Democratic Party Principles: An Energy Program for the Future

Senate Democrats unveiled their energy bill this past Tuesday.

There is not much hope that the bill will be passed and signed into law but it is an important step in defining where Democrats stand on energy and the environment:

“Today’s announcement should send a clear signal that it is a top priority for Senate Democrats to invest in our nation’s energy future and address climate change before it’s too late,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) at a Tuesday press conference. The legislation “is a technology driven pathway to a clean energy future,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) who sponsored the bill, dubbed the “American Energy Innovation Act of 2015.”

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Though it would not set a price on carbon emissions, like the failed cap-and-trade bill from five years ago, her bill does contain many provisions intended to accelerate the shift to a low-carbon economy, and sets a more ambitious carbon target than the White House.

It is important to establish what Democrats are for in order to help voters understand that there is a real difference between the two national parties:

“At a time when the majority in Congress is seemingly at the beck and call of the fossil fuel industry, legislation like this … lays out clear clean energy priorities, offering a blueprint for the kind of energy policy that actually represents what the American public actually wants and reflects the direction the market and the nation are actually going,” Sierra Club legislative director, Melinda Pierce, told ThinkProgress. Pierce said that it would not be surprising to see some parts of the bill adapted into other bills that would have a better chance of passage.

This past week, Democratic Party candidate for president Hillary Clinton announced her energy plan, which began with her stating her opposition to building the Keystone Pipeline. She is the second Democratic candidate to release a plan (Martin O’Malley also released one).

Clinton had long refused to take a public stance on Keystone, a project that was first filed with the State Department during her tenure as Secretary of State. But the increasingly-visible threat of climate change, Clinton wrote in an essay published today on Medium, caused her to finally release an official position on the proposed pipeline, which would bring tar sands crude from Canada to Nebraska.

“We shouldn’t be building a pipeline dedicated to moving North America’s dirtiest fuel through our communities — we should be focused on what it will take to make America the clean energy superpower of the 21st century,” Clinton said in the essay. “Building a clean, secure, and affordable North American energy future is bigger than Keystone XL or any other single project. That’s what I will focus on as president.” […]

“American energy policy is about more than a single pipeline to transport Canada’s dirtiest fuel across our country,” Clinton wrote. “It’s about building our future — a future where the United States will once again lead the world by constructing state-of-the-art infrastructure, creating new jobs and new markets, accelerating the transition to a clean energy economy, and improving the health, safety, and security of all Americans.”

Secretary Clinton’s full statement on Keystone and her plan is below the fold.

From Medium Hillary Clinton: Why I oppose Keystone XL

When I was secretary of state, the department began reviewing an application to build a pipeline that would bring Canadian oil sands crude across the border, run more than a thousand miles through the American heartland, and terminate in Nebraska — Keystone XL.

As the secretary who initiated the review, I refrained from commenting on the pipeline after I left the federal government. I didn’t want to get ahead of President Obama while the process was still underway — because the decision was and is his to make.

Since the application was filed, the effects of climate change have grown more acute. More than 8 million acres have burned in the United States so far this wildfire season. California is in the fourth year of a historic drought scientists say has been made worse by climate change. More severe storms and extreme heat waves have wreaked havoc around the world.

I have come to feel I can’t stay silent on an issue that matters so much to so many. Though I wanted to give the president space to make a decision, the process has taken far longer than I expected. I want the American people to know where I stand. That’s why I am making it clear:

I am opposed to the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

We shouldn’t be building a pipeline dedicated to moving North America’s dirtiest fuel through our communities — we should be focused on what it will take to make America the clean energy superpower of the 21st century. For too long, the Keystone XL pipeline has been a distraction from the real challenges facing our energy sector — and the job-creating investments that we should be making to meet them. Building a clean, secure, and affordable North American energy future is bigger than Keystone XL or any other single project. That’s what I will focus on as president.

That’s why today I am announcing a comprehensive strategy to modernize American energy infrastructure and forge a new partnership with Canada and Mexico to combat climate change across the continent, unleashing billions in investment, delivering reliable and affordable energy, protecting the health of our families and communities, and creating good-paying jobs and careers.

The United States trades as much energy with Canada and Mexico each year as with all other countries combined, through a deeply integrated pipeline network, rail system, and electrical grid. As President, I will immediately launch negotiations with Canada and Mexico to forge a North American Climate Compact that sets strong national targets to cut carbon pollution, so all three countries demonstrate a commitment to climate action; provides accountability measures, so each country has confidence that the others are living up to their end of the bargain; and creates certainty for investors and confidence in the future of our climate, so we can all marshal resources equal to the challenges we face.

In recent years, American communities have endured toxic pipeline spills and rail car explosions. We have yet to harness new technologies that reduce costs and increase consumer choice or to sufficiently protect the grid against the growing threat of cyber-attack. Even as states and the Obama administration have worked to accelerate clean energy deployment, we need to do more. Simply put, our infrastructure has not kept pace with the changing energy sector.

To help unleash the investment we need, I will create a national infrastructure bank that leverages public and private capital, and work with Congress to close corporate tax loopholes and increase transportation funding to cut commute times, oil consumption, and pollution. Along with my Clean Energy Challenge to boost low-carbon electricity, improve building efficiency, and make our cars and trucks cheaper to fuel and cleaner to operate, these steps will create jobs and opportunity across the country.

Our more than 2 million miles of oil and natural gas pipes are in disrepair, resulting in oil spills, chronic methane leaks, and even devastating explosions. I will strengthen national pipeline safety regulations and partner with pipeline operators, local regulators, and technology providers in repairing and replacing thousands of miles of the country’s oldest pipes.

Over the past five years, a 20-fold increase in the amount of oil shipped by rail has led to devastating accidents. My plan speeds up the retirement of the oldest and riskiest train cars, repairs track defects, and guarantees first responders and the public have better information about oil and hazardous materials passing through their communities.

We must also invest in grid security and resilience. My plan creates a new threat assessment team to improve coordination and protect our grid from cyberattack, and strengthens the grid to reliably and affordably meet both base load and peak demand.

American energy policy is about more than a single pipeline to transport Canada’s dirtiest fuel across our country. It’s about building our future — a future where the United States will once again lead the world by constructing state-of-the-art infrastructure, creating new jobs and new markets, accelerating the transition to a clean energy economy, and improving the health, safety, and security of all Americans.

FACTSHEET: Hillary Clinton’s Vision for Modernizing North American Energy Infrastructure

Flipping a light switch, adjusting the thermostat, or turning a car key in the ignition brings predictable results—the light goes on, the temperature changes, the car starts. But where the energy for those everyday tasks comes from has changed dramatically in recent years, due to massive gains in renewable energy and a boom in domestic oil and gas production. And the amount of energy required to perform those tasks has fallen thanks to historic advances in efficiency.

Our policies and infrastructure have not kept pace with recent changes to the American energy system. American communities have endured toxic pipeline spills and deadly rail explosions as the amount of oil produced and transported across the country has expanded. Our existing natural gas distribution network is increasingly antiquated and in need of repair, while new networks must be built to serve parts of the country still dependent on more polluting propane and fuel oil for heating and cooking.

Our electrical grid needs upgrading to harness new technology that reduces energy costs and increases consumer choice, and to address the growing threat of cyberattack. And we must invest in the new infrastructure that will make the transition to a clean energy economy possible, keep energy affordable and reliable, meet both base load and peak demand, protect the health of our families and our climate, and drive job creation and innovation.

This work starts at home, but we can’t do it alone. The United States is part of a deeply integrated North American energy market, with interconnected pipeline and electricity systems and a shared market for vehicles and clean energy technologies. We trade as much energy with Canada and Mexico each year as with the rest of the world combined. As we invest in modernizing the United States’ energy infrastructure, we need to do so as part of a continent-wide strategy that ensures safe, reliable and affordable energy delivery, unlocks economic opportunity for American businesses and workers, and accelerates the transition to a clean energy economy across the North American continent.

Hillary Clinton’s North American energy infrastructure plan will do this in several key ways.

MAKE EXISTING ENERGY INFRASTRUCTURE SAFER AND CLEANER

The United States has more than two million miles of oil and gas pipelines, many of which are outdated and in need of repair or replacement. This increases the risk of oil spills, methane leaks that help drive climate change, and dangerous explosions. A 20-fold increase in the amount of oil shipped by rail over the past five years has led to devastating accidents. Our electric grid too often fails during extreme weather events – and is increasingly vulnerable to cyberattack. These challenges extend beyond our borders to Canada and Mexico, and will be most effectively tackled if all three countries work together.

To address these issues Hillary Clinton will:

Modernize our Pipeline System

Repair or replace thousands of miles of outdated pipelines to improve safety and reduce methane leaks by the end of her first term in office.
Improve pipeline regulations, including instituting automatic or remote-controlled shut-off valves and leak detection standards that have been recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board.
Work to close the loophole that allows companies to ship oil sands crude without paying into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.

Increase Rail Safety

Accelerate the phase-out of outdated tank cars that create the greatest safety risk and make information on companies’ progress available to the general public. Ensure rail regulations are strengthened and enforced within the United States and across the U.S.-Canada border.
Instruct the Department of Transportation to guarantee that first responders and the public have better information on oil and hazardous materials passing through their communities.
Partner with rail companies in aggressively repairing track defects that cause derailments and evaluate whether shale oil presents unique explosion risks.

Enhance Grid Security

Create a Presidential Threat Assessment and Response Team to improve coordination across federal agencies and strengthen collaboration with state and local officials and the electric power industry in assessing and addressing cybersecurity threats.
Implement a cybersecurity strategy that integrates and protects the expanded use of distributed energy resources and other cutting-edge clean energy technologies.
Provide new tools and resources to states, cities and rural communities to make the investments necessary to improve grid resilience to both cyber-attack and extreme weather events.

UNLOCK NEW INVESTMENT RESOURCES

From the Tennessee Valley Authority to the Hoover Dam to the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System, when the United States invests in building, upgrading, and improving our national infrastructure, we create good jobs and careers, boost economic competitiveness, and give rise to entirely new industries. Clinton will galvanize the investment needed to help cities, states, and rural communities upgrade and repair existing energy infrastructure and build the new infrastructure we will need for a clean energy future through:

A National Infrastructure Bank: Establish a National Infrastructure Bank to leverage public and private capital to invest in critically important infrastructure projects, including energy infrastructure projects.
Challenge Grants: Award competitive grants through Clinton’s Clean Energy Challenge to states, cities and rural communities that take the lead in reducing carbon pollution by investing in renewable energy, nuclear power and carbon capture and sequestration, and reducing energy costs by investing in efficiency in both new and existing buildings.
Accelerating Investment: Ensure the federal government is a partner in getting clean and affordable energy to market by making the infrastructure review and permitting process more efficient and effective.
Expanding Consumer Choice: Offer financing tools for grid investments that support the integration of distributed energy resources and for gas pipeline investments that enable households and businesses to switch away from heating oil and other petroleum products.
A New “Pipeline Partnership”: Help cities, states, and rural communities repair and replace thousands of miles of pipelines by leveraging big data, predictive analytics and innovative testing procedures to more quickly and effectively find and fix pipeline leaks through a public-private partnership between federal regulators, pipeline companies, local utility commissions and leading technology providers and research institutions.
Transportation Funding: Work with Congress to close corporate tax loopholes and increase investment in transportation solutions that expand transit access and reduce commute times, oil consumption, and pollution.
Innovation: Increase public investment in clean energy R&D, including in storage technology, designed materials, advanced nuclear, and carbon capture and sequestration. Expand successful innovation initiatives, like ARPA-e, and cut those that fail to deliver results.

FORGE A NORTH AMERICAN CLIMATE COMPACT

The United States isn’t in this alone. The entire North American continent must accelerate the clean energy transition and develop more comprehensive approaches to cutting carbon pollution. As President, Clinton will immediately launch negotiations with the leaders of Canada and Mexico to secure a North American Climate Compact that includes ambitious national targets, coordinated policy approaches, and strong accountability measures to catalyze clean energy deployment, reduce energy costs, cut greenhouse gas emissions, guide infrastructure investment, and make our integrated energy and vehicle markets cleaner and more efficient. This will include:

Ambitious Targets: Drive greater ambition in the global fight against climate change through coordinated targets for clean energy and cutting carbon pollution, internationally recognized reporting mechanisms, and a binding review process.
Clean Power Markets: Build on the momentum created by the Clean Power Plan, which sets the first national limits on carbon pollution from the energy sector, and regional emissions trading schemes in Canada, Mexico, and the United States to drive low carbon power generation across the continent, modernize our interconnected electrical grid, and ensure that national carbon policies take advantage of integrated markets.
Clean Transportation: Work to harmonize vehicle efficiency, emissions and fuel standards, strategies for electric vehicle deployment, clean freight and logistics, and other low-carbon transportation solutions.
Methane Management: Establish continent-wide methane emissions reduction targets and coordinated strategies for reducing leaks from both new and existing sources.
Infrastructure Standards: Develop common, world-class standards for North American infrastructure that create good jobs and careers, support prevailing wage and project labor agreements, and ensure energy transportation across the continent is clean, safe, reliable and affordable.

Clinton’s vision for modernizing North American energy infrastructure is one pillar of her comprehensive energy and climate agenda, which includes major initiatives in the following areas:

Clean Energy Challenge: Develop, defend and implement smart federal energy and climate standards. Provide states, cities and rural communities ready to lead on clean energy and exceed these standards with the flexibility, tools and resources they need to succeed.
Energy and Climate Security: Reduce the amount of oil consumed in the United States and around the world, guard against energy supply disruptions, and make our communities, our infrastructure, and our financial markets more resilient to risks posed by climate change.
Safe and Responsible Production: Ensure that fossil fuel production taking place today is safe and responsible, that taxpayers get a fair deal for development on public lands, and that areas that are too sensitive for energy production are taken off the table.
Revitalizing Coal Communities: Protect the health and retirement security of coalfield workers and their families and provide economic opportunities for those that kept the lights on and factories running for more than a century.
Collaborative Stewardship: Renew our shared commitment to the conservation of our disappearing lands, waters, and wildlife, to the preservation of our history and culture, and to expanding access to the outdoors for all Americans.

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3 Comments

  1. There is one party that cares about our energy future and one party whose energy “plan” is to continue to subsidize billionaire fossil fuel extraction companies.

    Americans have a clear choice in 2016.

  2. Yup. Really like Hillary’s plan. Heck I like Hillary’s plans for most things. But one of the things I like about her/her plans is at no point in getting from point A to point Z does she include “and then a miracle happens” – no magic ponies or unicorns. We have to get off fossil fuels. We cannot get off fossil fuels today or tomorrow. The phase out has to start now, actually has already started and must be significantly accelerated, but unless somebody wants martial law, nationalization of all energy supplies, rationing the like of which this country has never seen, and a lot of riots and death anyway it must be phased/replaced – not just stopped.

    • It is good to see Senate Democrats and Secretary Clinton get something on paper. If (when?) thoughtful people start thinking about who to elect, they will look at these plans and realize who is serious and who is not. “Make America Great Again” is not a plan.

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