Clean energy entrepreneur turned congressman Sean Casten (D-IL) is skeptical of the so-called Green New Deal, a plan to decarbonize the economy and go 100 percent renewable by 2030 that is being embraced by some Democrats.
In an exclusive interview with ThinkProgress, the newly elected House Democrat — an engineer who made climate action and clean energy his signature issue — said the Green New Deal is a great aspirational goal.
But as an entrepreneur who started several businesses aimed at profitably reducing greenhouse gas emissions, he wants to focus on “actually getting shit done — a lot of things that individually seems small but in aggregate add up to a lot.”
Over a 10-year period, Casten’s businesses launched 70 projects and invested $200 million in improvements that lowered their customers’ energy bills and reduced their carbon emissions by at least 50 percent.
Casten has emerged as one of the new voices in the Democratic Party on clean energy. His 5-point election victory in Illinois’ 6th congressional district over Rep. Peter Roskam (R) — a climate science denier who won reelection in 2016 by nearly 20 points — was called a “major upset” by The Hill.
As 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben tweeted on election night, Casten “is going to be one of the most climate-savvy folks in Congress right from the get-go.”
Big ups to @SeanCasten who is going to be one of the most climate-savvy folks in Congress right from the get-go
— Bill McKibben (@billmckibben) November 7, 2018
Casten explained to ThinkProgress that, “I have some general reservations about” the Green New Deal, especially the “let’s go 100 percent renewables” in a decade message.
“I don’t care whether or not we use renewables,” he said. “I just care that we get the carbon down as quickly as possible.”
Casten is eager to work with anyone on practical measures that will reduce carbon pollution sharply and quickly — in particular he wants to remove “every last barrier to maximally deploy the fastest CO2 reduction possible.” And that “means doing things like fixing the Clean Air Act so it doesn’t dis-incentivize efficiency, fixing the rules for the electric grid, improving our transmission system, pricing in externalities.”
Casten said “absolutely yes” he supports a price on carbon, especially the so-called “cap-and-trade” approach, where the government sets an overall target for carbon emissions that shrinks over time, as companies figure out the cheapest way to meet the targets.
But he understands that “the next two years are not going to be the time to pass the cap and trade bill” given that Donald Trump is President and the Republicans control the Senate.
When asked if he was positioning himself as a pragmatist, Casten replied, “Pragmatism is politically radical” and that “actually getting stuff done requires being radically pragmatic.”