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CAP Economic Report ’300 Engines Of Growth’ Features Clean Energy And Climate Solutions

By Ryan Koronowski  

"CAP Economic Report ’300 Engines Of Growth’ Features Clean Energy And Climate Solutions"

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On Thursday, the Center for American Progress released a new report that outlines plan for jobs, business, and a growing economy called “300 Million Engines of Growth.”

It notes that climate change’s “costs to businesses, families, and government are often hidden but are becoming less so.” The report goes on to detail ways in which climate solutions “offer massive new economic opportunities.” Just as important, any infrastructure investments should reflect the impact of the consequences of climate change like extreme weather and climate change.

Transitioning from an energy system reliant on energy that gets more expensive as we use it up, to one that gets cheaper the more we use it is a winner for the economy:

The United States is dependent on imported foreign oil, is subject to volatile energy prices, and is starting to face the high costs of climate change. Each of these pressures creates a drag on economic growth. In 2012 roughly 6 percent of our electricity came from renewables, and the United States imported $313 billion in oil. Our country must capture the multitrillion-dollar opportunity of clean energy by stimulating demand, ensuring effective financing, building efficient transmission infrastructure, and prioritizing efficiency. Our goal is for the United States to have clean, sustainable, and economical energy sources — quadrupling renewable use between 2008 and 2020 and slashing oil imports in half — in order to fuel economic growth.

The authors say that “clean energy represents such massive and fundamental opportunities for the American economy … that we have devoted a separate section of this report to capturing this opportunity through smart and effective interventions.” Here are the main climate and clean energy recommendations from “300 Million Engines of Growth”:

  • Instituting a $25/ton carbon tax on all large polluters, starting with power plants. We believe that the policy most likely to drive significant economic growth in the short term while also tackling the climate change problem is a tax on carbon emissions, starting in the electric-utility sector and slowly expanding to other parts of the economy. Setting a carbon tax will directly relate to our plans for economic growth by encouraging private-sector investment in new power plants and reducing industrial carbon pollution to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change that would devastate our economy.
  • Launching a comprehensive clean energy investment program that includes direct support of $9 billion per year for research and development in both the public and private sector, the extension of the wind energy production tax credit, the launch of a green bank that would provide a range of financing tools to enable clean energy deployment, and public market-financing tools. The amount of renewable energy used for electricity in the United States doubled from 2008 to 2012. We can do this again by 2020. This would move us to 12 percent of power from renewables by 2020, quadrupling since 2008, and putting us on course to 35 percent by 2035, a goal the Center for American Progress called for in “Helping America Win the Clean Energy Race.”
  • Improving energy efficiency: Energy consumption comprises a large share of family budgets and continues to contribute to America’s trade deficits. Efforts to improve energy efficiency will not only create jobs today but also will ease the strain on family’s disposable incomes. Three energy-efficiency initiatives — Home Star ($6 billion rebate plan for homeowners to upgrade with energy efficiency), Building Star ($6 billion in incentives for businesses to retrofit commercial and multifamily residential buildings), and Rural Star ($4.9 billion loan authority for rural electric cooperatives), which provide incentives for property owners and small businesses to invest in energy-saving technologies — should be part of any short-term jobs plan. These programs would generate 250,000 new private-sector jobs broadly throughout the economy, while also leveraging between $3 and $4 in private investment for each $1 in incentives—all while saving people an estimated $4 billion per year in energy costs for years to come.
  • Eliminating $4 billion in annual tax breaks for oil and gas companies and creating a future oil reduction technology fund to invest in research, development, and demonstration for clean vehicles. the fund would be fully supported by one cent of every dollar of profits from the big five oil companies.
  • Increasing government investment in research by doubling budgets for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the National Science Foundation, and encouraging increased private investment by improving the research tax credit
  • Pursuing supply-chain sustainability: Government involvement can be critical where losing or failing to develop a particular segment of industry would have severe implications for the wider economy in terms of jobs and output. Solar photovoltaic, or PV, cells are one example of an industry that has suffered as a result of a vanishing supply chain. Although the first PV devices were invented here, the United States now produces only 6 percent of the world’s PV cells. A major reason the country has failed to grab more of this fast-growing market is that many of the shared technologies (for example, semiconductors, flat-panel displays, light-emitting diodes, and solid-state lighting) have already relocated to Asia. Had the United States not long ago ceded production of key component technologies for PV cells, we would be better positioned today to compete in the solar-energy industry.

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18 Responses to CAP Economic Report ’300 Engines Of Growth’ Features Clean Energy And Climate Solutions

  1. Jeff Huggins says:

    A Question …

    “clean energy represents such massive and fundamental opportunities for the American economy” — not to mention our moral responsibility to face and address climate change — “that we have devoted a separate section of this report…” to what amounts to a very modest, incrementalist, and ultimately woefully insufficient plan.

    Hhhmmmm. What to think?

    Isn’t it correct that, in order to make the sort of immense progress we need to make, and that we ought to try our darndest to make, and in order to demonstrate to other countries the sort of leadership and commitment required such that they too will take sufficient actions on their ends, we would need to adopt a sort of World-War-II-type mobilization and effort, a revolutionary (in a positive sense) and fundamental set of policies and programs to actually get the job done?

    (This is not to say that it would be similar to or implemented like World War II of course. I’m talking about the degree of ambition and the sufficiency of the plan to actually accomplish what must be accomplished.)

    Isn’t THAT what most people (who understand the scale and timing of what needs to be accomplished) have been saying?

    Well, if that’s the case, then does CAP have a plan to issue another report in coming months to displace this report and to put forth a plan that would actually accomplish what needs to be accomplished in terms of addressing climate change on our part, doing enough to convince the rest of the world to participate with sufficient vigor, AND generate jobs and transform the economy at the same time? Will be seeing the real report soon?

    To be fair, I haven’t read the entire report yet. I’ll try to do so, but from what I’ve read so far, I’m afraid I’m gonna need a lot of coffee to keep me awake.

    I DO appreciate the effort, of course, and I’m sure there are lots of useful ideas in there, but it’s the ambition AND paradigm shift that we need, not merely a whole dedicated chapter of incrementalism.

    Joe, in your view, will the recommendations in this report be sufficient to get the job done? Please let us know.

    Cheers,

    Jeff

    • Superman1 says:

      Compared to the BAU path we are on today, this is obviously an improvement. Whether it is enough of an improvement to prevent the interim temperature constraints from being exceeded remains to be demonstrated. Given its emphasis on ‘growth’, whereas the fundamental requirement is draconian cutback in fossil fuel use NOW, undoubtedly accompanied by prolonged deep austerity, I doubt whether it will do the job, but I am open to being convinced.

      • wili says:

        Draconian or not, we have to get past our obsession with ‘growth.’ If something is growing, it necessarily is displacing something else. When the human industrial economy, whatever it is fueled by, grows, it displaces the rest of the natural world.

      • Brooks Bridges says:

        “Draconian”: Excessively harsh and severe.

        I think “drastic” would suffice given wise implementation (here occurs a miracle).

        “drastic”: Likely to have a strong or far-reaching effect; radical and extreme.

        But given the total lack of leaders like Oxenstierna (of the quote: “Do you not know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed?” in 1648), I doubt either drastic or draconian measures will be invoked in time. Why should things be better now than in 1648 ?

        And yes, I also would love to be convinced otherwise and will continue my personal efforts to help avoid catastrophe.

      • Raul M. says:

        Looking at the history of Dracon, he is noted as a bc legislator of Greece who turned the oral laws into the written. Modern day, though, Dracon is a created being, artificial not a natural race, the result of experiment. Probably better to mention it as a name later in the description of the noun. There are numerous other mentions of Dracon in a simple Google search. It is difficult to understand the supposed discomfort of the proposal. Is it a level of discomfort to be achieved to undertake the reductions of carbon fuel use?

      • Raul M. says:

        One day that electric power started from the solar panels to the window AC unit, that was cool. That cooling trend was very welcome and wasn’t dependent on a budget other than how sunny it was. And usually how sunny ment how hot so that worked out just fine.
        They should make it a law saying that all low income people should have solar AC units in the south.

  2. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    It appears that CAP still does not or can not understand the real cause of the deepening Collapse. ‘Growth’ is the fetish of the Deep Brown econocrats. Growth will consume, as cancer does. Growth will produce ‘wealth’ by destruction, which will then be misappropriated by the 1%, while the rabble fall into poverty and squalour amidst galloping ecological collapse. But at least, thanks to PRISM, any ‘Green terrorist’ or ‘anti-capitalist’ trouble-makers will have been identified long ago, and when the Chaos sets in, they will be swiftly neutralised.

    • Brooks Bridges says:

      Ah, “Growth”. Perhaps CAP has a different definition. Glad to see emphasis on energy efficiency.

      As I understand it, repairing Sandy’s damages, getting pollution caused health problems corrected, cleaning up oil spills, etc., all increase our GDP – insane.

      Yet shouldn’t it be possible to have “growth” in happiness while decreasing planet destroying consumption? There I go again – slap, slap – “Thanks, I needed that”. And yet… there are happy people far “poorer” than the average 1st world person.

      I normally admire Krugman but if he’s covered the concept of the end of “growth” as currently defined, I”ve missed it. I’d like to hear his thoughts. It’s unavoidable.

      • Merrelyn Emery says:

        Yes GDP was always insane but ‘happiness’ is not much better. More to the point are measures of quality of life that include such things as sense of belonging, degree of autonomy in decision making, mutual support and respect and meaningfulness of activities, ME

        • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

          All those goods that you list make normal people happy. One also requires an active disposition towards enabling, and rejoicing in, the happiness of others.

        • Brooks Bridges says:

          You have described “happiness” as I intended it.

          • Merrelyn Emery says:

            Mulga & Brooks, the problem with happiness is that it is an emotion. There is a cast iron law about the oscillation of affects or emotions and attempting to maximize happiness has already led to the ‘happiness industry’ exploiting people who believe they should be constantly happy, ME

          • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

            My God, ME! You’re not a programmer at the ABC are you? They are about to discuss the futility of the pursuit of happiness. I’ve never believed in the concept, myself.

          • Merrelyn Emery says:

            It’s just ‘great minds thinking alike’, ME

          • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

            ‘Spooky synchronicity’.

  3. Ken Barrows says:

    What? No eating lower on the food chain? No living in walkable communities and reducing commutes? No call for fewer plane trips? WTF ;)

  4. Raul M. says:

    Then one day, I was able to complete the solar electric to the window AC unit. I sat in my room and felt a cool. That cool is something that I will long remember. And the next day when the sun came out, I was ready to turn the AC unit on again and just be cool.

  5. People and all groups and institutions need to take responsibility. Public understanding of the problem and proposed solutions should not be impaired because short-term corporate interests have been instrumental in spreading confusion and misinformation.

    Science and technology are sufficiently developed that known energy resources can be tapped with known technologies to drastically cut CO2 emissions to the level that global warming will not pose an existential threat. (See, for example http://www.dolphinblue.com/pg-Global-Warming-Solution-Manaugh.html.)

    There are no overwhelming financial constraints on the US’s ability to start practical work on the problem. Funding requirements are no larger than the public support, in percent of GDP, that was devoted to the Manhattan Project 70 years ago.

    Nationalism and issues of sovereignty must not impede use of global diplomacy and pressure on nations to cooperate in taking effective action. A life-boat consciousness is needed, where we are conscious that we all must work together cooperatively if the group is to survive. Denial is not a strategy for survival.

    World-wide cooperation will develop if the US takes an aggressive leadership role and involves the United Nations in a plan to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, partly funded by a universal tax on carbon emissions.