NRDC Partners With Planet Green: President Frances Beinecke Answers TreeHugger's Questions


NRDC President Frances Beinecke, photo: Matt Greenslade/photo-nyc.com

Exciting news over at Planet Green: The Natural Resources Defense Council has joined Planet Green's roster of non-profit parter organizations. Together they will work on a broad range of activities, ranging from grassroots community outreach and public affairs to content creation. In commenting on the new partnership, NRDC President Frances Beinecke called Planet Green "a critical voice for the solutions to our most pressing environmental challenges."

I had a chance to ask Beinecke her views on the solutions to a few of these environmental challenges:TreeHugger: What should be the Obama administration's first environmental action be?
France Beinecke: President Obama can tackle the three most urgent crises -- the economy, volatile energy, prices, and global warming -- all at the same time. How? By creating an economic stimulus plan that puts investing in clean energy at its core. 
 


This will create millions of good-paying jobs that use the skills workers already have to install clean energy and green infrastructure right here in the United States. Things like wind farms, solar panels, hybrid cars, mass transit and efficient buildings connected to a smart electricity grid.

Now you might be wondering how we can pay for this. Obama should work with Congress right away to pass legislation that puts limits on global warming pollution and introduces the sale and exchange of pollution permits. This will generate billions of dollars every year, and we can direct that capital into expanding green energy industries. 
 


Everyone has a role to play here. Call your lawmakers and make sure they support climate legislation and clean energy investments.Â

Do you think a cap-and-trade regime is a superior solution to reducing carbon emissions, as opposed to a straight carbon tax?
Putting a tax on carbon could be an effective approach for curbing global warming pollution. But it remains untested, and it is highly unlikely that passing a new tax in this economy will be politically viable. Also, experts think it is a slower mechanism for directing capital into clean energy technology.



A cap on carbon is important because it sets a specific goal for reducing carbon emissions 80% by 2050. The cap and trade model for reducing global warming pollution is already being used in the European Union and a cluster of 10 Northeastern states. It is underway in California and several other states. Even Congress, the long holdout, seriously debated passing a cap and trade bill last June. I am confident that the new Congress, with guidance from President-elect Obama will pass similar legislation within a year. 
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Look, the crisis of global warming is so urgent that we can't wait for lawmakers, industry, and the American people to spend years hashing out the details of an entirely new system. We have to act now.

Do you think that the message that a green economy means more jobs will get lost amid all the news of global recession?
I don't think the message will get lost ... so many economists and politicians are saying that large-scale investment in clean energy and transportation infrastructure is the key to jump-starting the economy.

Sure, we could invest in the same old dirty, fossil fuel infrastructure, but studies show that won't generate as much economic growth. 
 


A recent report by the Political Economy Research Institute at UMass found that investing in clean energy solutions such as wind and solar power, rapid transit, and energy efficiency could create 2 million U.S. jobs in the next 2 years--nearly 4 times as many jobs as would be generated by investing in more oil production. 
 


Two million jobs in 2 years. That is the kind of rapid response we need right now. But it also has the long-term result of building America's green energy infrastructure.

Do coal industry executives like Don Blankenship (who recently likened people advocating energy conservation and efficiency to communists) really think environmentalists want a command economy?
I do believe that the coal industry sees the cultural shift toward cleaner energy and global warming solutions as a threat to their interests. That's why they are fighting so hard. 
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I heard a telling interview with a coal industry spokesman last week. NRDC and some partner groups had just launched the 'Reality' Coalition--our effort to bust the industry's mythology about "clean coal." There is no such thing as "clean coal." Coal is dirty when it's mined, and it's dirty when it's burned.   
 


The spokesman was responding by saying that the coal industry has become much cleaner over the past several decades. What he didn't say was that we had to fight them every step of the way. For instance, when NRDC and other environmental groups pushed for acid rain reductions, the industry stonewalled, claiming that it would bankrupt them. Well it didn't because the industry found cheap ways to reduce acid rain pollution. 
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We think the same will be true for global warming pollution. The whole energy sector will compete to find the most cost-effective ways to reduce carbon emissions. For coal, that means carbon capture and storage -- the only solution for coal if it is to continue as a power source.   
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In the end, the market will decide which is the better performer, dirty coal-fired power or clean wind and solar. Market-based competition. That doesn't sound like communism to me.Â


NRDC joins Planet Green's other non-profit partners, including: Ashoka, Earth Pledge, Earthwatch Institute, Environmental Media Association, Global Green USA, Green Belt Movement, Global Inheritance, National Wildlife Federation, Oceana, Ocean Conservancy, and The Nature Conservancy.

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Tags: Clean Coal | Coal | Energy Efficiency | Global Climate Change | Green Jobs | Hybrid Cars | Planet Green | Solar Power

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