June 26, 2008
Talking Points for Youth Clean Energy Forum
A friend of mine attending the Youth Clean Energy Forum tomorrow asked me to suggest some talking points (for the administration and fellow youth leaders) and pre-readings. Here's what I wrote (cross-posted from LeadEnergy):
I. Any successful global climate treaty has to go beyond the traditional framework of binding emissions targets. Kyoto failed. China, India, and the rest of the developing world have made it unequivocal that they will not adopt meaningful targets. The right model is shared government investments in technology development and economic development -- as per the creation of the EU and the Marshall Plan -- not bindings emissions targets, which allow politicians to commit to distant targets they ultimately have little or no responsibility for achieving. The International Energy Agency says $10 trillion in global clean energy investment is necessary over the next two decades. The UN recently called for $500-600 billion annually in developing countries alone, including adaptation efforts. One alternative that could accommodate a technology and investment-centered strategy is a "carbon cap equivalency" framework, explained here by Julian Wong et al. Another has been dubbed the "Direct Kaya Approach," a targeted, sectoral-based strategy to directly reduce the carbon intensity of economies. Another is a "national schedules" approach. Regardless, what is demanded now is massive and immediate investment to develop and deploy low-carbon energy technology across the world, without which the next global climate treaty will surely fail.
II. The Senate climate bill must be significantly strengthened, particularly its investments in clean technology development and deployment, and the Obama administration and broader climate movement (including Energy Action Coalition) should support these efforts. These issues must be addressed: (1) The bill's greenhouse gas emissions cap is effectively non-binding for the first decade or more, due to the authorization of massive levels of offsets, and it is unlikely to drive significant near-term changes in the U.S. energy economy. (2) The bill invests far less in clean energy technologies and industries than either the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) or the direct investments being made by competing nations, including China, South Korea and Japan. (3) The carbon price signal established by the cap and trade program is expected to be modest and insufficient to pull emerging clean energy technologies into the market or spur significant investment in clean energy innovation. (4) The renewable electricity standard established by the bill will not ensure any increase in U.S. renewable energy deployment beyond already conservative business-as-usual projections. For a full summary of Breakthrough Institute's 20-part analysis of ACES, which the Senate bill is based on, see here.
III. Young Americans have to get serious about the global clean energy race, and we need the federal government to invest big in clean energy education and workforce development. Without immediate action to launch a national energy competitiveness project based on large, direct, and coordinated innovation policies, we will effectively cede the clean energy industry to Asia and other competitors and miss a critical opportunity to rebuild our economy and correct the imbalances that caused the Great Recession. One of the key elements missing right now is federal energy education policy to develop the tens of thousands of young scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs that will lead the energy innovation frontier. The Green Jobs Act and ARRA are investing good money in "green collar" technical workforce development. Now we need a large-scale federal effort to focus on energy innovation in higher education. President Obama's RE-ENERGYSE proposal is a very important start, and a new student-led group called Americans for Energy Leadership is working to get it passed through Congress next year.
More suggested reading:
(1) "Scrap Kyoto"
(2) "The Innovation Consensus"
(3) "Invest in New American Energy: Pathway to a Clean and Prosperous American Energy Economy"
The case for public investment: http://thebreakthrough.org/blog/BTI_Investment_Brief.pdf
Policy recommendations brief: http://thebreakthrough.org/blog/BTI_Investment_Policy.pdf
(4) "Winning the Clean Energy Race: A New Strategy for American Leadership"
(5) "To Make Clean Energy Cheaper, U.S. Needs Bold Research Push"
(6) "Want to Save the World? Make Clean Energy Cheap."
(7) "The Cap & Trade We Need"