Warren proposes $2 trillion for clean energy manufacturing

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Calling climate change an existential threat, Senator and Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has issued a $2 trillion Green Manufacturing Plan with the aim to “lead the global effort to combat climate change” both at home and abroad.

“America should dominate” the new market for clean energy technologies in emerging economies, which is projected at $23 trillion through 2030, said Sen. Warren, citing an International Finance Corporation projection.

Senator Warren’s plan includes $1.5 trillion over ten years for federal procurement of American-made clean energy products for “federal, state, and local use, and for export”—an amount equal, says the plan, to current projections for defense procurement over the period.

“We should spend at least that much,” said Sen. Warren, “on purchasing American-made clean energy technology to address the climate crisis that threatens us all.”

The plan cites research showing that large government procurements can launch “entire industries,” and says that U.S. mobilization during World War Two “led to an enormous surge in American manufacturing capacity and set the stage for decades of sustained economic growth.”

Saying that “serious technological innovation” is needed, the plan would fund clean energy research and development with $400 billion over 10 years, or “more than ten times what we invested in the last ten years.”

A final $100 billion would help other countries purchase and deploy American-made clean energy technology.

The plan mentions wind, biofuels, and grid storage (one time each), but not solar or PV.

Warren talks early in her plan of “economic patriotism,” and says “my Green Manufacturing Plan is the first example of economic patriotism in action, and part of how I’ll implement my commitment to a Green New Deal.”  A Green New Deal resolution introduced by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calls for generating all electricity with “clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources” within 10 years.

Senator Warren’s plan says it would yield 1 million jobs, citing an economic analysis by Moody’s Analytics which projects that “about a quarter million jobs are added in 2020, and by 2029 payroll employment increases by 1.2 million.”  The plan advocates “financial security” for those employed in the fossil fuel industry, but does not specify that cost.

The plan’s $2 trillion cost would be funded by ending corporate tax breaks and fossil fuel subsidies.  (U.S. fossil fuel subsidies including environmental costs have been pegged at $649 billion per year in an International Monetary Fund working paper.)

Another way to grasp the scale of the $1.5 trillion procurement plan, beyond the comparison to defense spending, is to consider that most buildings owned by local governments are public schools, and that adding solar to all public schools would require perhaps 30 GW of solar costing about $2 per watt, or $60 billion, leaving $1.44 trillion available for other clean energy products.

Senator Warren sees the $1.5 trillion procurement commitment covering a wide range of products, “from zero-emission vehicles to energy storage technology to heat pumps to energy-efficient light bulbs.”

The three plan elements are named to evoke past successes in American history: the “Green Industrial Mobilization” harkens back to U.S. industrial mobilization during World War Two; the “Green Apollo Program” is a nod to the Apollo moon landing mission; and the “Green Marshall Plan” references the rebuilding of Europe after World War Two.

Sen. Warren also calls in the plan for ending U.S. support for international oil and gas projects through the Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and to use U.S. voting power in the World Bank to redirect funds from fossil to clean energy projects.

Sen. Warren has previously called for increasing the amount of solar, wind and geothermal generation on U.S. public lands and in offshore waters from about 11 GW now to ten times that amount.  She has also introduced legislation in the Senate to require global fixed military assets to be net zero by 2030.