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Democratic presidential candidates’ climate change proposals may be unrealistic, says Rabe

September 12, 2019

Addressing climate change tops the majority of democratic presidential candidates’ political agendas. The two main policies candidates propose are a full transition to electric vehicles as well as drastically reducing total greenhouse gas emissions. 

Six candidates propose a full transition to electric vehicles by 2030. "What this would look like, and how this would work, probably hasn't been talked about at the dinner table in most communities," says Barry Rabe, professor at the Ford School, in an E&E News article titled “Dems want 100% EVs in a decade. Is that doable?” on September 10. 

Electric vehicles currently amount to two percent of car sales. To foster the switch to electric vehicles, several candidates propose federal tax credits and a car buyback program, allowing consumers to trade-in non-electric vehicles. Nonetheless, increasing electric vehicle consumption from two percent to 100 percent in 10 years would put insurmountable strain on car companies and utilities, making many skeptical. "This would be a huge, massive shift," says Rabe. 

Moreover, two of the democratic presidential candidates propose to bring greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. Some of the candidates may be betting that bold climate plans make for "good politics" during the primaries, said Rabe. Plans such as these could weaken the candidates’ election in states where fossil fuel and car production run the local economy. "What we don't know is whether the nominee will stay the course and keep the plan, or hedge and dial back," he added.

Read the full article here.

Barry Rabe is the J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Professor of Public Policy at the Ford School. He is also the Arthur Thurnau Professor of Environmental Policy and holds courtesy appointments in the Program in the Environment, the Department of Political Science, and the School for Environment and Sustainability. Barry was recently a Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and continues to serve as a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. His research examines climate and energy politics and his newest book, Can We Price Carbon? (MIT Press) was released in spring 2018.