Letter: The central industrial project of the 21st century will be leaving carbon behind

Published 7:01 am Saturday, May 9, 2020

Today we can see that no single domain offers a better opportunity for decarbonization than the electric power sector. According to the authors of “The Paths to Net Zero in Foriegn Affairs,” our surest path to a decarbonized economy is via electrification. By expanding the electrification of transportation and heating we can get to this point with the technology we already have. Electrifying the economy—in other words, designing more processes to run on electricity rather than the direct combustion of fuels—is essential. It’s essential because when compared with trying to reduce emissions in millions of places where they might occur, it is far easier and more efficient to reduce emissions at a modest number of power plants before distributing the clean electricity by wire.

To close the gap between aspirations and reality, governments will need to embrace what is often called “industrial policy.” In each major emitting sector, elected officials should create public-private partnerships to invest in, test, and deploy possible solutions. Market based approaches such as carbon pricing, international agreements, and research and development should all be deployed. Using and developing all tools is crucial during the industrial project of the 21st century, getting to net zero. The United States can and should lead this century’s defining industrial project. Just as we saw the technological transformation possible by harnessing the power of fossil fuels in the 19th century for industrial growth, we should see this “getting to net zero project” as a matter of equally important industrial engineering.

How can we get a better climate and energy policy? By electing representatives, like Dan Feehan, who will leverage their voting power in Congress to speed our path to net zero and help make this project of getting to net zero an economic (and environmental) win for Minnesota.

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Jason Ludwigson

La Crescent, Minnesota