Offering up his version of a Green New Deal, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is proposing $9 trillion in public and private spending over a decade to shift the U.S. away from fossil fuels to a clean energy-based economy.
Inslee rolled out his sweeping plan as part of a weeklong cross-country campaign swing in support of his bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. He was scheduled to formally announce it during a visit Thursday to a Washington, D.C., wastewater treatment plant.
The so-called Evergreen Economy Plan — a name that boasts of clean-power and jobs policies Inslee has enacted in Washington — is laid out in a 38-page blueprint that calls for $300 billion a year in increased federal spending to leverage $600 billion a year in private investment.
The package envisions a rapid national transformation from coal and gasoline-based energy and transportation to solar panels, wind turbines, mass transit and domestically manufactured electric cars. The proposal lands as Inslee is struggling to climb up from the longshot tier of candidates in what has grown into a 22-candidate Democratic field dominated by bigger names.
Inslee’s plan does not say how he’d pay for the massive federal outlays — an omission that could provide an opening for critics who have questioned the costs of other Green New Deal frameworks.
But in an interview Wednesday, Inslee dismissed such concerns, saying inaction on climate is a far costlier option. Speaking by phone from Iowa, where he toured areas hit by devastating floods, Inslee pointed to estimates that the floods caused $1.6 billion in damage.
“Who the heck asked how are you gonna pay for fighting World War II?” Inslee said. “Some things you just have to do to prevent the destruction of your nation.”
He said some of his proposals could be funded by repealing tax cuts pushed through last year by the Trump administration, and by ending federal subsidies for oil and other fossil fuel industries.
Inslee’s plan includes dozens of specific policies, broken into five broad categories:
- Investments in clean energy across the country, including upgrades to millions of buildings and a $90 billion “green energy bank” to provide revolving loans, modeled in part on Washington’s Clean Energy Fund, established at Inslee’s request in 2013.
- The largest infrastructure package in generations, including new power, affordable housing and clean water projects, and a doubling of federal spending on public transit.
- Tax credits and other incentives to aid U.S. manufacturers in building green technologies and products, including electric cars, batteries and clean fuels.
- Science investment, including more than quintupling to $35 billion the amount the U.S. spends on clean-energy and climate solutions research.
- A “good jobs” plan, including a pledge to “reunionize” the nation by repealing the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 provision that allows states to impose right-to-work laws, and boosting the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024.
The spending plan is a follow-up to Inslee’s first climate blueprint released earlier this month, in which he called for moving the U.S. to net-zero carbon emissions by 2045, with a phaseout of coal power by 2030 and a ban new sales of cars powered by fossil fuels by the same year.
Inslee is in the midst of another extended presidential campaign trip. He departed the state Monday afternoon and is due to return next Tuesday night.
On Wednesday, Inslee toured Davenport, Iowa, damaged by massive flooding after the failure of a temporary levee, as part of his continued emphasis on natural disasters that scientists predict will grow more intense if greenhouse gas emissions are not vastly reduced.
An international report by scientists this month warned 1 million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction as a result of human activities, including burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and pollution. A University of Washington report in December found greenhouse gas emissions are pushing the Earth toward conditions that killed off two-thirds of life on the planet 252 million years ago.
While his candidacy has not taken off — he remains stuck near the bottom of the Democratic candidate pack of 22 candidates in early polling — Inslee has received praise from environmentalists and pundits for drawing attention to threat of catastrophe if global warming continues at its current pace.
“I have been an underdog when I started this and still will be for a period of time,” Inslee said Wednesday, but added that he’s been “impressed that more people are paying attention” to his climate message.
Other 2020 candidates also have called climate change an existential threat and offered proposals to reduce carbon emissions, including former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke, who put out a $5 trillion plan last month, which, like Inslee’s, calls for massive investments in clean energy research and infrastructure.
The governor’s frequent out-of-state travel — which has come with millions of dollars in increased costs for his taxpayer funded State Patrol security detail — has been attacked by Washington Republicans, who have called his candidacy “a vanity run” and put a mocking map of his travels on the party’s website.
Inslee is scheduled to visit New Hampshire on Saturday, Connecticut on Sunday and New York on Monday, according to a campaign spokesman.