Clinton brings back Gore, talks Green, but still Opposes Carbon Tax

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

On Tuesday, Hillary Clinton campaigned in Miami with Al Gore, attempting both to shore up her credentials with both environmentalists and Millennial youth. Gore, Bill Clinton’s vice president, very narrowly lost the 2000 election to George W. Bush, mainly because of a disputed Florida count. Gore won the Nobel Prize in 2007 for his later campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of man-made climate change via his film, “An Inconvenient Truth.” The Democratic crowd chanted “you won, you won” when Gore took the podium. Gore, alluded to the disastrous presidency of George W. Bush, who launched a war of aggression and long military occupation of Iraq and allowed the economic practices that caused the 2008-9 crash. He reminded the audience of the extreme importance of voting and implied that voting for a third party was a bad idea when the stakes for the country are so high.

The event became an opportunity for Clinton to stress her own bona fides on the climate change issue, which are patchy and extremely recent. She spoke of the dire threat to Florida (among the more vulnerable of the 50 states) of the various effects of climate change, from rising seas to extreme weather events to the spread of disease.

She said, “The impact of climate change goes beyond severe events like hurricanes, it’s a daily reality in Miami. In streets in Miami the ocean is bubbling up through the sewer system. If you need proof climate change is real, there you go . . . . At the rate we are going, one in eight homes in Florida could be underwater by the end of the century. . . We can’t afford a candidate who doesn’t accept climate change . . . Maybe he’ll listen to our military leaders who say climate change threatens our security . . . We need a president who believes in science and can lead America in fighting this threat, creating jobs and, yes, saving our planet.”

Southern Florida is at particular danger for sea level rise because it rests on limestone, through which the ocean can bubble up. There’s no way to keep it out with e.g. dikes. Likewise a lot of the aquifer water in Florida is in the south and is in danger of salinization. We’ve already put so much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that Florida is in grave danger over the coming decades and centuries. Warm water also makes hurricanes more violent and causes them to last longer.

Sec. Clinton pledged to adopt policies that would lead to the installation of 500 million more solar panels in the US by 2021. That sounds like a big thing, but it is only a first step.

I couldn’t find out with a quick search how many solar panels are in the US now. There are 1 million solar “installations,” but I don’t know how many panels are in each. They generate 27.2 gigawatts of solar power capacity, enough for on the order of 6 million homes. There are 124 million or so households in the US.

At 27 GW, solar in the US is puny. Some 285 gigawatts of our power production is coal, 440 gigawatts is natural gas, and 74 gigawatts is wind.

Germany and China both have over 40 GW of solar power, much more than the US. Germany gets over 7% of its electricity from solar, while the US only gets 1% of its from that source.

In any case, 500 million more solar panels, while welcome, are by no means enough. Our house has 16 panels and in sunny months they cover most or all of our electrical needs. So 500 million panels could do that for 31 million family homes. I figure, though, that there must be 74 million or so privately owned homes in the US, so it would only be half of those, leaving out all the apartment dwellers and businesses (businesses consume a lot of electricity). She did say she wanted all homes to be powered by renewables by 2030. But electricity generation for homes is only part of the carbon problem and we need to move the business and manufacturing sectors over, too. And, what about switching to electric vehicles?

We also of course need much better and cheaper storage.

Sec. Clinton appeared to pledge that Gore would be one of her advisers on climate policy.

Admittedly, Politico’s review of what the leaked Clinton campaign emails tell us about her energy circle turned out not to be very alarming. One of her advisers wants a carbon tax rather than a solar tax rebate, on the grounds that the former would equally benefit nuclear. Personally, I think that solar and wind are dropping in price so fast that nuclear plants are likely to be left in the dust, and besides the US public doesn’t like them and not many are being planned. But, nuclear is low carbon. In any case, a lot of climate scientists think that a carbon tax is the only thing that will save the planet, so that suggestion isn’t dire or anything.

Unfortunately, Clinton has already rejected the idea of a carbon tax, and some think it is because her hedge fund backers have big investments in gas and oil.

Up until 2016, it wasn’t clear that reduction of carbon emissions was a significant issue for Clinton, and she was big on new pipelines. She wanted to increase natural-gas exports, which involves increasing carbon emissions.

So her sudden adoption of Al Gore as her energy (or maybe only her environmental) guru comes against a backdrop of insouciance or even obstruction on this issue.

Frankly, I don’t trust her on carbon issues. I think she’s deeply in debt to the hydrocarbon industries, and that she will go much slower than is required, even if it is true that she will take some action.

We’ll have to do a lot of protesting whoever is elected. But likely one of the candidates will give us longer jail terms for the protests.

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Related video:

CBS: “Al Gore and Hillary Clinton address climate change in Miami, Florida”

10 Responses

  1. In addition to the recent policy changes you describe above, Hillary has only quite recently stated that she opposes the TPP and TTIP trade deals, after having been a supporter for years.

    Personally, I don’t believe her; she is too much in hock to the same multi-national corporate and Wall Street interests who want these treaties. I expect if she is elected, she will find some way to weasel out of her new-found opposition, and help shepherd them through the approval process.

    These treaties both contain a dispute resolution set-up that allows corporations to sue governments for lost profits should those governments enact environmental or health restrictions on various imports. Worse, such lawsuits wouldn’t even be heard in any nation’s courts, but through some sort of external arbitration panel. This appears to be a sell out of national sovereignty to some globalized structure that has no loyalty to any country. Any self-respecting head of state should consider signing off on any such thing to be High Treason. I’m sure that had anyone suggested such ideas to Henry VIII, their heads would be adorning the spiked fence around Westminster.

    In addition, Hillary seems to have never seen a “regime change” opportunity that she hasn’t enthusiastically embraced and advocated for. Her hands are tainted with a considerable amount of the blood that continues to be shed in the destruction of Iraq, Libya and Syria. She still talks of a imposing a no-fly restriction over Syria, even though this will not be permitted by the Russians. If she thinks getting rid of Assad is worth American and Russian planes shooting each other down, with the likelihood of its escalating out of control, then she’s completely insane.

    Trump is clearly a buffoon and foul-mouth, racist and misogynist. But if the Hildebeest gets elected, we could well be in the position that Europe was in early 1914. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

    Antoinetta III

  2. From what I have read and heard the election is all but in the bag for Clinton and Trump has no chance. However, your piece suggests you are not entirely certain yourself about the outcome. The inference of your piece is that in the unlikely event Trump wins there will be more prison sentences for protesters. It seems to me that protesters are already having a hard time under the benign leadership of Obama and I would anticipate their fate would be many times worse under Clinton, especially when she starts a proxy war against the Russians and their allies in Syria. Trump doesn’t have much going for him, but his one redeeming feature is that he has indicated that he is not keen on getting involved in civil wars which are nothing to do with the USA.

    • First, what does this have to do with a carbon tax? Second, Trump has come out in favor of putting US troops on the ground in Syria in the past.He has also indicated that we aren’t doing enough to destroy ISIS. The only way we could do more is to use combat troops in Iraq and/or Syria. You are hopelessly naive if you think Trump would be more cautious than Clinton, even though I do fear her hawkishness. Trump is a serious loose cannon, both literally and figuratively.

  3. We have been through this before. Carbon tax is faddish but will not pass Congress and is less preferred in the Paris Agreement, which reflects fact that Europe has a cap and trade system, which comes from the Kyoto Protocol that the US did not join. In principle, carbon tax and cap and trade are equivalent, with cap and trade an idea that came from the US and was put into the Kyoto Protocol at US insistence. Europe and others very angry that some in US now pushing carbon tax, which is not its superior, despite a lot of noise from people who do not know economics, such as James Hansen, a climatologist. Economists are split on the issue, but environmental economists like Robert Stavins and Tim Tietenberg support cap and trade while more general economists like Joe Stiglitz support a carbon tax. In any case, this has nothing to do with Wall Street interests or fossil fuel sector interests, as the two can have the same effect in principle.

    • Many who back a carbon tax urge an equivalent distribution to tax payers or a reduction in individual income or FICA tax which should make it politically palatable. “Tax carbon, not work” is a good slogan.

  4. Frankly, I don’t trust her on carbon issues.

    Frankly, I don’t trust her on any issues. There is what she says on or before November 8, 2016 and what she will say on and after November 9th. Very few of the statements made in one time period will have anything in common with the other.

    As for having Al Gore on the campaign trail, that is just more evidence Hillary’s ethical judgment is at the same low level as when she hired Debbie Wasserman Schultz immediately after she lost her squalid job at the Democratic National Committee.

  5. I have seen some environmental groups that approve of cap and trade. I’m guessing they do so because they think it is a more politically viable option. I, too, favor a carbon tax, but to date only in a few only places have we actually seen it implemented, such as one province in Canada. So, it seems rather unfair to criticize Clinton because she doesn’t favor a carbon tax. One thing I see so much among progressives is that they use the perfect to be the enemy of the good. I can recall very few occasions in US history when the best policy was adopted without compromise–on any issue. I think the chances of a carbon tax getting approved by Congress are close to zero. Even a Democratic Congress might not approve it. BTW, Republicans oppose even cap and trade, even thought it was their original idea which they used to combat the idea of a carbon tax. In a way, this is kind of like arguing over how to arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic after it hit the iceberg. Even with a comprehensive carbon tax, climate change has and will go so far as to have near or actual catastrophic outcomes in the future. We really need a Manhattan style project internationally to come up with a way to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

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