June 24, 2019 / 12:03 PM / 4 months ago

Self-styled presidential ‘climate change candidate’ would wean U.S. off fossil fuels

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Democrat running as the “climate change candidate” in the 2020 presidential election laid out a strategy in Florida’s Everglades on Monday for weaning the United States off fossil fuels that includes banning drilling on public lands and ending crude oil exports just as the country is poised to become the world’s biggest producer.

Democratic presidential candidate and Washington State Governor Jay Inslee speaks during the California Democratic Convention in San Francisco, California, U.S. June 1, 2019. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee released what he called his “Freedom from Fossil Fuels” plan, the fourth part of a multi-pronged policy platform that details how he would tackle climate change through clean energy jobs, foreign diplomacy and recalibrating the U.S. economy.

The plan takes aims at one of the centerpieces of the Trump administration, its “energy dominance” agenda, which has loosened environmental regulations to spur more oil, gas and coal development on private and federal land and encouraged exports.

Inslee said contrary to President Donald Trump’s view that fossil fuel production is an economic driver, an aggressive shift toward clean energy would be an economic boon.

“We are for the jobs of the future. Trump wants to chase the phantoms of past,” Inslee told Reuters.

Inslee’s plan outlines 16 initiatives that would form his national energy policy and aim to weaken the fossil fuel industry that he says has been “driving the climate crisis.”

Among his key policies include restoring the decades-old ban on crude oil exports, which was lifted in the waning days of the Obama administration and has led to the United States being on track to become a net energy exporter by next year, and extending export restrictions to coal and liquified natural gas.

He said restricting fossil fuel exports is essential because it “poses an overwhelming risk to the global climate.”

He also wants to end subsidies for fossil fuel companies that total over $26 billion annually through tax credit repeals and raising royalty rates and lease payments for federal land energy production, as well as a ban on new leases for drilling on federal land and offshore waters and the phasing out existing ones with the aim of ending fracking across the country.

In addition to banning extraction on federal lands, Inslee proposes preventing drilling and mining in areas that are adjacent to national parks and monuments, such as the Everglades and Bears Ears National Monument in Utah with oil, gas and coal potential.

Inslee’s plan would also strengthen environmental enforcement of polluters and ban the construction of new infrastructure such as oil pipelines that would lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, and impose a climate pollution fee for emitters of carbon dioxide, F-gases and methane.

In a bid to offset the impact on jobs of an aggressive fossil fuel phase out, Inslee also proposes to protect the healthcare and pension benefits of fossil fuel workers, provide stipends for training workers in new fields, and create funds to stimulate investment in areas affected by job losses.

“It is time to challenge the legacy of subsidized pollution, delayed action and political obstruction that threatens our country with tremendous human and financial costs of a diminished future,” Inslee’s plan said.

Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Daniel Wallis

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