Energy & Environment

Yang climate plan heavily relies on entrepreneurship, nuclear

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s new climate plan places stock in private sector investment and nuclear power to meet its emissions-cutting goals.

According to a plan rolled out Monday morning, Yang would invest billions in the private sector if elected to create technologies needed to curb carbon emissions, such as the creation of new nuclear facilities, and build electric grid resilience to achieve his goal of a “fully green” economy by 2049.

{mosads}The Silicon Valley entrepreneur would invest $50 billion in incentives for private companies to invest in grid infrastructure modernization and $150 billion in upgrading the current electric grid system, according to the plan, through a “race to the top” style competition to “drive innovation.”

Yang’s plan also hinges on the use of nuclear power. His plan calls to break ground on new nuclear reactors by 2027, in part to achieve his timeline of a 100 percent renewable electric grid by 2035. 

The focus largely differs from other presidential climate action plans for its heavy reliance on clean nuclear energy. Some candidates have shied away from calling for nuclear, a divisive topic amongst environmentalists due to the waste it generates. 

Yang said his plan would involve a public relations campaign to show the benefits of nuclear energy, which currently is responsible for one-fifth of all green energy used in the U.S.

“Why does it have such a bad reputation? Two reasons,” Yang’s proposal says of nuclear energy.

“First, the public’s perception of its safety has been skewed by TV shows like Chernobyl and The Simpsons. Second, nuclear waste is dangerous and long-lasting, and disposing of it is expensive. Both points are less of an issue with modern reactors.”

{mosads}Yang has previously said he supports the idea of storing nuclear waste at the hotly debated Yucca Mountain site in Nevada, a position not typically well-received by residents in the presidential battleground state.

Yang’s proposal also calls for the establishment of a carbon tax, a concept few other presidential contenders have outright proposed. 

Yang’s plan would begin a carbon tax at $40 a ton and would increase the rate by $5 a year and then $10 a year under net-zero emissions are achieved. He said the plan would raise “hundreds of billions” annually. Yang would use those profits to pay for large swaths of his climate plan, including residential building upgrades.

Other unique points in his policy include the creation of a “National Lab” system, run under a new Department of Technology, that would be focused on researching and advancing the fight against climate change. A Climate Change Adaptation Institute, with a starting annual budget of $4.5 billion to monitor the effects of climate change and propose resilience measures, would also be created.

Additionally, his plan calls for research investments and grants to help communities that are most likely to be impacted by rising sea levels and wildfires.

“The time to start fighting climate change was decades ago. Because we were irresponsible and didn’t take the threat seriously, we’re past the point where we can avoid some terrible impacts. We need to move to higher ground. Both literally and figuratively,” Yang’s plan reads.

He calls for the investment of $25 billion over 10 years to help likely impacted communities become more resilient to hurricanes and floods. The plan additionally calls for quintupling the U.S. Forest Service’s budget for “at least” five years with a focus on fire prevention.

“By leaving all options on the table, heavily investing in research, and activating the patriotism, entrepreneurial spirit, leadership and community that American is known for, we can make sure that the planet is livable for our children and our children’s children,” reads the plan.

“It’s not going to be easy. It’s not going to be quick. It’s going to be a generational challenge, and there will be a constant need to find ways to make our impact on Earth more sustainable.”

Yang is polling at between 1 and 3 percent in current national polls.

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