Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Six Degrees of Separation

Meg Whitman, Republican Powerbroker with her husband

Damage after Superstorm Sandy
This morning I woke to two seemingly disparate pieces of news.  But in the way of "six degrees of separation," I found them seemingly intertwined by the time I sat down with my coffee.

On the one hand, Meg Whitman, Republican powerhouse, billionaire and fundraiser comes out saying that she not only won't vote for Trump, she will vote for Clinton.  And not only will she vote for Clinton, she will donate to her. And not only will she donate to her, she will fundraise for her.  And not only that, Clinton made no policy concessions or promises to her when they spoke a month ago.  They just had a nice "chat."  You can see the story here.

On the other hand, Zillow comes out with a study based on their database of house values and NOAA's projections of sea level rise from climate change, allowing them to project losses of $882 billlion dollars to the housing market from sea level rise alone.  The real estate market is starting to take notice of climate change.  Finally.  It won't be long before homeowners are considering it in purchases.  And then the reality of climate change will sink in all the more firmly for Americans. Another thing pushing them to sit up and take notice sooner rather than later.  (Of course, this is later to anyone that has been paying attention.  But for those that have not, this is sooner.)  You can see this story here.

It looks to me like the climate message is reaching corporations like Zillow.

Zillow...that rang a bell.  That bell?  Hillary Clinton.  She mentioned Zillow and Trulia in her policy plans, some time ago.

  • Benchmarking and transparency: While energy makes up a significant share of the operating costs of any building, prospective buyers and tenants have little ability to compare the energy costs of different properties. Cities and states across the country, from Atlanta to Austin, have created programs where commercial and multifamily residential buildings report on their energy use and benchmark it to other buildings of a similar class. This not only helps new buyers and tenants assess affordability but highlights the potential for efficiency improvements for existing owners.  Clinton would expand these successful local policies into a consistent national program.
  • Energy efficient mortgages: Residential efficiency improvements, whether in new or existing homes, can significantly reduce a household’s monthly energy bills, yet federal mortgage agencies do not take this into account in determining the value and affordability of home loans they underwrite. Clinton would fix this shortcoming, and work with companies like Zillow and Trulia to make expected energy cost information easily available to prospective buyers.  (emphasis mine).  The Institute for Market Transformation estimates this measure alone would generate 83,000 jobs and save American households $1.3 billion a year on their energy bills by ensuring efficiency investments are accurately valued in the residential property market.  You can read the full text here
 Suddenly, my thoughts clicked.  Clinton is already in talks with Zillow and Trulia.  She is talking climate with them.  Already.

And then my thoughts turned to the left.  The frustration with incrementalism.  And no carbon price from Clinton.  I thought about my own belief that Clinton can leverage existing power systems, including corporations and military, to act on climate.  The news from yesterday that the federal government must now account for climate in every decision made.

Climate change is caused incrementally.  One carbon atom at a time.  It is sewn into every single part of our economy.  A price on carbon is the single most powerful policy tool we have to hit carbon at every point in our economy.  But we don't yet have a Congress that will hand one to Obama to sign.  Hillary may just get one, if we deliver.

But she won't put a carbon price in her platform.  Long ago, I said it was because she wasn't going to fly that red flag in front of the Republican bull she knew she would face.  But I was wrong.  It turns out she isn't facing down a Republican bull.  She is going to ride it into the ring.  And those Republicans, like Meg Whitman, will be able to do that because Hillary has judged the line of political viability almost perfectly.

What does this mean for us?  It means we MUST be informed on the various forms of carbon pricing.  It means we must get a progressive bloc into the Senate.  It means we must empower Sanders and Warren to lead that bloc and let them maneuver around the Schumers and the Whitmans.  It means that we must demonstrate that the political will is indeed there to deliver that carbon tax to her desk.  Not the cap and trade that Democratic and Republican establishment are more likely to favor.

But it also means that whether we succeed or fail at that, Hillary Clinton is harnessing the power brokers of today to implement climate action in every nook and cranny of our economy.  Even real estate.

No comments:

Post a Comment