COUNTDOWN TO CAUCUS: Democrats offer subtle differences in environmental policy
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COUNTDOWN TO CAUCUS: Democrats offer subtle differences in environmental policy

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Iowa Democrats regularly list the environment as one of their top voting issues.

But finding daylight among the presidential candidates’ environmental policies can be challenging. It’s not uncommon to hear a candidate talk about a “Green New Deal,” but the details of those policies vary by candidate.

Most of the Democratic presidential candidates have said they would use executive authority to put the U.S. back into the international pact for countries to address climate change known as the Paris Climate Agreement. They support myriad renewable energy programs and initiatives, including a robust federal ethanol mandate, a favorite program in Iowa.

The differences, indeed, are subtle.

For example, many of the candidates say the U.S. should set a goal of net-zero carbon emissions: balancing the amount of carbon dioxide humans put into the planet’s atmosphere with corresponding greenhouse gas reductions.

But there is a subtle difference in the candidates’ timelines: Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden say the goal can be achieved by 2050, while Elizabeth Warren sets a more aggressive timeline of 2030.

Some candidates, like Pete Buttigieg, have expressed support for a carbon tax — an additional tax on businesses that burn carbon-based fuels like coal, gas and oil.

Bernie Sanders, as another example, has called for raising taxes on polluters without specifically calling it a carbon tax.

Many of the candidates also pledge to reduce tax subsidies for carbon-based fuel industries.

Tom Steyer has pledged to make climate policy his No. 1 priority. The California businessman in 2013 started a national advocacy group for climate-friendly policy, and said as president he would on Day 1 declare climate change a national emergency.

Iowa farmers may be interested to hear the candidates’ positions on carbon sequestration: removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it in the soil. Buttigieg and Sanders, for example, support paying or offering incentives to farmers who engage in the practice.

Graham Ambrose is the Iowa politics reporter for the Quad-City Times. 


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