Second, we need to set a national clean energy standard for electricity. One popular approach is to require utilities to raise the fraction of their electricity from zero-carbon sources — such as wind, solar or nuclear — by, say, 2 percent per year. Such a standard creates a market for renewables, which drives down costs, and helps ensure that natural gas is a transition fuel that replaces coal, not solar, wind and other clean power sources.
Third, we have to accelerate energy efficiency and clean power technologies by building up our research and development programs to the levels they merit, probably triple today’s levels. This is the source of our long-term advantage.
Fourth, we have to impose a revenue-neutral carbon tax — a Republican idea, championed by one of the United States’ most respected statesmen, Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state, George Shultz — that would replace payroll and corporate taxes.
I don’t like Keystone. Extracting oil from tar sands leads to even higher carbon emissions than drilling and devastates the landscape. But, if approval is the price for a truly transformational clean energy policy, I’m in. You’re not going to move the vested interests without a trade, but it has to be a smart trade.
This is a grand bargain on energy that would advance our growth, national security and climate policy. If paired with similar efforts by our NATO allies, it would, in time, sharply reduce Putin’s ability to blackmail his neighbors, using energy. It would also protect Americans from price shocks, as both the sun and the wind are free, make our farmers, our coastal cities and our public health system much more resilient, and tilt our energy policy toward exploiting our advantage — technology — rather than oil.
Nader Mousavizadeh, the co-founder of Macro Advisory Partners, recently recalled for me what a U.S. energy company executive once told him: “The one thing we’re never going to run out of is technology.” We need to play to our strength.
I would hate to see Obama spend the next 2 1/2 years just counting HealthCare.gov sign-ups. He needs to recognize that Putin’s Crimea adventure has created the opportunity for a legacy project of moving the U.S. into a clean energy future — a move that would make us stronger, Putin weaker and the world safer.