Climate Change politics

By Jessica Church

Liberals everywhere: It is time for a different kind of climate legislation.

In order for the U.S. energy economy to power itself into the future, it must develop new relationships with Wall Street. This idea may not appeal to the populist column of renewables advocates, but there are good reasons why anyone interested in avoiding climate disaster needs to be open to this idea.

For some context: When it comes to Congress, 2013 was a year of conflict and inaction. As a result, the American people faced a sixteen-day government shutdown, SNAP cuts, reductions in unemployment insurance, and partisan gridlock. The Federal government lacks the capacity to function, much less affect sweeping regulatory environmental legislation.

At the same time, the top five Wall Street firms have collectively invested tens of billions in solar, wind and energy efficiency over the last three years. They’ve lobbied Congress for extensions of key renewable energy policies. And they’ve worked to make the biggest investment portfolios in the world cleaner.

In 2013, Exxon Mobil spent over $13 million lobbying Congress. By contrast, SolarWorld, America’s largest solar manufacturer since 1975, spent only $257,000. Bolstering the efforts of renewable companies with Wall Street capital will help even the playing field in the halls of Washington.

So even though it doesn’t appear that Congress is anywhere near passing comprehensive regulatory legislation, they might be able to come together and pass more laws that incentivize private and corporate investment in renewables, efficiency, and public transportation. As it currently stands, this type of legislation tends to inspire less partisan gridlock and fewer insults aimed at environmentalists. Why? Because it has the backing of a diverse coalition that includes both pro-renewable populists and Wall Street.

And if the government cannot or will not pass the kind of regulatory legislation, it is imperative that climate concerned Americans seek out and promote other options. The hard truth is that transforming the U.S. economy from its current state into a green economy will require massive monetary investments, and that may require a change in thinking from the dedicated, creative minds of liberal environmentalists.

Do you feel a little bit dirty? Like you’re compromising your principles… sliding over to the other side? Don’t. This is one of the most effective ways of ensuring that the United States economy will transform itself into a green economy. And that is something everybody, kombucha drinking–thrift store shopping–bike riding-environmentalists included, can get excited about.

Incentivizing private investment with investment tax credits, production tax credits, and other mechanisms that work within the existing market will be the quickest and most effective way to ensure that the United States’ energy economy doesn’t get left behind.

 

 

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*This post originally stated that Wall Street firms had "collectively invested $50 billion," this has been changed to "collectively invested tens of billions"