A price on carbon -- necessary but not sufficient

The need to address the climate crisis provides us with an unprecedented opportunity to rebuild our energy system with vast economic, security, and environmental benefits. By putting significant limits on carbon emissions –- and adopting strong complementary energy policies -- we can create millions of new U.S. jobs, reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign energy, and protect ourselves from a global climate crisis. Yesterday I testified on just this subject before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

Google published a scenario last year called Clean Energy 2030, which outlines one potential path to a clean energy future. The Clean Energy 2030 proposal would reduce U.S. CO2 emissions about 50% below the baseline projection, while creating 9 million new jobs and net savings of $800 billion.

The ability of the U.S. to seize this historic economic opportunity will be influenced, to a large extent, by actions taken by government to put a significant price on carbon emissions. But a significant price on carbon, while absolutely necessary, is not sufficient to address the climate problem and will not put the U.S. in the position to seize the extraordinary opportunities that will come with rebuilding the global energy economy.

There are four complementary energy policy mechanisms that will be critical to taking advantage of these opportunities:
  • First, we must significantly increase public funding of research and development of advanced energy technologies. In 1980 ten percent of the total government R&D investment was in energy. Today, it is only two percent.
  • Second, we must increase the capital available to deploy these advanced technologies at commercial scale.
  • Third, we must build a smarter and bigger electric grid to better harness energy efficiency and renewable energy. A smarter grid will let us see and understand our energy use, measure it, price it and manage it -- to get the most out of every watt. And a bigger grid will allow us to tap our nation's vast clean energy resources and deliver them where needed.
  • Fourth, we must set national standards to accelerate the uptake of cleaner and more efficient technologies.
Check out video of my opening testimony below, or read it here. You can also view an archived webcast of the full hearing on the Committee's website.