Former Representative John Delaney took the stage clouded in the controversy surrounding his climate policies. Delaney is one of only two Democratic candidates to refrain from signing a pledge (at the time of the forum) to not take any contributions of over $200 from fossil fuel industry executives, lobbyists, or political action committees (PACs). Moreover, he has been quick to criticize his fellow candidates that endorse the Green New Deal, tweeting: “The Green New Deal as it has been proposed is about as realistic as Trump saying that Mexico is going to pay for the wall.”
During the forum, Delaney focused on three policy initiatives: instituting a carbon tax, investing in new technology, and creating a “Paris 2.0” to lead a global initiative for change. Delaney framed his carbon tax policy as a Fee and Dividend system which would place a $15 tax on carbon emission (increasing by $10 annually). The money collected from the tax would be distributed to Americans most impacted by the tax through programs like an investment in education. Delaney also focused on drastically increasing the budget of the EPA, specifically for conducting research in conjunction with private tech companies. He hopes to support the development of improved Direct Air Capture systems by drawing carbon emissions from the environment and storing it in an underground pipeline, dubbed the Carbon Throughway. On a global scale, he wants to create a “Paris 2.0” that emphasizes technological progress and global emissions reduction led by the United States. Delaney suggested that some of his fellow Democrats are pursuing isolationist solutions to the problem,charging that “you can’t just tariff your way to fix climate change.” Moreover, the former CEO and representative differentiates his plan from others by claiming it is the only solution presented by a Democrat that can gain bipartisan support.
GREEN Analysis, Vikram Venkatram
During the 2020 Climate Forum, Presidential Candidate John Delaney emphasized the importance of bipartisanship in order to combat climate change effectively and lastingly, and also discussed the role that trade agreements must (in his view) play in order to ensure that there is international cooperation to support this effort. He proposed putting a price on carbon, and then distributing this money to the American citizenry in the form of a dividend. Additionally, Delaney discussed the importance of American innovation: investing in the private sector through grants and tax credits, and increasing funding for Department of Energy projects focused on developing new battery technologies, improving energy efficiency, and more. Finally, Delaney proposed a plan to invest significantly in direct air capture technology: arguing that in order to prevent warming past 1.5 degrees Celsius, we need to take carbon out of the air, and that he is not willing to take the risk of not having carbon recapture technology available should its use be necessary.
In our view, Delaney’s idea of a carbon fee and dividend deserves support, as it provides an economic incentive not to purchase carbon products while mitigating the negative impacts that increased carbon costs would have on poorer families. The average American would regain more through this dividend than they would lose due to the carbon fee (while richer Americans, who use more carbon, would lose more than they gain). However, we are somewhat wary of Delaney’s plans surrounding direct air capture: while some investments into this technology part of a climate action plan certainly make sense, emphasizing the technology as a particularly crucial element of climate policy may not be the best course of action. Direct air capture technology has not yet been developed to a level that could be implemented on a large scale, and investing so many resources into this rather than into other solutions may not be an efficient allocation of funds. Delaney advocates for the building of carbon pipeline infrastructure; while he argues that such pipelines could only be used for carbon (and not for fossil fuels), and that they would only be built next to or on top of existing pipeline routes, new pipelines could do additional environmental damage to vulnerable areas and bring along higher costs. Finally, Delaney’s significant emphasis on the private sector is a risk: he believes that entrepreneurs will be able to create innovative solutions to help combat climate change, but the truth is that the technologies we need to fight the problem largely already exist. Direct air capture machines can take carbon out of the atmosphere, but so can renewed, protected forests and wetlands. There is no doubt that new technologies could potentially ease the burden of climate change, but using so many resources in order to find new solutions which might never actually be found, when we could instead focus on finding new ways to implement and improve the technologies we already have, could slow our progress in fighting against climate change, and perhaps convince people that they can afford to wait until new technologies emerge before they take action.