For a few months there was a brief flirtation with what some called “post-partisan power” — see Brookings embraces American Enterprise Institute’s climate head fake along with right-wing energy myths. But the object of the flirtation flatlined unexpectedly this month.
The flirtation was strange because post-partisan power was based on a several conclusions that were painfully obvious myths, including:
- The success Republicans had killing the climate and clean energy jobs bill means they are now ready to embrace a big new federal spending effort of $15 to $25 billion a year for low-carbon technology.
- Such RD&D could, all by itself, bring the cost of new carbon-free power plants below the cost of existing coal plants.
- A massive federal RD&D effort, even if it were not politically untenable, could, all by itself, avert catastrophic climate change.
- “Liberals often maintain” the “choice” is between “global warming apocalypse or mandating the widespread adoption of today’s solar, wind, and electric car technologies.”
I’m not certain how serious policy analysts at the Brookings Institution could every have believed one of those things, let alone all of them. I debunked them here.
But in any case, it was always obvious that #1 was nonsense. In recent days, the Republican Party and their fossil-fuel-funded backers have shut the door on the possibility of a big new federal spending effort:
- Republican Study Committee proposes deep cuts in federal clean energy spending
- Ed Whitfield (R-KY) and House GOP want more polluted air and less clean energy
- The Chamber of Commerce is so extreme they oppose research and development into renewable energy!
I have been pushing for a significant ramp up and clean energy research and development and demonstration and deployment funding for two decades now. And I’m glad Obama recommended big increases in this area in his State of the Union Address. The problem, of course, is that the US House of Representatives is not going to pass out a budget that includes such increases. Quite the reverse.
So the only way Obama could get such an increase is if he is willing to veto any bill the doesn’t contain an increase until Congress passes one that includes it.
Is Obama prepared to shut the government down if he doesn’t get an extra few billion a year for clean energy R&D? Well, it would be nice to think so, but it is hard to believe.
What’s more interesting than the uber-inevitable rejection by conservatives of a massive post-partisan-power ramp up in clean energy R&D is that Obama went out of his way to explicitly reject the other half of the equation — the tired myth that R&D breakthroughs by themselves could possibly lead to significant deployment of clean energy anytime soon, with the accompanying jobs and emissions reductions.
The PPP report states in its introduction that:
New mandates, carbon pricing systems such as cap and trade, and today’s mess of subsidies are not going to deliver the kind of clean energy innovation required.
And it concludes:
The choice is not, as liberals often maintain, between global warming apocalypse or mandating the widespread adoption of today’s solar, wind, and electric car technologies.
But in fact the president understands that without “new mandates,” you won’t get the kind of clean energy innovation that you need for serious deployment, as I’ve said many times (see “The breakthrough technology illusion“). Without “new mandates” you just aren’t going to get widespread adoption of clean energy — even by 2035!
As Obama said:
Now, clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they’re selling. So tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: by 2035, 80% of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources.
You need government standards to create jobs.
You also need regulations to get you cleaner air, as Obama as made clear:
I will not hesitate to create or enforce commonsense safeguards to protect the American people. That’s what we’ve done in this country for more than a century. It’s why our food is safe to eat, our water is safe to drink, and our air is safe to breathe.
So “post-partisan power” is gone, assuming it ever really existed.
The question now is whether there will be any action this year around Obama’s clean energy standard — and whether that would in fact be a good thing, since it appears to include nuclear, natural gas, and coal with carbon sequestration. That will be the subject of a later post.