Following Keystone opposition, Clinton lays out comprehensive energy policy

Hillary Clinton's new initiative calls for revamping America’s outdated energy infrastructure and intensively combating climate change.

Brian Snyder
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton answers a question from the audience during a town hall campaign stop in Nashua, New Hampshire.

Following the announcement of her opposition to the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton rolled out a comprehensive energy agenda Wednesday morning.

“We should be focused on what it will take to make America the clean energy superpower of the 21st century,” she writes in an essay on “Building a clean, secure, and affordable North American energy future is bigger than Keystone XL or any other single project.”

Building upon her position to the pipeline, which she revealed Tuesday at a community forum in Des Moines, Clinton’s new plan calls for the intensive modernization of America’s worn and outdated energy infrastructure and a profound focus on combating climate change. The agenda entails repairing pipelines and railways, improving power grid security, establishing a North American climate pact, and building investment for clean energy.

Many of the concerns outlined by Clinton – railway explosions, carbon pollution, threat of cyber-attack – echo the findings of President Barack Obama’s Quadrennial Energy Review, released in April. The first-of-its-kind report affirmed that US energy infrastructure requires major updates due to climate change, the aging grid, and risks related to terrorism.

“Our more than 2 million miles of oil and natural gas pipes are in disrepair, resulting in oil spills, chronic methane leaks, and even devastating explosions,” Clinton writes. “Over the past five years, a 20-fold increase in the amount of oil shipped by rail has led to devastating accidents.”

Following a chain of explosions of oil trains from North Dakota, an investigation by InsideClimate News, The Weather Channel, and The Investigative Fund found that federal regulators don’t currently have the resources to mitigate the risks of combusting crude oil trains.

To abate these safety concerns, Clinton vows to strengthen safety regulations by collaborating with pipeline operators and local agencies, in addition to expediting the replacement of the country’s oldest pipes and train cars.

According to Clinton’s campaign website, which features an extensive version of her energy plan, the former secretary of state will create a “Presidential Threat Assessment and Response Team” that would prevent cybersecurity attacks through better coordination between the electric power industry and government officials.

If president, Clinton will also spearhead the North American Climate Compact with Canada and Mexico. The pact will set continental standards to reduce pollution, she writes, “so all three countries demonstrate a commitment to climate action." At the same time, the pact also "provides accountability measures, so each country has confidence that the others are living up to their end of the bargain.”

As of early September, Texas and California have already fostered relationships with Mexico with regards to energy infrastructure. The California Energy Commission is collaborating with the Mexican Ministry of Energy on clean energy investment and regional climate change, while the nature of Texas’s alliance with Mexico is much more economic. In Canada, climate change is a major issue in the federal election for Prime Minister, which will take place in October.

To finance her initiatives, Clinton says she will create the National Infrastructure Bank that will utilize public and private capital to invest in infrastructure projects. Moreover, her administration will award grants through her Clean Energy Challenge to towns and communities that invest in renewable energy.

Beyond her energy infrastructure plan, Clinton has a separate proposal for renewable energy, which sets two ultimate goals for the US: to install half a billion solar panels across the country by the end of her first term, and to generate enough clean renewable energy to power every home in America within 10 years of her inauguration.

The US currently lags behind many European countries when it comes to renewable energy implementation. In Germany, for instance, renewable energies accounted for 27.8 percent of its total power consumption last year, compared to about 9 percent in the US, according to the most recent findings on the matter.

“American energy policy is about more than a single pipeline to transport Canada’s dirtiest fuel across our country,” she concludes in her essay. Currently, the Keystone XL pipeline is still under State Department review.

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