News reports indicate Ivanka Trump, daughter of the President-Elect, seeks to make global warming her signature issue. Ivanka and Donald Trump met with Al Gore yesterday to discuss the topic. Below is a respectfully submitted open letter to Ivanka Trump on global warming policy. Follow@jtaylorspark on Twitter to read more of my policy prescriptions for the Trump administration.
Dear Ivanka, it is admirable that you are concerned about global warming and are looking to identify common-sense global warming policies. The good news is Republicans already offer energy solutions that reduce carbon dioxide emissions while also ensuring affordable energy prices. Al Gore has yet to champion such common-ground energy sources.
The reason conservative public policy organizations began paying attention to the climate change debate is global warming has often been used as an excuse to promote expensive, unreliable energy sources that would devastate our economy. Of course, if human activity is truly ushering in a climate apocalypse, then it would be worth almost any price to prevent this. There is substantial scientific debate on how much and to what consequences human activity is altering climate, but there are common-ground policy options regardless of one’s views on the scientific debate.
Ivanka Trump. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia commons.
Assuming for the sake of argument that we truly are ushering in a climate apocalypse, what are the best solutions? Al Gore and the environmental left propose a consolidation of government power, top-down government restrictions on our economy, and an enormous transfer of wealth to the wind and solar industries. Republicans, on the other hand, have long promoted market-proven energy sources that reduce carbon dioxide emissions and keep energy abundant, affordable, and responsive to market direction.
Natural gas, for example, emits merely half the carbon dioxide as conventional coal power. Thanks to recent technological advances in natural gas production and recent discoveries of vast natural gas deposits in shale rock formations, natural gas has become more affordable than coal power. Markets have responded to this. In 2008, natural gas powered just 21 percent of U.S. electricity. Now natural gas powers 30 percent. Even so, government restrictions have blocked production from some of our most prodigious natural gas deposits. The Trump administration can change that.
Nuclear power emits no carbon dioxide at all. Nations like India proudly report they intend to reduce their carbon dioxide footprint by transforming their power sectors to nuclear power. In the United States, however, our federal government has dragged its feet on approving next-generation nuclear power facilities that are safer, more environmentally friendly, and more affordable than ever. Our federal government has also blocked the opening of the Yucca Mountain storage facility for spent nuclear fuel. Many state governments are blocking new nuclear power plants until such a centralized storage facility gains federal approval. The Trump administration can change that.
Hydro power also emits no carbon dioxide. It is also cost-competitive with coal power. China and other nations are ramping up hydro power to improve their environmental conditions and their economies. In the United States, the Department of Energy has identified dozens of existing dams that can add hydroelectric turbines at little cost and with little environmental impact. Taking advantage of these opportunities, the Department of Energy reports we can increase our hydropower production by 50 percent. However, government restrictions are blocking this ramp-up of affordable, emissions-free power. The Trump administration can change that.
Even the left-of-center Brookings Institution acknowledges these three energy sources are substantially more affordable than wind and solar power. According to a Brookings study, more natural gas and hydro power would reduce electricity costs, and more nuclear power would keep costs about the same. Wind and solar power, according to Brookings, would result in dramatic price increases. For this reason the headline of the Brookings report is “Why the Best Path to a Low-Carbon Future is Not Wind or Solar Power.”
And it is not just economics arguing for conservative-supported energy sources. Prominent climate scientists/activists like Kerry Emanuel, James Hansen, Ken Caldeira, Tom Wigley, and Richard Muller argue that wind and solar power simply cannot provide enough power to meet America’s energy needs. Hansen, Caldeira, and Wigley are vocal proponents of nuclear power. Emanuel and Muller argue we need to promote more nuclear power, hydro power, and natural gas power.
American energy leadership can benefit the rest of the world as well. Asian nations in particular are heavily dependent on Chinese-produced coal, which is causing horrible air quality and substantial carbon dioxide emissions. They are seeking cleaner energy sources but understandably refuse to hamper their economies with expensive and unreliable wind and solar power. U.S. energy producers are begging to export inexpensive, clean-burning American natural gas to these nations, but our government policymakers have blocked the construction of export facilities. The Trump administration can change that.
Al Gore claims he is searching for “areas of common ground” with the Trump administration on climate policy. I am happy to hear that, and happy to report there are plenty of common-ground energy solutions that Republicans have long supported. I applaud you for seeking to make the world a better place. I hope you will advocate for the common-ground energy solutions described above.
This article first appeared at Forbes.com.