Saturday, November 5, 2016

How a Climate Voter Can Vote FOR Hillary Clinton

The Woman I Am Voting FOR

I will vote for Hillary.

That wasn't always the case.  Back in July 2015, I was excited.  About O'Malley.  He had a June 2015 opinion piece timed to coincide with the Pope's Encyclical on climate change.  He had a goal of 100% emissions cuts by 2050.  ZERO emissions by 2050.  THAT was exciting to a climate voter like me.  But, something funny happened.  No one listened to him.  Climate activists I knew weren't interested.  They liked Bernie's focus on attacking fossil fuel money in Congress better.

Bernie and Hillary had the same 80% cuts by 2050 goal that fell short in my mind.  But it became apparent that Martin wasn't going to make the cut, so I turned my thinking to Bernie and Hillary.

[I want to interject in my story here to make a point.  Some in the climate movement are, in my thinking, confused.  Climate change is driven by global warming.  Global warming is caused by increased carbon emissions.  We have a host of other problems to deal with.  However, climate scientists have made it plain.  WE ARE OUT OF TIME ON CLIMATE.  WE MUST CUT CARBON EMISSIONS ABOVE ALL ELSE.  The analogy that might work here is a heart attack.  If you have a heart attack, you have to get surgery asap.  You can't stop to buy healthy food on the way to the ER.  Or get that gym membership you kept meaning to get.  Or even take a moment to put that on your to do list.  You have to go to the hospital.  That is where we are.  WE ARE OUT OF TIME ON CLIMATE.  WE MUST CUT CARBON EMISSIONS NOW.  THE REST WILL HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL WE ARE OUT OF THE ER.]

I could have stomped my feet in disgust.  I could have said "the climate movement is filled with activists that only pretend to care about climate when they really just want to fight capitalism," perhaps.  I could have spent the past 11 months railing against the impurity of the Bernie and Hillary supporters.  BUT THAT ISN'T HOW YOU GET STUFF DONE.

Nope.  I took a good look at Bernie and Hillary.  After a long time (and quite a few intense conversations), I decided I would vote for Hillary, on the basis of four points:
(1)  Bernie articulated a clear vision of ending fossil fuels that Hillary did not. However, it seemed to me that was vision without specifics.  Hillary's website was filled with specifics.  Specifics on building renewables, as well as the infrastructure necessary to address the intermittency of renewables without using gas (the grid, for example).  Specifics on building and auto efficiency.  Specifics on retrofitting dams to generate power.  Specifics on real estate marketing and lending being used to encourage renewables.  Specifics about coordinating carbon pricing with other countries.
(2)  Bernie specifically wanted to let nuclear plants' licenses lapse; Hillary was mute on nuclear, but had connections with people like Carole Browner who support nuclear.  In reality, as we shutter nuclear plants, we often replace them with gas.  Until we have the renewables, grid, storage and load shifting in place, we will continue to move to gas every time we do.  Nuclear is carbon free.  Gas is not.
(3)  Hillary wrongly supports the idea that gas is a bridge fuel.  Her plan is to fix gas infrastructure to reduce methane leakage (which is the primary source of the most problematic GHG emissions in gas) and build better infrastructure.  WE SHOULD NOT BE BUILDING ANY MORE GAS INFRASTRUCTURE.  She is following the science of 5-10 years ago on this and is wrong.  However, a ban on fracking is not possible at this point.  Until we have the means to address the intermittency of solar and wind (grid, storage, and load shifting), gas, because it is easily turned on and off (dispatchable), will remain essential to keeping the lights on.  My conclusion was that Bernie would never ban fracking because it would turn off the lights--and that would be on the poorest first, of course.  I decided that Clinton's plan to heavily regulate fracking would at least send a market signal by driving its cost up and would reduce methane emission leakage.  I feared Bernie would take too long to get to those, trying to ban first. 
(4)  As Robert Reich put it,  “I’ve known Hillary Clinton since she was 19 years old, and have nothing but respect for her. In my view, she’s the most qualified candidate for president of the political system we now have.  But Bernie Sanders is the most qualified candidate to create the political system we should have, because he’s leading a political movement for change.”  Well, I just don't think we have time to change the system first.  Heart attack.  ER.  It seemed pretty apparent, Hillary was the doctor for me. 

The quest to assess Clinton's climate policies also led me to find a woman that has been consistent with her basic values, that listens to experts, that cares about people, that works as hard as anyone, that has experience, and that knows how to develop and maintain working relationships.  That was a bonus.  As a climate voter, that cannot be my first priority.  But as a woman, as a mother, as a teacher, as a best friend, as a partner, as a human being, I have been pleased to watch Hillary weather the debates and garner the respect of even the reluctant.  I have enjoyed the stories of people that know her.  And I have marveled at her grit and determination and unending energy.

I still have reservations about whether she fully grasps how urgent and dire climate change is, but I am confident that she takes it seriously enough to implement the policy changes she has put out. And those will get us started. Particularly heartening to me was the day she framed it not as climate change action, but climate justice. That speaks to her core values going back to college, likely, before she'd ever heard of a greenhouse gas.

Unfortunately, she absolutely sees gas as a bridge fuel. Not how I see it. I see it as something that's got to end ASAP. But, whether you view it like I do, or you view it like she does, we have to deal with the reality that we must build the grid, storage and carbon free energy before we can end gas, oil and coal. And to do that, we must see market changes that drive that change.  Is she planning on building that grid, storage and carbon free energy?  Yes. Her end horizon for gas is different than mine. But either way, the initial steps are the same.

What does this mean?  It means that we embrace what she has to offer, we do our best to protest to bring the demise of gas quickly, making it as costly as possible, while supporting carbon free energy and infrastructure.

And above all else?  Get as many climate hawks into Congress and into state positions as possible.  Legislate the most progressive party platform in decades.  Hand her a carbon tax to sign.  I have no doubt, she will not veto.

In the end, it simply seemed that a Clinton administration would result in greater cuts than a Sanders administration.  On that, reasonable people could differ, and I have great respect for those that vehemently supported Bernie.  But on this, reasonable people cannot differ:  there is a huge chasm between Hillary and Donald.  There is no reason to even list his policies.  There are none except to gut anything related to climate action.  Hillary?  Wants to make the US a clean energy superpower.  Donald?  Drill, baby, drill.

It is an insult to all that we care about that a candidate like Hillary must run against someone so unworthy.  I would love to have a general election that pitted Hillary against Bob Inglis or Greg Mankiw or Al Gore.  We could really dig into debating solutions.

But that isn't the country we live in.  We live in a country where the choice is simply this:  do we want to even try at all to prevent the worst?  Thankfully, if we answer yes, we actually get a whole lot more in the package.  A clean energy superpower?  Yes, please.

When I vote on Tuesday, I will vote for renewables, for a grid, for efficiency.

On Tuesday, this climate voter will vote FOR Hillary.

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