Moniz unveils ‘Green Real Deal’

Source: By Kelsey Brugger, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, August 2, 2019

Former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz unveiled a plan yesterday dubbed the “Green Real Deal” to achieve deep decarbonization in the energy sector.

In his first speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Moniz offered details of the framework that he first mentioned in an op-ed for CNBC with Emerson Collective Managing Partner Andy Karsner in March. At the time, Moniz wrote that a Green Real Deal would be based on “practicality, not ideology.”

The plan — released yesterday by Moniz’s research nonprofit Energy Futures Initiative — lays out a road map to deeply decarbonize the economy by midcentury. His framework, built on principles like innovation and social equity, includes elements such as carbon pricing, regional plans, equitable transitions, supply chains and workforce.

The report coincided with a 15-minute speech by Moniz with a central message: A coalition must “walk the talk” to tackle the “climate crisis.”

“We absolutely must build a broad tight political coalition,” he said, speaking at a U.S. Chamber summit focused on energy innovation.

He noted that the U.S. Chamber this year released “some strong statements about heading to low carbon,” and pointed to Pope Francis hosting oil executives in the Vatican as another example of coalition building.

Moniz’s strategy splits from Democrats backing the Green New Deal, some of whom pledged on the presidential debate stage this week to take on the fossil fuel industry. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), for example, called fossil fuel corporations guilty of “criminal activity.” Earlier this year, Moniz said that a 100% renewable system was not “realistic” (Energywire, Feb. 6).

The ex-Energy secretary maintained during yesterday’s speech that the “climate crisis” requires urgent action, and he called for “data-driven,” “science-based,” “pragmatic” goals to cut emissions. He said opportunities exist in the electricity sector, but it makes up just 27% of U.S. emissions. “We have to start thinking about the other 73% just as hard,” he said, referring to transportation, industry, buildings and agriculture.

Policymakers need to be able to choose from a variety of pathways, he said.

“Optionality is needed,” he said, given the “highly regional nature of low carbon solutions that we have to be looking for.”

California, for example, has a goal of achieving 40% emissions reductions from 1990 levels by 2030, but as the state phases out its last nuclear plant, that becomes harder to achieve, he said. Before the San Onofre nuclear power plant shut down in 2013, nuclear power was providing nearly 20% of the state’s electricity. But in a few years, after the phaseout of the state’s last nuclear plant, none of the electricity will come from nuclear.

“That’s a lot of makeup in terms of low carbon,” Moniz said.

Carbon capture sequestration is also important, he said.

“Today, to be perfectly frank, there is nothing at all going on in California to promote carbon capture sequestration,” he said, adding he was “surprised” how significant his research found CCS to be as a climate solution, both for power plants and industrial facilities.

“Without that and without nuclear, I am far less optimistic in terms of that [40%] goal,” he said.

Jason Grumet, president of the Bipartisan Policy Center, who also delivered remarks at the U.S. Chamber, said Moniz’s plug “will have more public resonance than almost anybody’s.”