In this episode of Upside Down, On February 24th, CCAN, CCAN Action Fund, and Evergreen Action hosted this all-star panel on the Policy, Politics, Economics, Climate Science, Jobs, and Justice Behind Biden’s Plan for 100% Clean Electricity by 2035. We were joined by author and scientist Michael Mann, Economist Stephanie Kelton, Dr. Leah Stokes, and Johnathan Williams of the Sunrise Movement.
Check out the full transcript for the episode below!
Check out The New Climate War
Check out The Deficit Myth
Check out Short Circuiting Policy
Charles Olsen 0:01
My name is Charlie Olsen. And this is Upside Down, the podcast from the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.
Mike Tidwell 0:09
Welcome to this zoom event called Pathway to 100%. It’s a webinar on the policy politics, economics, climate science and justice behind President Joe Biden’s plan for 100% clean electricity by the year 2035, and how Congress can make this law this year. I’m Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and the CCAN Action Fund and until this year, my team here has been mostly state focused on successful clean energy policies in Maryland, Virginia and local DC. So it seemed logical for us to host this webinar from the DC region for all of you nationwide as Congress soon takes up a core piece of President Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion climate plan. DOD policy again is 100% carbon free electricity grid by the year 2035. Today’s webinar is co-hosted by CCAN and our friends at Evergreen Action, a nonprofit inspired by the work of Governor Jay Inslee of Washington State. Evergreen is devoted to rapidly solving the climate crisis with justice, while creating 8 million good paying new jobs. Much of Biden’s climate plan is inspired by Evergreen’s work. Of course, nearly a third of all US greenhouse gas emissions come from the power grid. But the solution is much bigger than that. As we move to electrify everything in our economy, transportation, building, heating, cooling, up to 70 to 80% of all greenhouse gas emissions will ultimately be displaced by wind and solar and smart grid technology. So 100% clean electricity is a key. But can we do it? Thankfully, 30 states already mandate large shares of their grid come from clean energy. Right outside my window in the city of DC the legal mandate is 100% clean electricity by 2032. But can we do it for all the states by 2035? Moving us toward our Paris Climate Commitment: in a moment you’ll hear from Dr. Leah Stokes of Evergreen Action, who will explain more fully this tool of a clean energy standard, or CES, and how state policy is already working and how a national CES could function so CCAN can out a feasible legislative pathway for Congress. Imagine the US Congress that passed 100% CES this year, it’s breathtaking. But we have to do all of this with jobs and with justice, of course. So we’ll hear from my esteemed colleague Quintin Scott, of CCAN Action Fund about jobs and on the justice and equity movement we need to win. We’ll hear from Jonathan Williams, the internal justice coordinator at the Sunrise Movement. But before all that, we have to cover two fundamental issues first, after four years of Donald Trump’s inaction, does the latest climate science actually give us much of a chance? Do we still have time? And if we have time, does our COVID damaged economy still have room to invest massively in climate solutions right now? Or will new deficits as Republicans say, “tie our hands”? Thankfully, the news is encouraging on both the scientific and the fiscal front. So let’s start with science. And by the way, if you have questions for our speakers, place them in the q&a tab. Also know that this program is being recorded. So, Dr. Michael Mann is a well known climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University and a member of the Intergovernmental Panel Panel on Climate Change. He is also the author of the brand new book. I have it right here. I’ve read it. It’s fantastic. The brand new book called “The New Climate War”, in which a Texaan takes head on what he calls climate Doom-ism. Dr. Mann, welcome. And what is the evidence that the climate window has not yet shut on?
Michael Mann 4:18
Yeah, Thanks, Mike. And thanks to CCAN for sponsoring this event, and of course, to my co-panelists. So really, the message of my book, The New Climate War is that there is both urgency and agency. Yes, we know that we have to act now. We can see the detrimental impacts of climate change now playing out in real time in the form of unprecedented extreme weather events. And of course, we saw this unprecedented polar vortex event in Texas last week. And we can talk about the role that climate change might have played with that particular event. And there is a potential role that climate change plays in that specific event, but more broadly, these extreme weather events are costing us dearly, they are attacks on our economy, and they’re leading to a loss of human lives. That’s the face of climate change. It’s no longer subtle. It’s no longer about polar bears up in the Arctic, or penguins down in the Antarctic, it’s about things that are happening in our own lives today that are impacting us in an adverse way. So yes, there is urgency, but there’s agency, it’s not too late. To prevent the worst impacts of climate change, we need to limit warming to about a degree and a half Celsius, that’s about three degrees Fahrenheit if we are to avert the worst impacts of climate change. But there is still time to do that. And one of the developments in the science of climate modeling over the past decade, actually provides us some reason for cautious optimism. We now understand that if we stop burning carbon, now, if we stop emitting carbon pollution into the atmosphere, within a few years, the surface temperature of the planet will stabilize. We used to think that that warming would continue for decades. But we now understand that because of the role that the oceans in the biosphere play, their ability to take in carbon to draw down from the atmosphere, if we stop putting carbon into the atmosphere, then we have those sinks, drawing it down, it’s like a sink, with the drain open and the water level sinks. And so in the end, we get the warming that we’ve pretty much caused thus far, if we stop emitting carbon. Now, that means that there is a direct and immediate impact of our efforts to reduce carbon emissions, there is widespread sort of doom and gloom in certain circles, in our climate discourse, people who have become convinced that we are undergoing runaway warming, for example, or that we are committed to runaway warming, the science doesn’t indicate that the best available science tells us if we stop burning carbon now, surface temperatures stabilize, and all those impacts related to the warming of the earth surface stop getting worse. And so now is the time to act. And you’ll be getting quite a bit of information about that from Leah and others about the opportunities that we really have right now to see meaningful climate action, that sort of action that will prevent catastrophic warming of the planet.
Mike Tidwell 7:35
That’s Dr. Mann, and again, the book is The New Climate War. And it’s an amazing, timely book. And one question we’ve gotten from a viewer already, Dr. Mann is, what was the old climate war? And what is the new climate war?
Michael Mann 7:54
Yeah, thanks for that question. The old climate war was this assault on the basic scientific evidence, the scientific foundation of human caused climate change. And I found myself at the center of those attacks. Because of the now iconic hockey stick curve that we published a couple decades ago, that became sort of symbolic in the climate change debate, because it demonstrated the profound impact that we’re having on the planet, the upturn blade showing the unprecedented warming of the past century in the context of the last 1000 years. And so I found myself at the center of this very fractious debate, because of the science that we had published two decades ago. Well, look, as I said before, the impacts of climate change are no longer subtle. We see them play out in real time on our television screens, in our newspaper headlines. So the forces of inaction, I call them, the activists, fossil fuel interests, and those who have done their bidding, can no longer claim that it isn’t happening, but they haven’t given up this battle, they still want to keep us addicted to fossil fuels. And so they’ve deployed a whole new array of insidious tactics to prevent us from moving on. And that includes dividing us getting us fighting with each other, deflecting attention away from the needed systemic changes the policies to individual action, as if it’s just about you and me, and that we don’t need larger policies and incentives, or promoting as we already said, doom and gloom, because if you really believe it’s too late to do anything about the problem, that potentially leads you down that path of inaction and look, the activists, they don’t care about the path you take. They just care about the destination. They want you disengaged- it’s important to recognize these obstacles that remain because we’re so close now. We can see it, we can smell it. We’re so close to seeing the action that we need. And Leo will talk more about that, certainly. But these obstacles are still in our way. We have to recognize them. We have to fight back against these tactics, because this is our time. This is our moment.
Mike Tidwell 9:49
Thank you, Dr. Michael Mann. Again, the book is The New Climate War. It’s as all of Dr. Mann’s writing has been over the past decade: very exciting. That’s the ball clear, urgent, passionate, and fundamentally, I found optimistic. But optimism predicated on that urgency of turning off the greenhouse gas spigot as soon as possible. So Dr. Mann, thank you for making time in your busy schedule to join us today. And I encourage everyone to read his new book. Thank you. If you’re just joining us, I’m Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and we’re discussing a core part of Joe Biden’s proposed climate plan: 100% clean electricity by 2035. reaching that goal will require billions of dollars in wind and solar and smart grid technology, much of it with government incentives, loans and direct investments, not to mention the need to rebuild much of, if not most of our national infrastructure to adapt to climate change. But can we afford it? Isn’t our country broke after trillions of dollars and COVID spending on top on top of the previous past deficit? Our next guest, Dr. Stephanie Kelton of Stony Brook University says no, no and no to that last question. She says not to listen to the growing budget hawks in the news. Her new book, “The Deficit Myth”- also excellent reading. (And) by the way, shows deficit spending can and should power us to climate solutions like 100% clean electricity and a new Green Deal and other social enhancement goals. Kelton served as chief economist on the US Senate Budget Committee in 2015. And she was also an economic adviser to Bernie Sanders 2016 presidential campaign, she is hands down a leading voice from the rising economic school of thought known as modern monetary theory. Dr. Stephanie Kelton. Welcome, and please take it away.
Stephanie Kelton 11:58
Well, thank you, Mike, thank you for the invitation to be part of this and join this esteemed panel, I’m very happy to have a few minutes to talk a little bit about the book and situate the arguments as you just did in the context of this, I think, (it’s an) important fight that we’re about to have, because it is going to be a fight right getting the kinds of investments the large scale public funding of the on the order of magnitude that is going to be required to meaningfully get at this problem. The crisis that we’re facing is substantial. And you know, as Dr. Mann said, I like this term, the inactivists that he has us thinking about and he said, they’ve developed insidious tactics to block us right to make things seem insurmountable. Well, they do that on the fiscal front as well. And that’s what so much of my book is aimed at really empowering the rest of us people who have been fooled by the the narratives that dominate the idea that the federal government has to try to balance its budget that it’s faced, that it faces, financial constraints that are akin to those of a household that it could run out of money. I mean, we hear this from political leaders, you know, after the financial crisis in 2008. It was just a few months after Barack Obama became president, that he was pressed on this question about how much money was being spent to deal with the financial crisis and the economic fallout? And the question put to him was, at what point do we run out of money? And he responded, we’re out of money now. And I remember the way my heart sank in that moment, because we, I knew, immediately that we weren’t going to come close to doing enough to support the economy. As soon as he uttered those words, I essentially thought, Oh, boy, you know, all bets are off, we’re going to do far too little and we’re going to be stuck with a really lackluster economy, livelihoods and lives, you know, damaged for years to come. And it’s exactly what happened. So they use these narratives, they preach doom and gloom. They tell us that, you know, we’re doing terrible things to the next generation that we’re these deficits are adding to the national debt. The national debt represents a real burden on future generations. They play to the morality of the deficit spending, telling us we’re bankrupting our kids and our grandkids. They tell us you know that it’s a national security threat. They tell us that we could end up like Greece- mired in a debt crisis, you know, bankrupting the country. They try to fear monger with respect to countries like China and tell us you know, we’re borrowing from China. Do you really want to be borrowing from you know, a foreign countries, especially those that may not be our friends and so we were up against a lot historically, when it comes to defending the kind of bold, ambitious spending program that we are going to need if we’re going to deal meaningfully with the crisis and hold global temperatures from increasing the way that Dr. Mann describes. So in the book, I tried to dispel these myths, starting with the simple recognition that the federal government operates a budget that is nothing like the budget that we all face. It’s not like a household budget, they do not face a financial constraint that the federal government is the issuer of the currency. And the rest of us are just users of the dollar, we use the currency, which is why, frankly, the cares package and all of the other spending bills that Congress has rolled out to deal with COVID and the economic fallout.
The government can spend, even in a time of crisis, even when tax revenues are falling off a cliff. States can do what cities can’t. So mayors and governors are begging Congress for help. Small businesses and large businesses can’t do that, and households can’t do that. So the government is stepping up and providing income support loans and grants and other forms of assistance. Because the government can do what the rest of us can’t do, they can literally spend money they do not have, right. And so we get very anxious because we hear words like deficit and debt. And I just want to kind of lower the temperature in the room. Remind people that the deficit is just the difference between two numbers. That’s all it is. It’s the difference between how many dollars the government spends into the economy every year, and how many dollars they subtract back out mainly through taxation. So every time we hear the word deficit, what we should understand is that the government is making a deposit to some part of the economy that government deficits are nothing more than financial contributions. There are deposits being placed somewhere in the economy, every deficit is good for someone. Right? The question is, for whom? And for what? So when the republicans passed their tax cuts at the end of 2017. And guess what the price tag estimated price tag of those tax cuts was $1.9 trillion. Does that sound like a familiar number $1.9 trillion? Is the estimated cost of the GOP tax cuts 2017. What did they do? They lowered the corporate income tax rate and they lowered personal income taxes mostly on people already doing phenomenally well. 83% of the benefits went to people on top 1%. But they did it not because they thought deficits were this horrible, dangerous, awful, rotten thing to do, but because they understand perfectly well, that a government deficit creates a windfall on the other side of the ledger for somebody else, that $1.9 trillion. Government deficit is a $1.9 trillion surplus in some other part of the economy. Now think about 1.9 trillion. President Biden is asking for that 1.9 trillion will similarly create a deposit in other parts of the economy, but it will go to the unemployed, it will go to people who are really struggling, it will go to help get shots in arms and to build out the vaccination effort and to help plug holes in state and local government budgets. So every deficit is good for someone. It’s always a question about for whom and for what so what are we hearing now wrapping up quickly? We’re hearing that it’s too much. It’s too big. It’s too risky, and it risks overheating the economy. So we’re hearing from some pretty high profile economists who are warning that this 1.9 trillion is already too much. That concerns me a lot. And I think the good news is that most economists disagree with those who are making this claim there are only a handful that think it’s too big, most economists disagree. And what concerns me is that President Biden is calling the 1.9 trillion downpayment. On the other side of the relief package, he comes for the recovery package. And that’s what I think we’re here to talk about, right? That’s the build back better agenda. That’s where he comes back and asks for money to do climate and infrastructure and sustainable housing and all the other things, if we are led to believe that we’ve already done as much as we could afford to do that doing anything further, is dangerous, risky, puts us in some Jeopardy, we’re in real trouble, because they will try to weaponize the use of additional deficit spending to distract us to preach the gloom and doom right to use these kind of insidious tactics to to shake our confidence going forward. And so I want us to, you know, stand up very tall and be very assured that, at the end of the day, whatever Congress wants to spend, we can afford. If Congress commits the resources, the money will go out. You don’t find the money, you find the votes. And if you can, if you can accumulate enough votes to pass the legislation. The funding will be there, because Congress has the power of the purse, right, Congress can commit all of the dollars that it deems necessary to meaningfully engage in this fight to win this, beat this crisis. So the real risk, the thing you have to watch out for is inflation. There are limits, I’m not here to suggest that there’s no constraint, no limit whatsoever, there are limits, but they are not that you run out of money. They are not that you bankrupt your country or your kids and grandkids. The relevant constraint is the economy’s capacity to safely handle any spending that Congress appropriates. And so the limit is inflation. And as long as the real resources are available, we have the people we have construction workers, architects, engineers, steel machines, and we can build and maintain infrastructure and lay broadband and build high speed rail and do the rest of it. That’s what really matters.
Mike Tidwell 21:05
Dr. Calvin, thank you so much for that concise and, frankly, truly illuminating argument. I know that I first heard you on a podcast talking about this issue about six months ago. And it truly changed my thinking on the possibilities of our economy. And I want to thank you for that. And those of you watching a lot of the Green New Deal thinking has been informed by modern monetary theory. That as you said, Dr. Kelton, it seems like when the republicans want money for war, they find it. When they want money for tax cuts, they find it. But when it comes time for climate and social safety net programs, they tend not to find it. I’m also encouraged, as we move on to our next speaker, that Janet Yellen has responded vocally that she feels like the Treasury has the tools to deal with inflation. And there’s no real evidence that inflation is heating up despite all the spending we’ve had just in the last two months from COVID. And the predicted spending we need to do for stimulus, infrastructure and climate. So again, the book is Deficit Myth. It’s really changed my thinking on this issue. I think every climate activist, climate activists, not just the economists, needs to read this book, because we need to fearlessly and confidently beat back the arguments that are already coming, that our country is bankrupt and we can’t fulfill Joe Biden’s climate plan with the investments we know we need. So Dr. Kelton, thank you so much for joining us. So the science tells us there’s still time and new economics shows the evidence: rich potential for pulling off massive climate investments would defend, not weaken, prosperity. But now we’re in a sprint. After Donald Trump and previous years of inaction, we no longer have the luxury of a multi decade marathon to achieve solutions we must sprint sprint toward passage of a clean electricity standard and other vital climate features this year, in fact, by August, here to tell us about the specifics and the nuances of abiding 100% clean energy standard is Lia Stokes. She’ll also lay out the challenging but utterly achievable pathway to legislative victory using so called budget reconciliation. Again, if you’re just joining us, I’m Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. And if you have questions for our speakers, place them in the q&a tab. So Dr. Leah Stokes is a professor of political science at UC Santa Barbara and sits on the advisory board of Evergreen Action. She is a rising star in the climate movement, whose advocacy on 100% clean electricity has been featured in national publications, and the new climate podcast of the legendary Dave Roberts.
Leah Stokes 23:58
I’m Leah Stokes. I’m a professor at UC Santa Barbara, I work with Evergreen Action and Data for Progress. And we recently released a report showing how we can get to 100% clean electricity by 2035. If Congress does what’s necessary and acts and I just want to say that it’s been so wonderful partnering with CCAN. Quintin, Mike and Jamie have become good friends in the few weeks we’ve been working together, and I’m really excited to keep working with them.
So the challenge, as Mike was just saying is the pace and scale right we are behind the curve on this before Biden made this really landmark pledge for 100% clean power by 2035. We were talking about decarbonizing our electricity system by 2050. And in a certain sense, you might say we were on track for that. In fact, by 2020, we were at 40%, which would be right in that crosshairs right there of what’s necessary. But look at this figure some more. We’re really living on borrowed time with our nuclear fleet and our hydro power fleet which are not growing and can even be shrinking in some cases. So renewables in the very best year are growing about two percentage points annually. And they need to be growing at least four or five percentage points to be on track for what’s necessary. And if we instead say, we’re not aiming for 2050, we’re aiming for climate stability, here, we’re aiming for 2035, then the math just gets more punishing. So we really have to get Congress to act to make sure that we are seeing deployments of four or five percentage points annually of renewables. And the good news is that 2020 was the best year yet, I think there was something like 37 gigawatts of wind and solar built. So we are making progress. And we just need to scale this up with federal support. If you’re interested in this, I made a little video about it, which kind of helps you intuit some of the math. Um, so what is a clean electricity standard? Well, basically, it’s a requirement, it’s a requirement for more clean electricity by a certain year. So for example, 80% clean power by 2030, which is directly on the path to 100% clean power by 2035. This policy exists, as Mike was mentioning, and a lot of states, sometimes it’s called a renewable portfolio standard. Sometimes it’s called a clean electricity standard. And the really important thing is that President Biden campaigned and won on this policy. He just talked about 2035 all the time, if you ever heard him talk about climate change, he was talking about 100% clean power by 2035. So we know this is a really top issue for the Biden and Harris administration. And as Stephanie mentioned earlier, this is a core part of his build back better agenda, which is the next thing that Congress is going to turn to and I found it so inspiring to hear Stephanie talk about how we cannot let people tell us that we somehow don’t have the money for the most important investments that we can be making in our climate stability, because nobody was making that argument when the Cares Act was passed last year, which included massive bailouts for the fossil fuel industry. And unlike bailing out the fossil fuel industry, investing in clean power, as Stephanie was saying, is an investment in our economy. Indeed, it will actually pay us back by putting people to work by cleaning up the air. And that’s going to not just provide jobs, but also a lot of health benefits that, for example, will affect our health care system and bring down health care costs. This is a really practical, proven and popular approach. And I’m going to talk about the popular more in a second. But what do I mean by practical improvement? Well, you might not know this, but you may just be living in a state or city right now, that is already targeting 100% clean power. And that’s because more than one in three Americans already live in a place that is planning to do this. So this isn’t really a new idea. It’s something that we’ve been doing since the 80s, and 90s, and states across this country. And it’s really very popular. So we know how to do it. We know it’s going to deliver job creation and justice. And we know that people support it. So let’s just look at the fantastic polling that data for progress did as part of our work on this. Well, here’s the top line findings: the strong majority of people across this country support Biden’s bold pledge for 100% clean power by 2035. Of course, that’s particularly strong amongst democrats and even independents. But even amongst Republicans, if we include people who aren’t quite sure, we’re still getting to that 50% support number. So this is a popular approach. Notably, some of the really key swing states where you know, Biden had to win in order to secure the presidency, are places where this is a really popular idea. And indeed, in Arizona and Michigan, Biden actually ran campaign ads during the general election on climate change. So voters knew what he was up to. And they were strongly supportive. Let’s look for example, at Arizona here, well over 50% are supporting this policy. And I just want to also highlight that this policy will particularly deliver benefits for Black Latinx and indigenous communities. And that is because we have overwhelmingly placed our fossil fuel infrastructure, in communities of color, we have put the harms of our energy system into communities of color, and let the benefits overwhelmingly flow to white communities. And we know that because of research, now, here’s what this shows: particularly black and Latin x communities are quite strongly supportive of this policy. So we have more than 70% support in black communities, and 65% in Hispanic communities. So you know, this is a policy that will really deliver on the core ideas of the Green New Deal, which is about equity, job creation and justice. And so that’s why I’m very excited about this policy. And I’m going to turn it back to Mike now to ask some more questions about how exactly we might get this done.
Mike Tidwell 29:45
Yeah, thank you, Leah. The numbers are astounding. I am proud to live in a state, Maryland, where we have a commitment to 50% clean electricity by 2030. Virginia is going to be near 50% by 2030. And as I mentioned earlier, DC is already on its way to 100%. So this is exciting. One question we’ve gotten, Leah, is what do we do about gas? We know that coal is in decline? Oil is not necessarily what we’re talking about that much in terms of electricity. But very briefly, what is the role, if any, for gas? And can you really get to 100%? By 2035, versus this idea of like, 80% by 2030?
Leah Stokes 30:28
Well, I think it’s really important to recognize that we know that the 80 to 90%, clean is very doable. There was an amazing report that came out of Berkeley and Grid lab last year, if you just go to 2035report.com, they showed that we could get to 90% clean power by 2035 and save customers money. Why do we save customers money? Well, right now, dirty coal plants continue to operate, that are not economic, they actually cost customers every hour of the day that they operate. And you don’t just have to take that from me, you can take that from the CEO of Nextera, a very large power company, who said a few weeks ago, there is not a single economic coal plant left in this country full stop period. So shutting down these coal plants will not only deliver massive health benefits, particularly to communities of color, but will also deliver lower cost power. So we know we can get to 80 to 90%, clean. And that’s really what we have to be focused on right now. There’s no more excuses left, and that last 10% of the electricity system is going to be harder to decarbonize. Now, the good news is that and I’m happy to talk a bit more about the budget reconciliation process. But the good news is that what we’re talking about in this package anyway, is a 10 year window. So we’re really talking about making sure we get that 80% clean power by 2030 into law. And that is directly on the path to 100%, clean by 2035. And notably, you can’t tell me it’s not possible because the entire state of Colorado is already in law planning to get to 80% clean power by 2030. And we have one Corporation in Google, which seems to think it can get to 100% clean power by 2030. And Google, you may recall, is perhaps the largest energy consumer in our country. So this is not a small fish, so to speak. So you know, we are going to need to have some innovation to get to that deep decarbonisation. But look, we had a moonshot. And we put people on the moon, we had World War Two, and we defeated, you know, really strong forces. And so we can do this, if we just get started today, and we invest in these solutions.
Mike Tidwell 32:37
Well, let’s talk about how we’re gonna do it. Right, we know that we’ve got a narrow window legislatively in, in this Congress really this, this bill needs to pass by August, or it’s going to be very hard to pass it all. I just want to recommend this report that Leah has mentioned, “A Roadmap to 100% Clean Electricity”, that that evergreen put out and we’ll put in the chat, I really encourage you to read it. You can see I have marked it up. I mean, it’s for if you’re a policy wonk, this is a report to read in terms of 100%. But Dr. Leah Stokes, tell us in the next two or three minutes, how we can do it, the filibuster apparently is not going to leave our future Congress. And there’s this idea of budget reconciliation that you mentioned, how can Congress pass 100% clean energy standard by budget reconciliation?
Leah Stokes 33:38
Yeah, so I’m happy to give everybody an intuition of that. So we can of course, pass it by eliminating the filibuster that does not look like it’s on the agenda right now. But we can still pass it through budget reconciliation using the 51 vote strategy. And basically, once a year, Congress can use a budget reconciliation process. I’m going to talk a little bit more about that. But the fact is that last year, Congress did not use it, meaning that the first bill that we’re talking about passing right now, that $1.9 trillion package for COVID, and sort of stimulus that is being passed on last year’s fiscal year budget reconciliation process. And the next approach, which is really the recovery and the build back better policy, which will start in the spring, once we’re past this current negotiation. That will be the big climate clean energy and investment package, that’s going to be the build back better package. And we believe based on you know, more than 10 months of research and talking to people that we can put a clean electricity standard into that policy. So how do we do that? Well, basically what is budget reconciliation, budget reconciliation is a policy that is a series of profit allows policy to be in a negotiation if it is focused on government revenues, government expenditures, or and or debt. So if we’re doing anything where the government is spending money, or raising revenue, or you know, putting money towards the debt by spending money in the way that Stephanie described, that counts under budget reconciliation, and we can design a clean electricity standard that fits into these constraints, what is the basic intuition? Well, in our report, we outlined more than six options about how to do it. But the basic intuition is that we have to provide funding for utilities that are doing the right thing. We say if you build clean power at the pace and scale that’s necessary, if you’re adding four or five percentage points a year of clean power, you will get resources from the federal government. And the critical thing is that it’s not just a carrot, it’s also a stick. If you do not do the right thing, if you do not move at the pace and scale that’s necessary, there is a penalty to be paid. And so that’s the basic intuition of how to do this because it’s all about revenues, if the utilities are not doing what’s right in terms of these penalties and expenditures, when the gut when these utilities are doing what’s right, we give them resources. So this is a requirement. It is not a market based mechanism where we hope and pray that things might happen, it is a requirement. And it will go alongside other key investments like extending the production tax credit, and the investment tax credit, and crucially, turning those into direct pay mechanisms so that they are more easily used by actors in society. So that’s the basic intuition. And I’ll just say, too, that this is not the only thing we have to do to get to 100% clean power, there’s a lot of other things that this package must include. So those investments turned into direct pay that I’ve met, that I’ve already mentioned, things like supporting the shutdown of coal plants by getting rid of coal, plant debt, pushing for electrification, especially in buildings, as well as in our transportation sector, streamlining, clean, energy permitting, and siting and also transmission so that we can build all the infrastructure that’s necessary, promoting competition to keep the prices low, so that as people are using power for more and more things, like their cooking and their heating and their cars, electricity is not really expensive, promoting intervene, or compensation programs, which by the way, Firk is setting up an Office of Public Participation right now. And you can get involved in that. That’ll basically pay advocates to advocate for clean power, and address this technology innovation gap so that we know we can get that last 10% done. So I think Quintin is going to probably speak next, but as you point out his job creation and justice that were really for here, and this policy will deliver it. And so that’s why it’s so critical to get this as part of the build back better agenda.
Mike Tidwell 37:39
Well, again, thank you, Dr. Stokes, the report: A Roadmap to 100- we’ve got it posted in the chat. It really is a readable, comprehensive, clear plan, not only for the policy of how it could work in the states and at the federal level. But how we can pass it through various scenarios, budget reconciliation, we call your report the Bible around here. So if you’re part of a group that wants to be part of this historic push for clean energy this year, to get passed by August, please read that report. And you’re going to hear, at the end of this hour, from Jamie DeMarco CCAN who’s going to tell you more details how you and your organization can plug into Thank you, Dr. Stoke. And now let’s talk again, as Dr. Stokes said more about jobs. What Dr. Stokes highlighted. It’s so exciting. We want to delve more. Quintin Scott is the federal policy associate for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. And first he can act in fun. He’s a native of Chicago, and spent years as a policy advocate in the Illinois General Assembly and as a staffer on Capitol Hill.
Quentin Scott 38:54
Thank you for the introduction, Mike, it’s my pleasure to be on this very distinguished panel. It is time for the United States to commit to a 100% clean electricity standard by 2035. We have an opportunity to reimagine a robust US economy and create good paying jobs now and be a global leader in innovation and manufacturing. Once again, every conversation about clean electricity standards eventually comes back to jobs. Where would those jobs be? How much would those jobs pay? The answers to these questions are the guy that takes us from conversation to commitment? The answer is simple. Decarbonizing the grid by 2035 will create millions of good jobs that will be available to those currently working in the fossil fuel industry. There will be plenty of jobs just cleaning up the mess we’ve already made. There are hundreds of 1000s of orphan wells in coal mines in places like West Virginia that need to be kept. The Columbia center of global energy policy recently released a study saying a federal program to plug orphaned wells could create as many as 120,000 jobs. If 500,000 wells were plugged in The majority of these jobs will be in rural communities like West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Alabama. The good jobs from clean energy are so compelling that even building trades are coming around to the fact that clean electricity is good for labor. The main AFL CIO and rail workers united endorsed the main green new deal in 2019, which included 100% clean electricity standard 17, New York City labor unions came together to form the climate jobs New York coalition. We heard the President of the Texas AFL CIO voice that it’s time for unions to play a role in really shaping the future, and there are going to be great new opportunities for labor. United Auto Workers region nine in New York even joined the New York renews coalition, which successfully enacted 100% clean electricity standard. We need to pass the 100% clean electricity standard by 2035. To make sure that we are building a clean energy future here at home. The United States has fallen behind China and Europe in the race for producing high tech batteries that store solar and wind energy. According to the benchmark mineral intelligence, China dominates battery production with 93 Giga factories that manufacture the lithium ion batteries versus only here in the US. At this current rate, China’s projected to have 140 Giga factories by 2030, while Europe will have 17 and the United States just 10. If this trend continues, a decade from now, we will be dependent on China for a significant portion of our battery needs. Despite the lack of leadership at the federal level, some American businesses are taking a lead. For example, General Motors has started building a battery cell factory in Lordstown, Ohio, that is already bringing jobs to the area and eventually will employ 1100 people. acting quickly, we can help make sure that these jobs of the future are American jobs. President Biden sees our need for clean energy and job creation as connected challenges. Biden proposed to make a 2 billion, excuse me, $2 trillion public sector investment into infrastructure and is projected to create 10 million new direct and indirect clean energy jobs, including funds for displaced workers and fossil fuel industries. He will also defend workers rights to form unions and collectively bargain to ensure jobs created offer good wages, benefits and worker protections. President Biden is committed to investing in transformative scalable technologies to meet our country’s energy needs. Just a few weeks ago, we saw the Department of Energy announce a $100 million investment and more investments are coming this year, as proposing the Stokes Ricketts report, which all of you are going to go read after this webinar. Along with clean electricity standard. We need a national energy efficiency benchmark, which according to the study done by the Political Economy Research Institute, will create 700,000 new jobs across the country. already more than two and a half million Americans have careers in wind, solar and energy efficiency. That is more than all the jobs in coal, oil and gas combined. In 100% clean electricity standard will create millions more. These are not just wishful thinking projections. We know that clean electricity standards create jobs because we’ve seen them happen since 2010. Solar jobs in the US have increased by 300%. In states with the most solar jobs are the states with 100% clean electricity standards like California, New York and Arizona. Since Maryland passed clean energy standards. We’ve seen Maryland solar industry go to over 210 companies and employ 5300 residents and pay for 20,000 jobs in 2013. alone. The United States has a long history of using innovation to spur economic growth, building the necessary infrastructure to meet the 2035 clean electricity standard can create millions of good paying union jobs from battery manufacturing to solar panel installation and a time of growing unemployment. 100% clean electricity standard gets us good paying jobs now.
Mike Tidwell 44:04
Thank you, Quentin I’ve got one question we’ve gotten just briefly before we move on to our last speaker from the sunrise movement. We’ve gotten a question of how will Biden and Congress make sure that newly created clean energy jobs go to current fossil fuel workers?
Quentin Scott 44:24
Yeah, that’s a great question, Mike. We recognize that fossil fuel communities across this country have fueled America. And as we transition to clean electricity, we need to make sure that’s a smooth transition. We can start by having dedicated funds to protect retirement and health benefits, provide funds to local governments to maintain quality education and other local services as there’s displaced economic activity, provide job training, and facilitate connections between people unions and employers. At the state level, we’ve seen places like Mexico and Colorado already established just transition offices. For fossil fuel workers, what last year, West Virginia introduced a bill that would create a similar office in their state. There needs to be additional federal funds to bolster the effectiveness of these offices. And so other states are encouraged to establish those offices as well. On January 27, Biden actually signed Executive orders that established the National Climate Task Force, and one of their missions is to create good paying jobs and create economic growth across all communities. So there are a lot of efforts already in place. And as we go through this transition, more resources will be dedicated to making sure that those jobs go to the right places. And for those fossil fuel workers.
Mike Tidwell 45:40
Thank you, Quentin Scott, he is the federal policy associate for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. And for all of you, Capitol Hill staffers who are watching this webinar, you’ll see more of Clinton, as our organization joins our partners nationwide and makes 100% clean energy happen in Congress by August. Thank you, Quentin. You’ll see a lot more of him and also coming up shortly, CCAN federal policy director Jamie DeMarco, again, before we leave today is going to let you know the information and tools all of you on this call will need to plug in to this historic congressional push. But right now, in addition to new jobs, to pass 100% clean energy policy, we must address and repair past environmental and justices in this country and create a clean energy economy for all Americans. Thankfully, the administration has declared that all of its climate policies, including 100%, clean electricity must ensure that at least 40% of the new investments in benefits flow to communities of color and historically disadvantaged communities. By the way, that concept and that number 40% comes from our great friends in New York state who made that a state policy two years ago, and now it’s being borrowed by the administration. So thank you New York. The administration has clearly already created the White House, environmental justice Interagency Council to help push for this on all fronts, but we, the movement, will have to hold them accountable and ensure that in our own work, we are centering black and brown communities. Here to discuss this is Jonathan Williams. He is the internal justice coordinator at the great fantastic, historic organization, sunrise movement. Jonathan, take it away.
Johnathan Williams 47:33
Hi, thank you so much for having me. I hope you all can hear me. Yeah, I’m going to talk about the movement on the ground, the seat that gets it done. And I’m driving back to my education at the Chesapeake Bay Governor’s School, I came back to watch some students giving all these presentations about what would be exciting. And then I spoke and I delivered the same question that I’m delivering now. So what are we going to do about it, you can have all the ideas in the world and unless we can get it across the finish line, it doesn’t matter. Um, and I hate to harken back to a trying time for liberals, leftist Democrats. But I think there was an analysis of power that Senator Bernie Sanders had when he said, Not me, us, versus what I’ve heard from other people running for office. And that’s the understanding that we have to have people power at the base of everything we do. I think we can see with a lot of frustration, people are like, Democrats are governing, but they’re not governing, like they have power because a lot of the avenues in DC are blocked. So we have to get out in the streets and make them room because we can open up the room from the outside. And that can happen specifically using a tool that Dr. Martin Luther King would call the dramatic crisis, you find the public site of tension for injustice in our society, and you show up on the streets and you make it known we can see this in Texas right now, where there’s sunrise hubs on the ground, going to the state capitol and taking it to Greg Abbott and said “You destroyed our electrical grid and Republicans in this state allowed this electrical grid to get to this place”, and they’re creating the dramatic crisis that’s gonna be needed to take the country into this discussion and build alignment around this. And we’re gonna have to do that on Democrats and Republicans to really make folks feel and understand that this has to happen. Um, and in doing that, people get a little nervous because it sounds like a destructive process. I’m talking about showing up, rattling, making noise and that’s part of it. In the New World, we’re going to have to get rid of some of the old but we also are bringing a prophetic and a beautiful vision of what the world can look like. And we’re talking about what we’re going to be seeing in the years to come. And that’s really important to center. Some of the things that we have to be careful about as people on the left is sometimes we get too far in the future. And we’re talking about like, maybe wonkish, or like things that are disconnected from people’s reality right now. And that’s very dangerous because republicans are talking in reactionary terms, and things that are very issue present today. So we have to engage in what we can have, and meet people where they’re at. And this is where we bring in the communities that we’re talking about black, brown, indigenous marginalized people.
We’re not going to create the vision and we don’t have the imagination, I don’t have the imagination for myself, to imagine a world that includes all people, you need an imagination of all people to create a world that’s going to work for all people. So we have to be bringing people from all over the country into this work, and meeting them at where their concerns are right now. And I want to stress why it’s so important that we don’t leave these people out. Sometimes we get into the room, and we start doing politicking, we leave these communities behind. And we can’t do that. There’s a reason that the Green New Deal is very different from the New Deal, and that the New Deal did leave these communities behind. And we allowed this conversation of progress to happen at the expense of a lot of black, brown indigenous people. And when those people lost their trust in the federal government to work on their behalf, and to reaganism, and the idea that we have to do it on our own, but we don’t have to do it on our own. And that’s the job of a movement is to make sure that the federal government is working on behalf of these communities, so that they can trust us when we ask them to vote, we kind of think I work in the south as an organizer. So we think you can just show up and ask for a vote, you have to build a relationship. And this has to be started in relationship with people now meeting their needs now. So they’ll show up and vote in the future. Um, and so if you’re if you’re really if you’re listening to this, now we have to move beyond a place of passive supporting and petition signing. And it’s gonna take that dramatic crisis of showing up at the site of tension and standing by the people who are most affected, because you’re not going to convince coal miners in West Virginia that you’re going to be on their side someday in a transition, if you’re not on their side today, with the the labor disputes that they’re having, and, and the the environmental injustice that those communities are are having right now. And that’s where the moment of the movement comes in, is supporting those people where they are today. Presenting that, that crisis, and, and fighting for folks from the bottom on up. And I think that is a generational struggle where the sunrise movement comes in. And we don’t have any qualms about shaking any tables. And when we do that on the outside people, the people inside Washington DC here hear the windows rattling, and they decide to move a little bit faster, and we create room for people to do things like get that 50 plus vote. And when we rattle those windows, you know, maybe an undecisive Joe Manchin decides that we are going to work through budget reconciliation after all and get this passed.
Mike Tidwell 53:14
Well, Jonathan Williams, the internal justice coordinator at sunrise movement, powerful, powerful comments, we’ve we had one viewer, say how much she admires sunrise because you operate under the theory of no permanent friends, no permanent enemies and occupying Nancy Pelosi, his office turned out to be the best thing you could do for our friend the speaker. One question we have just very, very briefly if someone has given everything that’s happened in the last year on race and justice, what makes you hopeful?
Johnathan Williams 53:54
That’s really hard. I was in DC when Donald Trump took his fun little photoshoot with the Bible. I was tear gassed raising the number one voting issue in this country. And the intersectional nature of this conversation that we can’t leave behind these folks, I think is ever present in a lot of people’s minds right now. We need to gain a further understanding of, like, the small ways that even leftists and liberals and democrats can perpetuate racial harm, but people know that we have to work on it. And, you know, I have a white mother. And we have gotten a lot farther and just that conversation between us in this last year that we have a lot further. So I think people know and knowing is half the battle.
Mike Tidwell 54:41
Thank you so much, Jonathan. Thanks for being with us from the sunrise movement. And again, if you joined us I’m Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. We’re discussing the upcoming fight to pass the by 100% clean energy standard and Congress by August. We turn now to the ban. We will be leading CCANs Capitol Hill efforts and are already known by many of you. In the US climate movement, Jamie DeMarco is a CCAN federal policy director and previously worked for the citizens climate lobby and other groups fighting for state and federal climate policies. Jamie is going to tell us at long last how all of you and your organizations can concretely right now plugin because it’s exhilarating. All hands on deck sprint of an effort to get this bill passed 100% clean by summer’s end, Jamie, tell us how we can get involved.
Jamie DeMarco 55:38
I get such a kick out of watching those videos. Oh my gosh. And we saw on this call just the tip of the iceberg. We had people all over the country jumping in the water for 100% by 2035. Because they were real powerful grassroots energy behind this 100%. Clean Energy by 2035 is rapidly growing to be a center of gravity and our movement. And whoever you are. Your help is needed to make sure we pass an equitable 100% clean energy standard as soon as we can. And if you want to work to pass it, please email me. I put my email in the chat, please, please send me an email. As soon as this webinar is over. I know we’re over two minutes, I’m going to wrap up really quickly by saying that our path to transformative policy is through Biden’s build back infrastructure package and reconciliation. That package will live or die between now and the start of the August recess. So we have five months for the fight of our lives. And if we miss this window, there may not be another one until it’s too late. Many of us have taken comfort in the message over the years that this is not a sprint, it is a marathon. So we need to be in it for the long haul. I know I’ve taken a lot of comfort from that mantra over the years. But we must be doing intervals or something because right now, this is a sprint and there is a finish line in August. And we are neck and neck with disaster as we run to it. And I hope all of us are going to live our lives over the next five months so that when we look back, we can look back knowing we did everything we could to run as fast as possible to join the race. Email me, Jamie@Chesapeakeclimate.org. It’s in the chat. Let’s hit the ground running for 100% by 2035.
Mike Tidwell 57:16
Thank you, Jamie DeMarco, thank you everyone for joining. We had nearly 400 folks show up for that. The biggest zoom event in the history of CCAN and CCAN Action Fund. I want to thank Evergreen Action Dr. Michael Mann, Dr. Stephanie Coulson, Dr. Leah Stokes, Quintin Scott, Jonathan Williams, Jamie DeMarco, thank you, all of our speakers, thank you to the CCAN staff who helped pull this off. This is just the beginning. It’s going to be a sprint between now and August. But we’re going to be in touch with you soon as we continue to work with Evergreen with Sunrise with other groups to make this bill law in the coming month. So thanks again for joining us. And we will see you next time, everybody.
Charles Olsen 58:11
Thanks for listening to Upside Down. This podcast is produced by me, Charles and with incredible support from the entire CCAN staff. Check out the show notes for links to all the things discussed in this episode. If you want to know more about how you can get involved with sinking in the climate fight, check out our website at chesapeakeclimate.org. You want to get in touch with us and follow us on instagram and twitter @CCAN. And if you enjoy the work we do, why don’t you share us with your friends. Sharing the show is a super easy way to help spread the word about the work we’re doing in the fight for bold climate actions. Thanks again for listening. We’ll see you next time.