Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Politics of Clean Vs. Renewable Energy

I trust that everyone agrees the most difficult part of making progress combating climate change is the politics of generating action, whatever one's preferred policy solution(s) might be. Along these lines, I recommend this recent article by David Roberts on Vox, based on an extensive new poll by the Green Advocacy Project. Here's the key part:
"There’s been a bit of a kerfuffle in the climate policy world lately. On one side: those who believe we should target a future of 100 percent renewable energy. On the other: those who say such a goal is impractical and we should also allow for nuclear power and fossil fuels with carbon capture.
Some states and cities are requiring the former, with renewable energy standards; some (most notably California and Washington) are requiring the latter, with clean energy standards.
Does the public have a preference? The poll tests a series of statements about this.
“We should produce electricity from wind and solar as much as possible.” This gets 59 percent majority support, with 88 percent of Democrats, 40 percent of Republicans, and 41 percent of independents. (Fun fact: 98 percent of Clinton voters.)
“In the future, we should produce electricity using 100 percent renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind.” This gets 55 percent majority support, with 92 percent of Democrats, 27 percent of Republicans, and 55 percent of independents. (Fun fact: 97 percent of Democratic women.)
“In the future, we should produce electricity using 100 percent clean energy sources, such as solar and wind, nuclear, and carbon recapture from fossil fuels.” This more expansive definition of clean energy gets 65 percent majority support, with 87 percent of Democrats, 41 percent of Republicans, and 57 percent of independents.....
Allowing for non-renewable, non-emitting sources of energy like nuclear seems to peel off quite a few squishy Republicans, without losing many Democrats or independents. That might mean a broader majority.
And a more potent legislative force: This strategy of uniting pro-renewables and pro-nuclear camps has worked to get successful clean energy policies in place in Illinois, New York, California, and, most recently, Washington.
There’s also the simple fact that adding renewables and nuclear together yields far more total clean energy."
No doubt this observation will rouse the ire of those to whom nuclear and CCS are anathema and simply a distraction from the righteous path. To these folks, Roberts says (and I concur):
"Climate hawks have different opinions on nuclear and CCS, but in my view, if you don’t think they will compete, why not allow for them to try? As long as they don’t drain attention and resources from options that are cheap and available now, it’s not a sacrifice. Give them their research money; harvest the support of their backers.
Given the urgency of climate politics, being agnostic on how to reduce carbon seems a small but easy step toward consensus."
Makes sense to me. This is not an area in which we can afford the liabilities of purist politics.
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A new poll gets deep into voter preferences on climate policy.

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