The primary race for the Democratic presidential nomination is heating up, and among many hot topics, voters want to know what the candidates are going to do about our warming globe. Rainey Center co-founder and CEO, Sarah Hunt, weighed in on the candidates and their plans on an Atlantic Council’s energy panel, titled, “Democratic Presidential Candidates’ Climate and Energy Policies: Views from Across the Political Spectrum,” which aired on C-SPAN earlier this week.
The panel spoke to energy policy leaders from a range of political viewpoints, and Hunt represented a conservative clean energy perspective. In her opening remarks, Hunt said the eventual Democratic nominee may end up going too far to win the party’s approval. She reminded the candidates that they will have to face a general election and some of their terminologies, including "socialism," are concerns for a large portion of the electorate. She explained,
If they go too far, if they politicize the issue even more, you see it being wrapped around these conversations in terms of big spending, in terms of socialism which, legitimate or not, those criticisms do strike a certain fear in a certain part of the electorate. I'd hate to see a Democratic nominee paint themselves into a corner in the primary and then have them have to walk back a bunch of it later because I care about climate change.
Hunt then explained that in these conversations about climate change and policy, candidates need to remember that their climate policies affect real people. She argued that Democrats should keep in mind people in places like the Rust Belt, who switch to voting Republican in 2016. According to Hunt, the best thing Democrat candidates can say to a Rust Belt mom is, “my climate policy will not take away your job, it won't take away your husband's job. My climate policy will not make your life more expensive and it's going to help make a clean environment for your children.”
The conversation then turned to some of the specific goals that front-running candidates like Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are advancing, including plans to convert the nation to being carbon-neutral and renewable by 2050. “We don't have commercially scalable technology that's affordable to get us to 100% renewable energy by 2035 or 2050 even if we want to,” Hunt explained.
Ultimately, Hunt stated that no matter who wins, climate change and energy policy needs to be addressed. She concluded, “no matter who is president in 2021, we need to be moving ahead in the energy space in a smart way.”
You can watch the entire discussion in the video from the Atlantic Council below.