Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) has had a remarkable career — but it’s not over yet! It just might be that his crowning achievement awaits before his final term ends in 2020. I’m talking about his New Manhattan Project For Clean Energy, an updated version of a plan he first introduced over a decade ago. Many times successful legislation is something a seasoned legislator has had in his or her back pocket, waiting for the right moment. The buzz generated around the concept of a Green New Deal could help create the political conditions to make the New Manhattan Project For Clean Energy a reality.
If we want to overcome climate change by keeping warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, as discussed in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC’s) latest report, there are two basic things we must do.
First, we must begin a massive effort to start to reduce climate pollution with the technologies and Natural Climate Solutions currently at our disposal. Second, since this may not be enough to get the job done, or do so in the most efficient and effective manner, we also need a massive R&D push to harness one of our country’s greatest resources: American innovation.
It’s time to stop wringing our hands and start innovating our way out of this mess towards a brighter future. And Senator Alexander’s New Manhattan Project for Clean Energy can help us do that. It doesn’t address our first and most urgent task of rapidly reducing pollution. But it does address the second, priming American innovation.
For climate advocates who want action now, many of whom have rallied to the Green New Deal banner, it may seem backward or insufficient to begin in Congress with the second thing needed, to settle for less than what is required. And we must not settle. We must continue to build a Climate Movement that demands rapid and effective reductions in climate pollution in the near term. We cannot let the current political climate in Congress dictate what is possible; we must change that climate with our Movement.
But that can’t blind us to getting done now in Congress what we can to unleash American innovation. And Senator Alexander’s New Manhattan Project for Clean Energy is an excellent beginning for legislation that has a shot of passing in this Congress. It may not be perfect in everyone’s eyes. Some may object to the inclusion of nuclear; others, to natural gas. These are things to work out in the legislative process. But Green New Dealers would be wise to support the New Manhattan Project moving forward. A revised version can be a strategic part of what’s needed to overcome climate change. You won’t find a more able partner than Senator Alexander.
Let’s join together and get this done.