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Published on November 7th, 2019 | by Michael Barnard

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Mayor Pete’s Climate Plan Has Good Coverage & A Carbon Price, But Too Little Funding

November 7th, 2019 by  


Pete Buttigieg’s campaign for the Democratic nomination for President wasn’t originally covered by CleanTechnica due to his low chances of success. However, by multiple polls he’s now moved into the top four with Sanders, Warren and Biden. As a result, we’re adding an assessment of Mayor Pete’s plan on climate.

First the good news. Buttigieg is for a carbon price and rebate. You can’t have a rock solid plan without it, so that’s good, but Buttigieg is light on specifics. Buttigieg’s plan also has pretty good coverage. There’s no major section of climate change causes that is ignored entirely. As a mayor, he understands that cities are where a lot of the action is on climate responses, and spends more time more clearly articulating how he would support and engage them. Included in that is a Pittsburgh Climate Summit for urban leaders, a first 100 days commitment.

Then the bad. There’s just not a lot of meat in here. The committed $2 trillion is by far the lowest among the front runners, a lot of it is R&D and it’s not well accounted for. By the way, that $2 trillion seems to be an average of the various statements, as different sources offer $1.1, $1.5, $2, and $4 trillion. Like Biden, this plan is weak on specific programs and draft legislation. It’s weak on dates and numbers for subcomponents as well. He’s also strong on mechanical carbon capture, something which is more a gift perpetuating the fossil fuel industry than a realistic policy.

Buttigieg doesn’t ignore foreign policy as some others mostly do outside of the Paris Accord and usually the Kigali Amendment. He’s focused on global leadership on a few files. Like a couple of other leaders, he’s going to double the Paris Accord commitment of $100 billion for funding emerging economies to avoid the fossil fuel path of industrialized nations.

Overall, it’s not nearly as strong a plan as Warren’s, and the lack of funding puts it close to the level of Biden’s. The major saving grace is the price on carbon.

Pete Buttigieg climate change plan banner

Image courtesy Buttigieg campaign

As a reminder, global warming has several large areas of causation. Electrical generation, transportation, land use, and industry all have greenhouse gas emissions. The US military is also seven times larger than the next seven largest military forces in the world combined, is estimated to be one of the single largest greenhouse gas sources in the world, and has not been required to quantify its emissions, but it has been pointing out the significant global security risks of climate change for over a decade.

While dealing with the causes is critical, dealing with adaptation to the impacts is now important as well due to our delays in addressing this problem, which has been clear since the 1970s. Finally, while accelerating drawdown of carbon from the atmosphere is of lower priority than stopping emitting greenhouse gases, any plan should address aspects of drawdown as well. These aspects of Warren’s plan need to be assessed to see if they are present and the approaches are reasonable.

Democratic Candidate Table Stakes

There are three things which virtually every Democratic candidate agrees with. The first is that they all accept the science of human-caused global warming and resulting climate impacts, and the need to act on this serious global issue. The second is a return to the Paris Accord, which Obama entered the US into and which Trump walked away from. The third is support for the Green New Deal, at least in principle, but implementation varies quite a bit. And the Paris Accord portion means that US military emissions would finally be reported, so that they could be tracked and reductions measured, a major step forward.


Electrical Generation

Buttigieg’s targets are pretty good. Double clean electricity by 2025. 100% clean electricity by 2035. The first is somewhat unclear as while the plan doesn’t reference nuclear, in a climate change plan, nuclear is clean. Per recent EIA statistics, renewables are currently at 16.9% of annual generation, with hydropower and wind generation having the lion’s share of that, with both wind and solar growing fast. Nuclear is still at 19.4%, but seriously stalled given the lack of new reactors being built. If Buttigieg means doubling renewables, that’s 34% of demand by 2025, which is a big increase in wind and solar. It’s doable, but even though wind and solar are very fast to build, increasing rollout will take time, so that will be back end loaded. There obviously isn’t time to build a lot of new hydropower and nuclear takes a decade or more, so that’s not what he’s depending on, but he’s also not planning to achieve 63% clean power by 2025.

2035 is a very reasonable and achievable timeframe for eliminating electricity from the grid. It’s in keeping with 55% CO2 reductions by 2030 as well, and 100% decarbonized across sectors by 2050. Full markets on targets.

But how is he going to do this?

“We will quadruple federal clean energy R&D funding to $25 billion per year by 2025, investing
more than $200 billion over 10 years.”

[Note: All quotes from Buttigieg climate plan documents unless otherwise noted.]

That’s across a lot of terrain, including generation, storage, grid, decarbonization of steel and cement and the like. Once the list of targets becomes clearer, the amount of actual money in this bucket looks smaller. And, as always, we have solutions, we just need to implement them. If his plan does add up to $2 trillion, a number that’s only somewhat supported by his formal plan, then this is a tiny slice of it, and likely about right.

“Building on the success of green banks in states, the American Clean Energy Bank will have $250 billion of initial capitalization. It will provide loans, grants, credit enhancements, and loan guarantees to finance clean energy technologies and energy efficiency, waste and water, and resilient infrastructure projects that create good local jobs, through which the bank can leverage up to six times more private-sector capital.”

That’s better. 10 times as much for actual money for deployment. And the promise that it will leverage up to 6 times as much from the private sector, for a total of $1.75 trillion, if it all comes to fruition. Some of that is a governance question.

But decarbonizing the grid is a $3 trillion job by itself, and Buttigieg’s plan puts a lot of that $1.75 trillion aside for resilience and likely adaptation projects.

“American Cleantech Fund. This fund will be one of the largest investment funds in the U.S. dedicated to cleantech. It will be capitalized with $50 billion in seed funding to support dozens 11 of demonstration projects of new technologies that are too risky for the private sector”

Another $50 billion for R&D. That’s $75 billion of the $2 trillion. It’s part of the American mythos that they’ll be able to technically innovate themselves out of problems. But we have the solutions for climate change and need to deploy them. R&D should be focused on incremental improvements in manufacturing, distribution and deployment organizations and the best way to incent them is to put those billions into deployment. They’ll get more efficient simply to maximize profits, but give them the money, don’t keep it for Hail Mary passes.

“Issue U.S. climate action bonds. We will create Climate Action Bonds to help pay for clean energy and resilience deployment projects.”

That’s an interesting one. This provides a financing path for major projects, providing a clear debt-based capitalization approach. But it’s also a generic, low-return investment vehicle with no dollar value attached to it. The only reference is to generic US treasury bond material, not a specific policy paper on the use of this type of vehicle in this way. In other words, this is a bit vague.

“Abolish subsidies for polluters. The U.S. spends over $26 billion annually on the oil, gas, and coal industries to artificially boost polluting sources of energy. We will work to eliminate tax subsidies for polluting forms of energy.”

This is good, as far as it goes. The Buttigieg campaign is using the middle NRDC numbers, not the low-ball Congressional Research numbers, so they are in the ballpark in terms of what the problem statement is. But to be clear, the US committed to eliminating these subsidies in 2009, and has done less than any other country. Repeating the pledge a decade later isn’t progress on the file. Acknowledging the lack of movement, the reasons, and what Buttigieg would do differently would be progress, but that’s missing to. In other words, vague again.

That’s the end of the money, and there isn’t very much of it. So what else is in the mix?

“Establish a national Clean Electricity Standard (CES). Building on the Renewable Portfolio Standards that 29 states and Washington, DC already follow, a national CES will set national standards while 24 letting states and regions develop solutions tailored to their communities.”

Not bad, actually. Leveraging the RPS framework, applying it nationally, allowing variance within states as to who they meet it and calling it the “Clean Electricity Standard” instead of using the word ‘renewable’ has some value. Of course, this opens the door for other forms of generation that might be clean but not renewable. Buttigieg is softer in his positioning around nuclear than Warren or Sanders are, for example. He’s not closing the door, but leaving it wedged open a bit. The RPS is credited with spurring demand, it’s worked and it’s relatively cheap. It’s also a regulatory measure, which given concerns I’ve heard that Buttigieg was too right wing was interesting.

“Incentivize clean energy deployment. We will extend and modernize the investment and performance tax credits for solar, wind, geothermal, and other clean energy technologies and long-duration battery storage, as well as for long distance transmission using performance measures and phase-out levels.”

Excellent. ITC and PTC extensions, other incentives and the like to get private money flowing into the sector is good. There’s a lot of concern in the wind industry about the 2020 PTC “cliff” that’s coming, although major players such as Chris Brown of Vestas USA are on record pointing out that the industry has a track record of pulling cost reduction levers that will keep them cheaper than gas or coal even without the PTC. But no dollar figures associated with this promise either.

“In addition to integrating renewable generation into the grid, the U.S. will need to build out a nationwide network of high-voltage direct current transmission lines, in some cases using federal right of ways and burying transmission lines to improve the existing transmission system.”

This one is bang-on. HVDC is key to creating a highly effective and efficient continent-scale transmission grid for renewables that allows hydro electricity from the north, wind electricity from offshore and the Great plains, and solar from the south to flow to major urban centers. His electricity advisors are obviously up-to-date. But once again, it’s unclear what money if any is allocated to that. And there’s no path forward except a requirement statement.

“We will ensure that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) sets rules and goals for reliability, cost, emissions, and utility innovation that reward utilities for helping to reach the national goal of building a zero-emissions clean electricity system by 2035.”

Ah, the way to an energy wonk’s heart, to know what FERC is and to promise leveraging and adapting it for change. Once again, evidence of knowledgeable advisors. But once again, no apparent money. Well within federal mandate however, so definitely achievable.

“Expand federal programs for affordable electricity access. We will double Weatherization Assistance Program funding, and the new funding would be used to match new or additional utility spending on weatherization programs. We will also add $1 billion to the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program, which helps to offset bills during times of crisis”

This is good too. Mayor Pete does reasonably well at looking after the poorer segments of society, not just the rich ones, something being an actual mayor for the past while has undoubtedly improved his perspective on. Helping poorer people afford energy for little things like light and heat is important. The bottom 20% can’t be left behind, freezing in the dark or baking in the heat in the increasingly wild weather.

So that’s excellent goals and coverage, some promise of regulatory measures and not a lot of money or clarity. That’s a mixed bag compared to the much greater budgets, clarity of budgets, and clarity of approaches that others bring to this space. Buttigieg needs to up his game on this. And increase overall funding. $2 trillion is lowest among the front runners, well under Biden who is already light on his fiscal commitments.


Industry

The big target here isn’t bad.

“By 2050, achieve net-zero emissions from industry, including steel and concrete, manufacturing, and agriculture sectors.”

The problem is the lack of interim goals. The UN IPCC 1.5 degrees report and the Green New Deal (referenced by Buttigieg as all leading candidates do), call for substantial reductions in CO2 emissions by 2030, 55% per the UN and 40% to 60% per the GND. Giving industry another 20 years isn’t clearly aligned with this. Yes, 100% by 2050 is important, but so are shorter term goals.

“Enact a price on carbon and send rebates to Americans. My administration will work with Congress to pass an economy-wide price on carbon, which will automatically increase each year. Revenue will be rebated back to Americans, meaning low- and middle-class households will receive enough to be better off economically than they were before”

This is good too. A revenue-neutral price on carbon with money flowing back to citizens is pretty much the gold standard for a climate policy, and Buttigieg is committing to it. However, unlike Yang, he doesn’t have a specific model and he does have specifics on amounts. Also, he’s talking about working with Congress to get this done. Others such as Harris and Warren point to draft legislation. Harris is especially good on timing. Buttigieg is a bit more vague than he should be on this point.

The previously noted commitments to R&D and the CleanTech Fund promise a reasonable focus on development of US-specific intellectual capital, manufacturing and jobs.

“We will work with Congress to develop an energy efficiency rebate to cover 30% of the cost of the improvements for residential homes and apartment buildings, including more efficient heaters, pumps, and appliances, as well as insulation, window and door upgrades, and switching homes from heating with oil or gas to clean electricity.”

This is good, even though I suspect that by “heaters, pumps,” the authors of this plan meant heat pumps. I haven’t seen a lot of people saying that electric water pumps are an energy problem in buildings. Focusing on efficiency as buildings shift to electricity reduces the increase in demand on electrical distribution, making the transition a bit smoother. And the 30% number is useful too, in a plan that’s often lacking specific numbers.

“Enact a tax credit for commercial building efficiency that provides incentives to make significant building and appliance upgrades to meet LEED Gold or Platinum standards.”

Also good, if unquantified. There are 5.5 million commercial buildings in the United States, the LEED standards are solid, and there are a lot of LEED assessors out there. Leveraging what works is pragmatic. But once again, little in the way of timing.

“Support mayors and governors who improve building codes so new single-family and multi-family homes and commercial buildings are energy efficient and built with rooftop solar, energy storage, and EV charging capability”

This is a bit of a theme in the Mayor Pete plan, leaning into mayors. That’s very positive, as the majority of Americans live in urban areas and a very large percentage of action required is in urban areas. Mayors are crucial to the transition, wielding their local authority, influence and knowledge to accelerate action. This attention to the political level of cities is something lacking in most other climate change plans. Biden talks about inserting himself into it without making it clear how or why. As I said in just-published piece on the challenges to rapid transformation, political power is inverted for historical reasons, with the cities which generate the majority of wealth and house the majority of citizens being at the bottom of the stack.

“… we will push to invest $1 billion per year into R&D for advanced manufacturing— including technologies and processes to produce low- or zero-emissions steel, cement, and chemicals, carbon capture techniques, and utilizing captured carbon”

A billion sounds like a lot to the average person, but in context of the magnitude of climate change impacts and the American GDP, it’s a drop in the bucket. This is good and bad in this context, as R&D shouldn’t need $400 billion, Biden’s sole quantified expenditure, but it’s on top of the other R&D funds. Given that the United States already gets 70% of its steel from electric mini-mills, decarbonizing electricity is that US pathway (along with ripping up the fossil fuel infrastructure and feeding it into electric minimills as a source of scrap). Cement is important, and may be the only place where carbon capture actually makes sense, as I pointed out in my short list of climate actions that will work.

I reached out to Mark Z. Jacobson on this point as well, as we agree strongly, to the point that he wrote the foreword to my recent case study on a direct-air-capture company, Carbon Engineering.

“We recently found, based on data, that neither carbon capture attached to a fossil fuel plant nor direct air capture reduces CO2 equivalent emissions beyond a small amount. On the other hand, it allows air pollution and mining from fossil fuel plants to continue. Such pollution increases if the capture equipment is powered by fossil fuels or biofuels.

In fact, it is always less costly and less polluting and results in less CO2 emissions to replace fossil fuel plants with clean, renewable energy. Thus, carbon capture is a useless technology for helping solve the climate or air pollution problems we face. It is a false solution, akin to what the company Theranos offered.”

More money thrown at carbon capture and use is ill spent. Billions have been thrown at this field over the past 50 years to no avail except providing good PR for the fossil fuel industry. We know what’s down this road.

“We will sign an executive order mandating that any new material the federal government uses or pays for to construct buildings, roads, bridges, or other infrastructure, must be under a specified level of carbon emissions”

This is good, up until it’s vague. First off, there’s actually a clear path to delivery, an executive order. Second, it’s unlocking specifically the pathway of federal expenditures. Where it starts to fray is that a lot of infrastructure is built by states, cities and private organizations, not the federal government, and that the level of carbon emissions is unspecified. Lots of wiggle room in this one.

Another theme in Buttigieg’s plan , beyond the disciplined use of “we” instead of “I” in the plan, is the use of executive orders.

“Deploy at least 1 gigaton of annual CO2 removal capacity by 2040, including direct air capture. The tax credit to capture carbon (45Q) should be extended and broadened.”

And here the plan falls apart a bit. The hinting around carbon capture R&D money turns into a major commitment statement with tax breaks behind it. Mechanical carbon capture and sequestration funding is purely a gift to the fossil fuel industry, not a reasonable approach, as has been explored in the pages of CleanTechnica in well over a dozen pieces looking at various approaches and comparing them to alternatives. Mark Z. Jacobson makes it clear that any money spent on this is much less effective than displacing fossil fuels as rapidly as possible, and in fact has negative societal value.

The plan improves when we get to land use, but this entire carbon capture portion should be scrapped, renewables incentives improved and reforestation increased. Those are actually valuable efforts, not a perpetuation of burning fossil fuels.

“Creating a clean economy means creating new jobs. Our plan will create more than three million high-paying clean energy and infrastructure jobs in the U.S. over the coming decade, in manufacturing clean energy technologies like wind turbines and solar panels, building new electric vehicles, and in building and managing the resilient infrastructure needed to decarbonize the economy.”

That’s not bad. There’s work there for Americans. As I pointed out when doing an assessment of what US conservatives are saying about the Green New Deal versus what’s actually in the document, there’s a lot of job insecurity eating at Americans, even in this current period of low unemployment. And there’s a lot of further job disruption coming down the pipe between reductions in fossil fuel industry jobs and automation. The world is changing fast, and part of the American dream is good paying jobs.

Where Harris leads with social justice and jobs, Buttigieg addresses it late in his plan. It’s there, but it’s not front and center. To be clear, however, Buttigieg does reference his Walker Lewis Promise twice, committing that 25% of contracts will be awarded to women- and minority-owned businesses. This is part of his Douglass Plan.

“Mayor Pete Buttigieg is proposing the Douglass Plan, a comprehensive and intentional dismantling of racist structures and systems combined with an equally intentional and affirmative investment of unprecedented scale in the freedom and self-determination of Black Americans.”

Buttigieg has challenges with Black voters, in part due to his track record as Mayor being imperfect. He has an entire section of his overall campaign devoted to them, with historical Black rights leaders referenced regularly and a strong list of advisors from the Black community. He’s aware both that he’s coming from behind on this issue compared to some other candidates, and that it’s important.

“Strengthen SEC guidance on disclosure of material climate risks faced by publicly-listed companies, including risks from the physical impacts of climate change and the risks of transitioning to a low carbon economy.”

Buttigieg is aligned with Harris, Biden, and Warren on this, but doesn’t go as far as Warren with her existing draft regulation, or Harris, who points specifically at Warren’s material on this point. Regardless, good to see.

Finally, Buttigieg is aligned with most of the leaders in committing to ratify the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol to bring the US into alignment with other major economies in phasing out high-global warming potential HFCs in refrigeration and air conditioning units. This has taken effect in January 2019 for the 65 countries already signatory to it, and the US getting with the program would be a positive step.

All in all, this isn’t a bad industry plan. The commitment to the carbon price is good, and not universal among leading candidates in their formal plans. Lots on building efficiency and embodied carbon. Salable and reasonable statements on jobs. Leveraging federal funding. Good on cities. Poor on carbon capture, vague on numbers, and weak on committed dates, but there are arguments for that approach politically.


Transportation

This section is reasonably good. Let’s start at the top.

“We will immediately enact more stringent vehicle emission standards, requiring that all new passenger vehicles sold be zero-emissions by 2035, and all heavy-duty vehicles sold be net-zero emissions by 2040.”

These are reasonable dates and aligned with the UN IPCC 1.5 degrees needs. 2035 features in a lot of plans, and it’s an interesting date. First off, it’s four Presidential terms away, which is politically challenging as commitments are being made for long after any 2020 Presidential candidate will have left office. This is par for the course for major societal transformations. The fossil fuel economy wasn’t built in a decade and it won’t be dismantled in one either.

My suspicion is heavy-duty vehicles will shift faster than that regardless. The economics and characteristics of electric-freight trucks are too compelling, and fleet owners have committed large orders to multiple vendors, including Tesla, already.

There’s a commitment to $10,000 EV tax credits, which are a very useful wedge, but it’s not an at-purchase rebate which is better at removing capital cost barriers to acquisition. Tweaking there might be useful. There’s also a commitment to EV infrastructure tax rebates. The good news on tax rebates is that they aren’t seen as clearly as subsidies, and they are possible to do without opening up the permanent tax code, although that’s going to be required for the fossil fuel subsidy commitment regardless. There’s also no commitment to changing the rules on 200,000 vehicles, something only Tesla has cracked.

“… technology transition loan guarantees for retooling existing automobile and powertrain assembly lines and boosting domestic manufacturing of innovative materials, batteries, and electric propulsion technologies”

Sound goods for Ford and GM. Not so much for Tesla, which is paving the way, but Tesla is rocketing into the future and has received reasonable governmental assistance in a variety of ways. The combination of the policies will resonate well in Detroit more than California, which is probably good politics.

“Improve and enforce the renewable fuel standard.”

Thankfully, the plan means biofuels and it means for hard to electrify segments. Plug-compatible fuels for trucks and buses are useful until they electrify with capital expenditure programs, but long-haul shipping and aviation will require non-battery electric drive trains for decades.

This is a place I diverge from Mark Z. Jacobson. I reached out to him for comment on this and he said

“Biofuels are just as damaging or more damaging than fossil liquid fuels to human health because, whereas they (e.g., ethanol) reduce high-molecular weight hydrocarbon emissions, they increase aldehyde and total organic gas emissions and decrease oxides of nitrogen (NOx), both of which contribute to ozone pollution in most of the United States.”

My opinion is that biofuels are pragmatic compromises given the far-from-human pollution emissions of planes and long-haul freight ships, but Jacobson’s focus includes elimination of the health negative externalities. There’s a gradient of decisions there and it’s one of the few places I find to disagree with Jacobson and his team’s analysis.

“… build on the Obama administration Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge, we will invest $100 billion over 10 years in surface transportation for cities, which will include modernizing subways and other transit systems, deploying electric commuter buses and school buses, installing bike and scooter lanes, and implementing low-cost ridesharing to make getting around easier”

This is pretty reasonable, if moderately lightly funded for the magnitude of the bringing good transit to US cities, which are among the most poorly served in the world. For context on price, 60′ electric passenger buses cost over $1 million per bus, so the $100 billion would buy about 90,000 of them. California alone has about 100,000 buses today.

“We will put in place a standard for liquid fuels that requires producers to lower the carbon content of their fuels and incentivizes the development of low carbon or carbon neutral liquid fuels.”

This is good. We will be using liquid fuels for larger vehicles for a long time, so having them be lower-emissions is important. And CAFE standards have been very effective at driving the transition, hence the reason the Trump Administration is trying to attack California’s state independence on the subject, something Republicans seem to think is fine when it happens to a state that doesn’t vote for them en masse.

“We will support efforts of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to reduce carbon emissions in these sectors.”

This is good too, as far as it goes. These sectors cross national borders and spend a lot of time in international waters where their contributions aren’t counted, so engaging with their efforts makes sense. “Support” is a little vague however.

No mention of high-speed rail in this, a choice Buttigieg makes which is differentiated from Biden and others, and something that is mentioned in the Green New Deal as well. It’s an interesting exclusion, and it’s unclear whether it’s an oversight.


Land Use

Buttigieg spends a fair amount of his plan’s time on heartland issues, and he makes strong statements about putting farmers at the forefront of America’s climate innovation. That’s a good wedge, and along with his biofuels statements there’s a lot to like in his plan for the agricultural sector.

“Double USDA R&D investments over four years, committing nearly $50 billion over a decade to research that the country needs to put healthy food on our plates, develop food exports to meet the needs of growing populations around the world, and promote a healthy environment for future generations. These investments will prioritize R&D to reduce agriculture’s carbon emissions to net-zero or even net-negative”

Once again, leading with R&D instead of deployment, but there’s a lot of incremental innovation around electrifying agriculture and shifting to low-tillage techniques.

“Provide support for farmers and ranchers to adopt advanced soil management methods and technologies that help mitigate climate change. We will provide opportunities for farmers to get paid for sequestering carbon in their soil, including through reduced and no tillage of soil, cover crops, precision nitrogen management, improved grazing systems, and science-based crop rotation plans.”

This sounds good, but as with many of Buttigieg’s points, there’s no dollars, dates, and little in the way of tactical plans associated with this. Given Buttigieg’s military background, where planning is king, queen, bishop, and knight, his looseness is an interesting choice.

“Double investments in extension services. For more than a century, the USDA Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service has supported farmers, ranchers, and rural families as they seek to improve farm efficiency and sustainability. We will double investment in agricultural extension services”

So this is better. There’s a specific program called out. And a doubling. But what is it doubling exactly? There’s a link provided to the USDA budget, from which I pulled the following:

“$1.3 billion to support extramural agricultural research, education, and extension activities of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), including $375 million for competitive grants through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). For the Economic Research Service”

Is Buttigieg doubling the $1.3 billion to $2.6 billion (still small numbers remember), or only doubling the $375 million? Either way, not a lot of money given the pretty bad years the agricultural sector has been facing between droughts, flooding and trade wars.

Hmm… That’s it. Some R&D. Some vague words around “providing opportunities.” And a little extra money. By comparison, other candidates are committing much bigger dollars, have much crisper programs that they are targeting, and a focus on shifting federal lands and waters away from fossil fuels and to renewables and reforestation.

Buttigieg’s land use plan is weak.


The Military

I was interested to see what Buttigieg had to say on this subject. After all, he’s the only one of the leading candidates with military service.

“… increasing the climate planning and regional readiness budget at the Department of Defense (DOD) to allow our military leaders to build resilience for military bases and installations and elevating and integrating climate security and resilience at DOD by creating a senior climate security role in the Secretary of Defense’s office responsible for preparation for climate security risks.”

Once again, no numbers. His focus is mostly on the security risks to the United States.

“As part of a Climate Watch Floor, regional experts will monitor situations on the ground using a variety of data sources to identify key hotspots”

This appears to be security-focused again, which isn’t unreasonable given the likelihood of increased conflict due to climate change. Syria’s civil war was caused, in part, by climate-change exacerbated drought, as peer-reviewed studies have found.

But what about the US military’s outsized role in carbon emissions?

“We will direct that all new DOD facilities and non-combat vehicles be zero-emissions by 2025 and work to retrofit existing facilities while maintaining security, resilience, and safety for national security missions.”

The big hitter there is electric or biofuel purchasing power of the US military domestically. That’s another reasonable use of federal purchasing power to drive change. But it’s also unpriced, so it’s unclear how this will work.

Note: I’ve reached out to the Buttigieg campaign for comments on my assessment. Should they respond, the article will be updated.


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About the Author

is Chief Strategist with TFIE Strategy Inc. He works with startups, existing businesses and investors to identify opportunities for significant bottom line growth and cost takeout in our rapidly transforming world. He is editor of The Future is Electric, a Medium publication. He regularly publishes analyses of low-carbon technology and policy in sites including Newsweek, Slate, Forbes, Huffington Post, Quartz, CleanTechnica and RenewEconomy, and his work is regularly included in textbooks. Third-party articles on his analyses and interviews have been published in dozens of news sites globally and have reached #1 on Reddit Science. Much of his work originates on Quora.com, where Mike has been a Top Writer annually since 2012. He's available for consulting engagements, speaking engagements and Board positions.



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