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.