Climate & Energy

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Climate Change Is Real

Climate change is real and scientists globally accept that emission of carbon dioxide through human consumption of fossil fuels is its principal contributing cause. A stable climate is a critical underpinning of quality of life and sustaining that stability—while exploring leadership solutions for a less stable climate—are at the core of my energy policies.

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Climate change is not only real and impacted by human behavior, but the negative consequences to billions of people staggeringly outweigh the incidental benefits to fossil fuel companies. Climate change is a proven threat multiplier, leading to increased conflict over resource scarcity. This is the existential threat of our time.

Here in Central Texas, we’re already feeling the effects of climate change in terms of consequences of extreme weather. A recent study showed Texas would be especially hard-hit, with GDP losses of 5–15% in many counties. From floods, to droughts, to wildfires, climate change already exacts a painful toll in our area. For example, last winter’s mild temperatures devastated the peach harvest in Central Texas, hurting one of the Texas Hill Country’s traditional economies. As the rate of climate change increases, the consequences will increasingly devastate our regional agriculture, economy, and quality of life.

A Sustainable Path to a Renewable Energy Future

A History of Energy Leadership

I have seen first-hand the cost of our country’s dependence on foreign countries’ carbon resources during my time in the military. Our dependence on fossil fuel promotes the destruction of our other natural resources and forces coordination and alliances with regimes and interests whose human rights records are anathema to basic human decency.

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Since leaving the military, I have made it my professional mission to help move us to a cleaner future in which we are less dependent on fossil fuels. I established the National Security Technology Accelerator to connect innovators and entrepreneurs in renewable technologies to procurement professionals in the biggest consumer of carbon fuels—the Department of Defense. I also co-founded RideScout, a mobility data aggregator that reduced the carbon footprint and travel times of commuters around the world. RideScout was later purchased by Daimler AG, where I served as global President of Moovel, working with municipalities and corporations around the world on smart city approaches to increasing energy efficiency. I was proud that our efforts were recognized in 2014 by the Department of Transportation for our innovative use of data to improve transportation.

In Congress, I will continue the mission to achieve a 100% renewable economy as soon as economically and physically practicable. Through the efforts of market forces, ambitious engineers, business leaders, President Obama, and a handful of international and municipal government leaders, we are moving steadily toward that goal, but we must move faster and more boldly in that direction. The one actor consistently missing is the United States Congress.

The Opportunity Before Us

TX-21 is positioned to become a global leader in renewable energy and the emerging economy that surrounds it. Central Texas technology, academic, and business leaders are investing and creating jobs in wind, hydro, solar, and hyperthermal technologies.

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In order to fight climate change and its catastrophic effects, we must transition our economy to 100% renewables. A multi-faceted approach must be taken, including clean production from renewable sources, increased efficiency, and improved energy transmission and storage infrastructure.

America has made substantial investments in wind and solar, and market forces have conspired to tremendously reduce the amount of coal we burn. Already, we’re seeing enormous health and environmental benefits. As written in a recent story in Vox, from 2007 to 2015, electricity generated from in America contributed notable reductions in several air pollutants. This significant reduction of local air pollutants has saved roughly 7,000 of our friends and neighbors from passing away prematurely. In economic terms, those saved lives, in addition to economic benefits seen by overall increased public health are worth an additional $56 billion. The rapid adaptation wind and solar as an electricity resource also decreased the peripheral costs of carbon dioxide emissions by roughly $32 billion. Seeing these trends, a rapid transition to a renewable economy would save tens of billions of dollars and thousands of lives each year.

Texas is leading the path in a transition to clean energy. Texas wind farms produce more wind power than any other state and wind power accounted for 15% of total electricity production in Texas in 2016. Farmers lease their land to wind developers, opening a new revenue stream. Wind power has also created over 24,000 jobs for local communities and for the state.

Maximize Our Solar Potential

Texas ranks just 9th in the country in solar production, despite being significantly larger and sunnier than higher-ranked states. We have a massive opportunity to scale up solar energy use in Texas; it is a resource that is just beginning to be tapped.

Invest in Energy Efficiency

The least expensive component of energy, even more cost-effective than renewables, is efficiency. Energy efficiency measures have proven to have among the best proportional returns on investment to reduce energy usage and expand the use of renewable energy sources. Our nation doesn’t look at the energy we don’t use the same way we look at production – that’s a big mistake. By enacting policies to reduce climate-changing emissions, energy efficiency should be thought of as the principal and most effective source by mitigating the costs of addressing climate change while providing environmental, energy, and consumer benefits.

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The Pentagon’s annual budget for energy consumption alone reaches approximately $20 billion, the U.S. military is among the world’s largest consumers of carbon-based fuel and by far the largest in the country. The Department of Defense has prioritized the ability to use energy in smart, efficient ways, and has realized tremendous benefits from those initiatives. These include cutting energy expenditures by billions of dollars, thus, declining adverse impacts to global weather patterns, which in turn enhances energy security and independence for our troops.

By making energy efficiency a priority, the federal government can become a better partner in climate and energy overall.

America Needs a 21st Century Energy Grid for Wind and Solar

Investments in grid infrastructure to promote efficiency and maximize opportunities and return on wind and solar development are essential. Lessons for the country about grid modernization abound from Texas. For example, CREZ transmission lines cost $6.8 billion to build, but the cost benefits alone substantially outweigh the expense. The renewable energy they enable will save ratepayers $2 billion a year and generate in excess of $5 billion in economic development benefits for Texas — all while reducing electric sector carbon dioxide emissions by up to 16 percent. CREZ transmission lines are paying for themselves rapidly, and will deliver tens of billions of dollars of net economic and environmental benefits for decades. The success of CREZ lines in Texas should serve as a national model for what can be achieved nationwide.

Carbon Pricing & Investment

I support a gradually increasing fee on carbon dioxide emissions, along the lines proposed by the Brookings Institute. This fee should be implemented at the first point of entry of fossil fuels into the economy, i.e., the mine, well, or port. Consistently, studies have shown that a carbon tax is the most efficient and effective way to reduce carbon emissions.

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From the revenues generated, Congress should allocate approximately half of the proceeds from this carbon fee as a direct rebate to the American people via dividend checks, direct deposits, or contributions to their individual retirement accounts. The amount allocated per family would be tied to the urbanization of their zip code on a sliding scale, with more rural counties that rely more heavily on carbon-based fuels for transportation receiving a higher dividend to provide greater incentive for a conscious move away from carbon-based fuels and toward renewables. This amount would grow year over year as the rate increases, creating a positive feedback loop: the more Americans protect the climate, the greater the individual dividend payments to all Americans.

The other half of this carbon tax would be used to invest in our energy future. This money should be used to promote research and development, as well as the adoption of new technology in storage, efficiency, and grid and distribution infrastructure.

This isn’t a new concept in America’s energy history. The same way government invested in distribution and production throughout the 20th Century (through pipelines, land leases, interstate highways, railway easements, and our antiquated grid), we must invest in our 21st Century energy future.

Innovative Third Party Financing for Energy Efficiency

Third-party, private sector financing is increasingly being used by the U.S. military as a means of achieving improvements in energy efficiency without having to pay high initial costs for energy efficiency upgrades—a process that we should extend across departments in the federal government. Energy savings performance contracts (ESPCs) and utility energy service contracts (UESCs) allow the Department of Defense to use money saved by reduced energy usage to pay for the implementation of upgrades over time.

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Since 2011, the Army has used $756.9 million in cost savings to make further investments in energy efficiency using ESPCs and UESCs. These contracts hold enormous potential to unleash the power of energy efficiency, and should be expanded to promote even greater benefits. The federal government should learn from the intelligent energy efficiency financing mechanisms, support, and promote and incentivize the use of similar third-party financing mechanisms for use in residential and commercial buildings, such as property assessed clean energy (PACE) financing.

There are numerous steps Congress should take to unleash energy efficiency adoption in the public sector, increase investments in research, and incentivize business and individual sectors to adopt cutting-edge efficiency technology. In Congress, I’ll fight to unleash the economic, environmental, and consumer benefits of energy efficiency by being its greatest champion.

There are real-world solutions in front of us, solutions that have positive externalities. I will continue to fight, as I have throughout my career, for a clean energy future resulting in lower costs, increased quality of life, and economic growth, all while moving away from carbon producing fossil fuels.