primary then switched his tune when he went up against Cruz.

      Isn’t Beto the second largest receiver of campaign oil money (after Cruz) too? I’d say he’s likely to give part of that $5T to Exxon and ask them to make their oil clean somehow; next thing you know they’ll use the money on campaigns about how much cleaner their fracked gas is than coal with regard to only CO2, never mind CH4.

      It’s the Green New Deal, with the government writing the final checks for storage, ( and retrofits, etc.) which will cause a market driven solar and wind build out, that’s more cost effective.

      • J4Zonian Says:

        Sorry, is that snark? You had it right up to the last half of the last sentence so I’m not sure. “The market” is a lie; it’s just the oligarchy deciding what happens, using corporations (including media corporations), government, religion, and other institutions as tools. Either the oligarchy or the market is insane, and they or it have abdicated on all things ecological and important. Either the government is writing the checks or the insane oligarchy is; it can’t be both. If the oligarchy is in charge we’re finished, as they’ve made it completely clear for decades they prioritize their short term profits and dominance over the survival of both nature and civilization; in fact it seems the actual priority is extinction and everything else is gaslight.

  5. jfon Says:

    Nine hours’ storage is very sketchy. If you have a week of generally calm, cloudy weather, you’d burn through that on your first night, and then get progressively deeper into the red following on. Even assuming substantial overbuild of wind and solar. Germany has over 100GW of wind and solar installed, when peak demand is usually only about 70GW, but wind and solar still only make less than 30% of their power, over a year. For a winter week when both wind and solar were performing at half their average, you’d need double the capacity to cover the day’s demand, then double again to fill storage, plus storage losses.
    Peak demand on the east coast is well over 72GW. Just New England, New York and the PJM are using over 128GW peak at the moment. Add transport and heating to that, plus industrial heat, if you’re serious about cutting emissions.
    https://www.electricitymap.org/?wind=false&solar=false&page=country&remote=true&countryCode=US-PJM

    • J4Zonian Says:

      The usual arf (anti-renewable fanatic) tactic of trying to separate wind and solar from hydro, to make both appear smaller. What makes clean safe renewable energy work is the harmonized combination of all renewable sources. jfon’s post is misleading in a number of ways, including the fact that solar and wind are largely complementary, peaking in different seasons and times of day. The marginal capacity factor of offshore wind is now 65%, higher than either gas or coal in today’s market. It’s still going up while gas and coal are going down.

      The video data only goes to 2013 so all the numbers are bigger and the technology is cheaper and more advanced now–astoundingly so. The grid used, Texas, is small, so it has more challenges than larger grids, and has very little developed solar (one of its obvious strengths). The answers are the same as the answers everywhere:

      1. Diversification of renewable sources, including dispatchable renewables like CSP, geothermal, micro-hydro, clothesline energies like annual cycle energy systems, passive and active solar space and water heating and cooling using building mass as built-in storage…
      2. Efficiency, wiser lives. The US wastes 85% of the energy it produces, not even counting wising up the way it lives. Just electrifying primary energy reduces waste by a third; further efficiency is the cheapest source of energy. The reduction of energy use through wiser lives is almost unlimited; for example, reducing the military by 75-90% would actually enhance our security and make a better world for us and everyone else. (China would no doubt respond by ridding itself of a large part of its burdensome military, completely out of self-interest.)
      3. Distributed generation. Texas needs to hook up to other grids; we need a national grid further distributed across time zones with offshore wind on both coasts, and into Canada (60% hydro) and Mexico (easily expanded with PV-and-storage and CSP.
      4. An immense ramp up of storage. Building new wind and/or solar plus storage is now even cheaper than any other existing source (besides efficiency) in many places in the world and the US. That will soon be true everywhere, since prices of all 3 continue to drop. CSP is competitive with utility PV; while commercial and residential rooftop solar with storage costs more, reduced generation costs can make up for that and its distributed nature makes it more valuable. Wind is helped more by distribution, solar by storage, which can include batteries, pumped storage, water and ice refrigeration, crane-and-weight storage, pumped storage spheres with offshore wind, and other strategies.
      5. Demand response
      6. EVs as mobile batteries, especially public transit. (There are 400,000 EV buses in the world, 98% of them in China. China also has 24,000 miles of high speed rail line, saving enormous amounts of energy and emissions over flying. The US has zero miles.

      Historically, hydro developed first because it was cheap. Wind was possible early https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smith–Putnam_wind_turbine#/media/File:Wind_turbine_1941.jpg
      2 MW turbine, Grandpa’s Knob, VT 1941
      but because fossil fuel subsidies and externalities were allowed by a society unconcerned about ecological impacts, utility-scale wind languished for half a century. Only recently has wind, and then solar, come down in price enough to be considered by a society so insane it would risk the end of life on Earth to pursue profits.

      There are now dozens of studies using different methods and showing different paths and mixes of achieving 100% renewable energy for countries, regions, and the world.
      grist[DOT]org/article/momentum-grows-for-new-yorks-landmark-climate-equity-bill/#comment-4344603142


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