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At CNN town hall, Klobuchar lays out her moderate approach to the climate crisis

Sen. Amy Klobuchar
CNN
Sen. Amy Klobuchar said that she is in favor of maintaining nuclear, as it accounts for 20 percent of U.S. energy production, but that she would not expand it unless it could be done more safely.

What is a moderate position on the climate crisis?

At CNN’s seven-hour Wednesday night climate crisis town hall, Democratic candidates had a chance to explain how exactly they would deal with changing temperatures, increasingly devastating environmental disasters and energy production priorities.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s position throughout the town hall was that we need to “do what the science tells us.” To do that, she proposed that she would prioritize achieving 100% net-zero emissions no later than 2050 and  said that we need to limit warming to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit.

But like much of the rest of her campaign, when it comes to the climate crisis, Klobuchar seemed aimed to stake out the middle ground: on fracking, on coal and on the cost of her plan.


Fracking, coal and nuclear power

Prior to the town hall, Sen. Bernie Sanders announced he would commit to a ban on fracking, the process of injecting liquid underground at high pressure to extract natural gas. Earlier that night during her town hall, Sen. Kamala Harris said the same: “There’s no question I’m in favor of banning fracking.”

Klobuchar was more hesitant after the moderator asked her stance. “I see natural gas as a transitional fuel. It is better than oil, but it’s not nearly as good as wind and solar,” she said.

Klobuchar said she would approve fracking permits on a case-by-case basis. And she has suggested the same approach to permitting in Minnesota for other projects that have environmental advocates worried about negative impacts.

In Minnesota, she’s walking a careful line, not taking a stance on two copper-nickel mining projects in northern Minnesota and not taking a stance on the Line 3 Pipeline, which some tribes have said could harm their access to rice farming and water.

On how to phase out coal, and the question of “if” nuclear should be phased out, Klobuchar also took a careful stance.

“What defines safe nuclear power and clean coal? Don’t they sound like oxymorons?” Liza Cohen, a student at Fordham University, asked Klobuchar.

Klobuchar said that she is in favor of maintaining nuclear, as it accounts for 20 percent of U.S. energy production, but that she would not expand it unless it could be done more safely. Similarly, she said she would not allow for the building of new coal plants, but if elected, would try to make the currently active plants better for the environment.

How will you pay for it?

In the backdrop of Klobuchar’s climate plan, and everyone else’s, was the question of money: How do you pay for it? Klobuchar says hers would cost around between the “two trillion to three trillion range.”


“I only know how I’m going to get the funding, and I think you’ve got to be honest with people about how you’re going to get the money and what you’re going to spend it on, or it’s going to be really hard to bring along those people that we need to win in the middle of the country,” she said, implying that other climate plans, proposed by candidates like Sen. Sanders, are unrealistic.

Klobuchar said she’d pay for her plan by increasing the corporate tax rate and repealing parts of the Republican’s 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act; and with a carbon tax, which she described “cap-and-trade.” Both policies are different in that with a carbon tax, companies are charged for each ton of carbon they produce, and with cap-and-trade, companies are limited yearly in the amount of emissions they produce. Her climate plan does not specify which she would pursue.

“I want to be honest of what I think we can bring in,” she said.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the total cost of Klobuchar’s climate plan. She estimates it at $2-3 trillion.

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Comments (10)

  1. Submitted by Robert Moffitt on 09/05/2019 - 11:05 am.

    Even a moderate approach is better than the suppression of science and turning back the clock.

  2. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 09/05/2019 - 12:26 pm.

    The moderate approach would have been great thirty years ago.

    Today though we’re in crisis mode. The house is on fire and now is not the time to talk about smoke detectors and installing a fire extinguisher in the kitchen.

    Call out the fire department and get some water on the conflagration before the whole structure is burnt to the ground. We can save some of it, but only if we act quickly and decisively.

  3. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 09/05/2019 - 01:04 pm.

    Nothing calls for moderation like an existential crisis.

  4. Submitted by Steve Rose on 09/05/2019 - 02:00 pm.

    Folks here in Minnesota are warming slowly to climate crisis concerns, having recently endured a winter classified by our DNR as Severe. The election, and media ally CNN, have brought climate alarm and fear back to the fore. It will be an even hotter topic next year. Those of us old enough, have heard many dire Earth consequences predicted for the last five decades; none have come to pass. Fear is a powerful motivator, but our experience has been that the sky is not falling. You only have to look at the upstream comments to see an analogy of the Earth as a house on fire. Certainly, it gives the candidates ground to stake out; positions both to attack and defend. But, is it the issue that will ultimately blaze the trail to the White House? I think not.

    Donald Trump achieved the White House through his celebrity and by having no political experience nor baggage. Jesse Ventura became Governor on the same recipe. Both entered their respective races regarded as less than dark horses.

    If the Democrats think that voters will become energized by a Joe Biden candidacy, I would like to hear how. Oprah Winfrey – she fits the formula. There are many others too, but the DNC will stick with their pool of staff politicians.

  5. Submitted by Eric Snyder on 09/06/2019 - 11:20 am.

    Moderation. How much poor reasoning is associated with this word? How much public policy has been hobbled or rendered insufficiently effective because of the illusory gold standard of moderation?

    Moderation in the context of politics is a self-justifying notion, a circular argument. Moderation – just read the dictionary! – carries with it the implication of due caution and careful reflection. It posits an abstract persona who resists extremism, seeks compromise and finds common ground. ‘Rest assured, he’s a moderate. He won’t offend your sensibilities, or upset established interests. He knows how to work within the system to get things done, as only moderates can do.’

    Phew. Good to know! He’s a moderate. We’re on the right course. By definition.

    It’s a popular fallacy to suppose that moderation is a universal standard by which we should judge the validity of a particular law or policy. It seems to rely both on a continually misapplied analogy with popular usages like ‘I only drink in moderation’, and on a naive, true-by-definition application of its lexical meaning.

    Moderation renders a priori judgment even before you know the facts. It falsely sets itself up as the arbiter of reasonableness. The word moderate can taint judgment and obscure underlying reality. Moderation reflects the intellectual laziness which pretends that between any two poles, a middle point is adequate and preferable.

    All too often, however, it’s anything but. A great deal more skepticism about moderation is in order.

    Climate change doesn’t care about Senator Klobuchar’s political calculations. Climate change is indifferent to the careers of our politicians.

    Our primary concern should be doing whatever it takes to mitigate the climate emergency. Maybe we’d be wasting money beyond Klobuchar’s proposed 2-3 trillion. Or, maybe this moderate approach has little to do with climate realities and reflects the political mythology of moderation.

    • Submitted by Tom Crain on 09/06/2019 - 04:57 pm.

      Well put. The self-congratulatory and complacent moderate Senate Democrats are more scandalized by the thought of the filibuster’s abolition than the climate’s ruination.

      We don’t need “modesty” from Senators like Klobuchar and Manchin; rather, we will need them to display uncharacteristic boldness. I won’t be holding my breath.

  6. Submitted by Jimmy Kilpatrick on 09/09/2019 - 06:30 am.

    Drill Baby Drill!

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