Nothing confirms that better than the news out this week that that is precisely what the fossil fuel lackeys are looking at attacking first.
The incoming administration has sent a questionnaire to the Department of Energy, seeking the names of individuals working on specific programs that include the valuation of the social cost of carbon and lending for research and statistics.
One target is particularly telling: “The document also signals which of the department’s agencies could face the toughest scrutiny under the new administration. Among them: the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy [ARPA-E], a 7-year-old unit that has been a critical instrument for the Obama administration to advance clean-energy technologies.”ARPA-E funds projects that are not ready for private investment, but have high potential, in energy storage (battery technology) and transmission (grid technology), among other technologies necessary for solar and wind and other clean energy.
Why would the incoming administration target this program?
Because Obama had it right. Clinton had it right. Transmission and storage are essential to transitioning to renewables. I repeat…Without investment in transmission and storage, we cannot rely predominantly on renewables.
I explored this in full in the past, but here I will quickly summarize. Wind and solar are intermittent. The sun isn’t always shining everywhere and at all times that electricity is needed, nor is the wind always blowing. There are several potential solutions to this problem. (1) Use electricity only intermittently (not viable or even desired), (2) store the energy for later use (batteries, pumped hydro or other), (3) move the energy from one place to another-transmission (a national grid could move energy from where it is produced to where it is needed) or (4) have another energy source that is “dispatchable,” that is, it can be turned on and off to complement the solar and wind (gas or oil).
Without transmission and storage, any use of solar and wind means continuing dependence on gas or oil.
The work of ARPA-E under Obama, that would have continued under Clinton, is ESSENTIAL to shifting to renewables to any significant extent.
Trump’s team doesn’t necessarily need to focus its attack on solar and wind directly.
They can work on state policies to make solar and wind more difficult. And they can block the grid and storage development that would make solar and wind change from boutique energy to a significant source of energy. That's easy, politically. People have no clue how state utility policies work and no clue why the grid and storage are so important.
And that brings us to the million dollar question. (Or is it the million parts per million question?)
Where do we go from here?
I proffer this: double down on science, policy and reason.
We must get educated on why a grid and storage matter and we must educate people on why a grid and storage matter. We must get educated on what works in climate messaging and educate others on good climate messaging that teach the value of clean energy infrastructure. We must be open to compromises that work in the right general direction and help others see the value in that.
And this is where Clinton really had it right, once again. She had the right message; it just wasn't heard.
The oil industry giant American Petroleum Institute has been running an ad campaign about "energy voters" for years. We need to take that away from them.
Climate voters should absolutely be characterized as energy voters. We want carbon free energy.
But our movement is always being hijacked by the "none of the above" crowd. Sorry, no. We are not going back to caves. But we don't have to. That's what Clinton's climate message was about--we can be a clean energy superpower.
That is a powerful message.
But the left hasn't been listening, dismissing it as uncommitted greenwashing focused only on demand and not supply. And the right has been captured by being "energy voters." That single-handedly characterizes us as wanting to take away their energy (we don't), and sends the message that fossil fuels are necessary to living with lights and heat and transport.
That is a message that will kill us. Fortunately, it also isn’t true.
Clean energy means energy independence. My Republican Congressman once said “imagine if every time a homeowner replaced their roof, they’d get solar; it would democratize energy”). It means electric vehicles with awesome torque. It means less pollution. It means price stability. It means a livable planet. With a grid and storage, it means consistent, reliable energy not subject to the whims of OPEC or other markets. It means predictability. It means jobs on our home soil. It means strength internationally.
And all of that relies on the work of groups like ARPA-E on transmission and storage.
That is the landscape of a clean energy superpower. And it is more clear than ever before, we need people to see that is the landscape of real climate action. The fossil fuel lackeys are making it plain that they know it is. And it scares them.
And that is where the battle lines are now drawn.
We are the voters that want democratic access to energy. We are the voters that want to drive without dependence on foreign oil or the oil of corrupt politicians. We are the voters that want to run the meter backwards. We are the energy voters.
It is time for us to make that our battle cry.