Hillary Clinton calls for integrated North American approach to clean energy

Among U.S. environmentalists and Climate Change activists, the Keystone XL pipeline project has secured a special place as the grand symbol of irresponsible infrastructure plans that undermine greenhouse gas reduction efforts.

As such, it should not be surprising that U.S. Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton introduced her latest energy and climate policy plan with a blog post on The Medium stating her opposition to Keystone XL.

This message was an obvious crowd-pleaser, in contrast to the more complex and far-ranging climate and energy plan revealed on her website. In broad strokes, Clinton’s plan covers oil, gas and transportation as well as electricity, and extends beyond U.S. borders, calling for a “continent-wide strategy”.

Clinton introduces the plan by noting that U.S. policies and infrastructure “have not kept pace with recent changes to the American energy system”, and citing the need to upgrade the electricity grid. She also calls for in new infrastructure to enable the transition to a clean energy economy.

While such statements lack concrete details, Clinton also calls for the creation of a national infrastructure bank, which would include energy projects. However, it is unclear what role this infrastructure bank or the other proposals would play in Clinton’s goal for America to get 33% of its power from renewable energy by 2027, a plan which includes a seven-fold increase in installed solar by 2020.

Clinton also calls for a North American Climate Compact to be negotiated between the U.S., Canada and Mexico, to set “ambitious targets” on greenhouse gas reduction. The program would include regional grid modernization and integration of clean power markets and carbon trading mechanisms in the three nations, a process is already underway between Quebec and California.

Clinton also referenced her previously announced Clean Energy Challenge, which would include federal energy and climate standards, as well as support for high-performing cities, states and rural communities.

However, much of the fact sheet concerns the oil and gas industry, where Clinton clearly takes the Obama Administration’s lead in pushing for regulations to ensure that oil and gas production involve fewer accidents and emissions, specifically mentioning methane leaks. This includes a call for taxpayers to get a “fair deal” for oil and gas extraction on public lands, where cheap leases act as de-facto subsidies for fossil fuels.

The first item mentioned in the fact sheet is a plan to modernize the oil and gas pipeline system to improve safety and reduce methane leaks. As such, Clinton’s plan suggests a prioritization of long-term investments in oil and gas transportation and delivery, which could include public support.

This shows a very different focus than the visions set forth by environmentalists and clean energy advocates who are pushing for elimination of support for fossil fuels and a more rapid transformation of the energy system.