Election Watch 2018: Political Climate Podcast Discusses Climate and Clean Energy Ballot Initiatives

November 1, 2018

Liz Bourguet, YCELP Research Assistant

On Monday, October 29th, the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication hosted the Political Climate podcast. The podcast takes a bipartisan look at climate and clean energy policy and fosters an open dialogue across party lines on politics and the environment. It is hosted by Julia Pyper, a senior editor at Greentech Media; Brandon Hurlbut, a Democrat and former Department of Energy Chief of Staff; and Shane Skelton, a Republican and former Energy Advisor to Paul Ryan. While much of the discussion focused on the politics of the midterm elections, the discussion also highlighted climate and clean energy policies at stake in the November 6 election.

Carbon fee:

On the ballot in Washington state is an initiative to establish a statewide carbon fee, which would be the first of its kind in the US. The state proposed a similar initiative in 2016, but voters rejected it. The proposal has evolved since then, shifting away from a revenue-neutral approach in 2016 to a system in which revenue from the fee funds statewide programs, including clean air and water programs. This shift, the podcast hosts speculate, might be the change needed for voters to get behind the fee. If it passes, Washington could serve as a model for other states looking to implement their own carbon fee.

Renewable portfolio standards:

Renewable portfolio standards are on the ballots in both Arizona and Nevada. Arizona’s ballot initiative proposes a 50 percent hike to the state’s renewable portfolio standard. In a state that has abundant solar resources, residents are considering the potential for job creation but are conflicted over whether to include nuclear energy in its renewable portfolio standard. While Nevada has a similar ballot initiative to increase its renewable energy standard, the state also has a proposal to deregulate the electricity market within the state, opening it up to competition. This move has the potential to increase the amount of renewables on the market, but some environmental groups are opposed, saying that it has the potential to leave out the poorest on the grid.

Fracking and fuel taxes:

Other contested environmental legislation on this year’s ballot include a ballot initiative in Colorado that would curtail fracking activities and an effort in California to repeal the increase in the state’s fuel tax. California’s fuel tax was increased in November 2017 and revenue raised from the tax funds road and infrastructure improvements. Proponents of the proposal want to decrease the state’s cost of living while those opposed cite the positive impacts the tax has had on the environment and the state’s infrastructure.