Clinton vows to make U.S. ‘clean energy superpower’

By Jennifer Yachnin | 07/27/2015 07:41 AM EDT

Hillary Clinton yesterday unveiled the first portion of her presidential campaign’s energy agenda, vowing an aggressive expansion of the nation’s renewable energy production while taking aim at the Republican primary field over the GOP’s widespread skepticism of climate science.

In a 3-minute video posted to her campaign website, Clinton reiterated a vow she first made in June to make the United States a "clean energy superpower" while promising to expand the nation’s solar capacity 700 percent by 2020 and ensure that renewable energy sources contribute to at least a third of the nation’s energy generation.

"Future generations will look back and wonder, ‘What were we thinking? How could we possibly be so irresponsible?’ I’m just a grandmother with two eyes and a brain, and I know what’s happening in the world is going to have a big effect on my daughter and especially on my granddaughter," Clinton states at the outset of the video, which features footage of children playing, forest fires and windmills but does not show the candidate herself.

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In the video, Clinton then goes on to criticize the Republican presidential primary field, while quotes questioning climate science appear on screen credited to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and businessman Donald Trump.

"It’s hard to believe there are people running for president who still refuse to accept the settled science of climate change, who’d rather remind us they’re not scientists than listen to those who are," Clinton states. "You don’t have to be a scientist to take on this urgent challenge that threatens us all."

Clinton then turns back to her energy platform to tout the benefits of renewable energy, pointing to statistics on health and job creation before vowing to set goals for her would-be presidency.

"First, I will ensure we hit a target of having more than half a billion solar panels installed across the country by the end of my first term. Second, we’ll set a 10-year goal of generating enough renewable energy to power every single home in America," Clinton states. She adds, "We’re on the cusp of a new era. We can have more choice in the energy we consume and produce. We can create a more open, efficient and resilient grid that connects us, empowers us, improves our health and benefits us all. The decisions we make in the next decade can make all of this possible, or they can keep us trapped in the past."

Clinton further outlined her proposals in a four-page document, including a plan to expand renewable energy production on public lands, as well as continuing to allow fossil fuel production on federal lands.

In the document, Clinton’s campaign calls for "safe and responsible production" while ensuring that "taxpayers get a fair deal for development on public lands, and that areas that are too sensitive for energy production are taken off the table."

Her energy plan also includes an increase in hydropower generation from existing dams.

Clinton also proposed a "Clean Energy Challenge," in which the federal government will partner with states, cities and rural communities to improve renewable energy standards.

That program would include a competitive grant competition for states willing to exceed carbon pollution standards and Solar X, another prize competition for communities that improve rooftop solar installation times and decrease costs.

Clinton is scheduled to further detail her plans today during a campaign stop in Des Moines, Iowa, where she is scheduled to tour the Des Moines Area Regional Transit Central Station.

During a campaign stop in Ames, Iowa, yesterday, Clinton mentioned her energy plan but expanded on her taped remarks by vowing to assist coal industry workers who would be affected by a shift to renewable energy resources.

"I will be very clear, I want to do more to help in coal country," Clinton said at the event, according to The New York Times. She also thanked coal workers "who mined the coal that created the industrial revolution that turned on the lights that fueled the factories, who lost their lives, who were grievously injured, who developed black lung disease."

The remarks echo comments Clinton made earlier this month during a meeting with Senate Democrats (E&E Daily, July 16).

Although Clinton has drawn criticism from environmentalists over her refusal to take a definitive stand on the Keystone XL pipeline, her initial energy platform drew praise from the League of Conservation Voters Action Fund.

"This underscores Secretary Clinton’s longtime commitment to confronting the climate crisis," said LCV Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Tiernan Sittenfeld. "As a senator, Clinton supported comprehensive climate change legislation and efforts to promote clean energy and energy efficiency. As secretary of State, she helped lead international climate negotiations and she created the Climate and Clean Air Coalition with other countries to reduce climate superpollutants like soot and methane. We commend Secretary Clinton for calling out climate change deniers and effectively illustrating the urgent need to act on a defining issue of our time."

Clinton is the front-runner in the Democratic field but faces a growing challenge from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I), as well as competition from former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee and former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb.

Sanders is a prominent critic of efforts to expedite construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, while O’Malley has vowed to make a nationwide shift to renewable energy his top priority, with a full transition to clean-energy-powered generation by 2050.

O’Malley’s deputy campaign manager, Lis Smith, took a thinly veiled shot at Clinton’s proposals yesterday in a memorandum that listed pages of media praise for the Maryland Democrat, while also highlighting his opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline and offshore and Arctic drilling.

Clinton could also face pressure from billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer, who on Friday called on presidential primary contenders to pledge a commitment to renewable energy standards of at least 50 percent by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050.

Steyer, who hosted a fundraiser for Clinton’s campaign earlier this year, praised Clinton yesterday as a "strong leader in solving the climate crisis."

"Clinton laid out an ambitious framework to put our nation on a path to a clean energy economy that will create millions of jobs — and in the coming months, we look forward to hearing more details about her proposals to tackle climate change," Steyer said.

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