This page, begun in spring 2019, covers the intersection of carbon pricing and other climate policy issues with the 2020 presidential campaign.
Dems: 7 out of 18 strongly for taxing carbon emissions
Last updated May 20, 2019
A year and a half out, the 2020 presidential campaign has already paid more attention to climate change than any previous election — perhaps even every previous election combined. (Bill McKibben surveyed the depressing history as part of an election preview for Politico.)
The best news of all is that voters are speaking up. In an April 2019 Monmouth University Poll of Iowa Democrats, climate change ranked second among issues of concern, albeit far behind health care. (Environmental concerns generally also ranked fairly high, which may also reflect climate concern.)
And the candidates — well, the Democrats, anyway — are responding:
- Every sitting senator in the race has cosponsored the Green New Deal resolution sponsored by Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA). (CTC policy associate Bob Narus identified the policy synergies between carbon taxes and the Green New Deal in two recent posts, Green New Dealers Should Embrace a Carbon Tax and Carbon Tax Advocates Should Embrace a Green New Deal.)
- A dozen candidates have sworn off campaign contributions from fossil-fuel companies, according to Oil Change International (see graphic).
- Most importantly, two candidates, Beto O’Rourke and Jay Inslee, have already rolled out serious, detailed climate programs. (See below for coverage of these proposals.)
Only one candidate, former Maryland representative John Delaney, has explicitly endorsed a carbon tax. Delaney was an original cosponsor of the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2018, which largely followed Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s fee-and-dividend template. Most of the field has been tiptoeing around the issue, perhaps fearing, in the words of New York Times columnist David Leonhardt, that carbon taxes “focus people’s attention on the short-terms costs of moving away from dirty energy” instead of on the benefits of clean energy.
But if they aren’t running on carbon pricing, at least some of the candidates aren’t running away from it, either. In April 2019, the Times surveyed the announced Democratic candidates (18 at the time) on climate change, and found that seven “put their weight firmly behind a carbon tax”: Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Julián Castro, John Delaney, Kirsten Gillibrand, Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang.
Five others said they were “willing to consider” a carbon tax, according to the Times: Jay Inslee, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Tim Ryan, Eric Swalwell.
In May 2019, Citizens Climate Lobby posted a more detailed survey, Which 2020 candidates support carbon pricing?, with thumbnails of eight Democratic candidates as well as two possible Republican challengers to President Trump.
On April 29, former Texas representative Beto O’Rourke surprised everyone by being first out of the Democratic gate with a comprehensive climate policy. His four-part plan includes:
- Immediate executive and regulatory actions ranging from controlling methane leakage and building efficiency standards to “clean” government procurement
- $1.5 trillion in spending (paid for by taxes on the wealthy and corporations), leveraging an additional $3.5 trillion in non-government spending, on clean energy investments and R&D
- A 2050 target date for net-zero emissions
- Efforts to protect communities, agriculture and military installations from the impacts of climate change
O’Rourke doesn’t use the term “carbon tax,” but he does promise a “legally enforceable standard” for meeting the 2050 deadline, explaining:
This standard will send a clear price signal to the market to change the incentives for how we produce, consume, and invest in energy, while putting in place a mechanism that will ensure the environmental and socio-economic integrity of this endeavor — providing us with the confidence that we are moving at least as quickly as we need in order to meet a 2050 deadline.
That language seems to envision some form of carbon pricing.
On May 3, Washington Governor Jay Inslee released his “100% Clean Energy for America Plan” in several media (video, Web page, 8-page pdf). Carbon pricing isn’t mentioned. Excerpts from the Inslee campaign’s Web page:
Governor Jay Inslee’s 100% Clean Energy for America Plan will achieve 100% clean electricity, 100% zero-emission new vehicles and 100% zero-carbon new buildings. This plan will empower America to make the entire electrical grid and every new car and building climate pollution-free, at the speed that science and public health demand.
The 100% Clean Energy for America Plan is the first major policy announcement in Governor Inslee’s Climate Mission agenda – a bold 10-year mobilization to defeat climate change and create millions of good-paying jobs building a just, innovative and inclusive clean energy future, with meaningful targets and plans for execution based on his experience as a governor. Governor Inslee will announce additional major planks of his detailed climate plan in the coming weeks.
Two weeks later came Phase 2 — Inslee’s Evergreen Economy Plan. The 38-page plan defies easy summarization, but highlights include:
- a Rebuild America Initiative to upgrade buildings
- a $90 billion green bank to support clean energy projects
- a $3 trillion infrastructure program
- a clean manufacturing program, including federal procurement standards
- greatly expanded clean-energy R&D
- higher wages, benefits and union rights for clean-energy workers
All told, Inslee proposes spending $300 billion per year, leveraging another $600 billion in private investment , for a total of $9 trillion over a decade. No word yet on where he plans to get that $300 billion/year. “I have plans,” he told us at a Manhattan meet-and-greet the same day he released the proposal.
Not surprisingly, Inslee is winning the David Roberts Primary:
To put it bluntly, Inslee is writing a Green New Deal. . . . This isn’t just a campaign play, it’s a document the next Democratic president is going to want in-hand when the time comes to get to work.
Alexander Kaufman at Huffington Post also has a good summary of Inslee’s plan.
This page will be continually updated as candidates release major climate proposals.