Corporate Dems are not the same as Republicans when it comes to the environment

There is a tendency on the left to equate corporate Democrats and Republicans, and to say that they are all the same. In some regards, they do cater to the same interests and have the same foreign policy, but it is important to not overstate the case. One of the areas where I do see a real difference is in terms of the environment.

I don’t care for commentators on the left who seem to just be on team blue, which is what the Young Turks have become. However, I find myself increasingly at odds with the other extreme, which equates the corporate Dems and Republicans as being the same. One of the commentators who often makes this mistake is Kim Iversen. I appreciate Iversen, because she is independent in her thinking and willing to buck conventional wisdom, but she often opines on subjects where she doesn’t know much and that is clear in her recent YouTube video, where she says that there is no difference between carbon emissions between Democratic and Republican administrations.

Here is a comment that I posted in response to this video to set Iversen straight:
——
Kim, There has been a major difference between the Democrats and Republicans in terms of energy policy, and just looking at total carbon emissions is a very poor way to capture that difference

First of all, roughly half of the US reduction in GHG emissions by the has been caused by the switch from coal to natural gas in electricity generation energy plants. However, those numbers are deceptive, because the majority of domestic oil and gas production now comes from fracking, and there is a lot of scientific debate about how much methane is leaking into the atmosphere from fracking. If more than 2.6% of natural gas leaks into the atmosphere, then it has a higher global warming potential over 100 years than coal, and many scientists believe that to be the case, so the official GHG emissions numbers are probably wrong.

The rest of the reduction in US GHG emissions have been caused by the rise of alternative energy and greater fuel efficiency, and that is mostly due to the activity of Democratic legislation and administrations, whereas the Republicans have generally resisted that. The CAFE fuel standards were mostly passed by Democrats in 1975, with the bill being cosponsored by 14 Democratic Senators. It was the Carter administration that turned fuel efficiency into a major issue, with measures such as the 1978 Gas Guzzlers Tax on particularly inefficient vehicle models. It was the Dems in California who jump started the US solar and wind turbine industry in the late 70s and early 80s, with their big subsidies for alternative energy. Carter put solar panels on the roof of the White House, whereas Reagan dismantled the panels, and fuel efficiency stalled under Reagan’s watch.

It was Bill Clinton’s USCAR ‘Clean Car’ research subsidy plan in Feb. 1993 which created hybrid car technology and got the heads of GM, Ford and Chrysler to come to Washington to promise to develop cars based on it. The Big Three reneged on their promises, but Toyota and Honda took USCAR’s hybrid tech to develop the Prius and Insight. It was the Dems in California who passed the bill requiring 2% of vehicles be zero emissions vehicles, which forced GM to make the EV1. Tesla was created because the founders of the company saw GM destroy the EV1. Tesla has literally pushed the entire auto industry to start making electric cars, but Tesla probably couldn’t have gotten the private capital investment in Dec 2008 that saved the company if investors hadn’t been looking at the guaranteed market caused by California’s zero emissions vehicle mandates which were passed by the Dems.

It was Bush’s 2005 bill which gutted environmental regulations on fracking, which helped create the fracking boom. That boom created a glut of natural gas, which lowered the price of gas and convinced energy utilities to switch from coal to gas. This had real benefits in terms of particulate and mercury emissions, but it is debatable if it really reduced total GHG emissions.

It was the Democratic majority that took control of congress in 2007 that passed the new CAFE standards and the $25 billion loan program to reduce vehicle emissions. Obama’s Dept. of Energy loaned $5.9 billion, $1.6 billion and $465 million to Ford, Nissan and Tesla in 2009-10. Without that money, it is unlikely that Nissan would have produced any Leafs in the US and it would have taken Tesla a lot longer to produce the Model S, which literally revolutionized the auto industry.

The Dems and Obama kept the Investment Tax Credit and Production Tax Credit alive for wind and solar energy, which made alternative energy viable in the early years. It was the Dems in 2015 that pushed through the bill that set a stable ITC and PTC for wind and solar throughout the Trump years. If they hadn’t done that, we would have seen a massive reduction in new wind and solar energy under Trump.

Trump’s anti-China trade war has massively hurt solar deployment in the US. Trump also gutted the Obama’s Clean Power Plan and his new rules to protect waterways which would have effectively ended mountaintop removal. It you compare Biden’s climate plan (https://joebiden.com/climate-plan/) to what Trump would do as president, there is no way that you can say that the Dems are the same as the Repubs. Even if Biden has a Republican-controlled Senate and can’t pass his proposed $400 billion climate plan, what he promises to do with executive orders is significant.

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