Hillary Clinton’s Ambitious Climate Change Plan Avoids Carbon Tax

Source: By CORAL DAVENPORT, New York Times • Posted: Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Hillary Clinton has promised to have a half-billion solar panels installed by 2020. Damon Winter/The New York Times 

WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton, courting young voters and the broader Democratic base, has promised to one-up President Obama on climate change, vowing to produce a third of the nation’s electricity from renewable sources by 2027, three years faster than Mr. Obama, while spending billions of dollars to transform the energy economy.

A half-billion solar panels will be installed by 2020, she has promised, seven times the number today, and $60 billion will go to states and cities to develop more climate-friendly infrastructure, such as public transportation and energy-efficient buildings. She would put the United States on track to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent from 2005 levels by 2050. And, she says, she could achieve all that without new legislation from Congress.

But Mrs. Clinton has avoided mention of the one policy that economists widely see as the most effective way to tackle climate change — and one that would need Congress’s assent: putting a price or tax on carbon dioxide emissions.

“It’s possible, theoretically, to do all this without a price on carbon,” said David Victor, the director of the Laboratory on International Law and Regulation at the University of California, San Diego. But, he added, “it’s hard to see how.”

“The problem is,” he said, “she knows the politics of this are toxic.”

John Podesta, a former senior counselor to Mr. Obama who is now the chairman of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, is an architect of both the Obama and Clinton climate change plans. In crafting them, Mr. Podesta, an ardent environmentalist and a seasoned political operative, sought to take substantive action to reduce emissions without turning to Congress, where climate legislation would most likely again be doomed.

“Secretary Clinton believes that meeting the climate challenge is too important to wait for climate deniers in Congress to pass comprehensive climate legislation,” Mr. Podesta wrote in an emailed statement.

While Mr. Podesta’s climate plan for Mr. Obama centered on using the Clean Air Act to write new regulations to limit emissions from vehicles and power plants, a Clinton administration could return to the same law to issue rules on emissions from other slices of the economy, including the airline industry, oil refineries, gas production wells and cement manufacturers.