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Without a price on carbon, he said, “everything we do on climate is, in a sense, window dressing”

by Allen Best

Colorado Sen. John Hickenlooper on Tuesday said he believes there’s a 50-50 chance that that reconciliation process being used to advance sweeping legislation through Congress will put a price on carbon.

“That would be a hallmark of the reconciliation package if we can get that done,” said Hickenlooper, a Democrat who took office in January after eight years as governor of Colorado.

Without a price on carbon, he said, “everything we do on climate is, in a sense, window dressing,” he said in a video-conference sponsored by the Clean Energy Business Network.

“But a price on carbon with tariffs so that we can help the rest of the world follow our lead, that would be a powerful incentive so the global community will help us deal with this head on. This is the foundation of everything,“ he said.

It’s by no means a sure thing, he said, but it’s “probably 50-50, to be honest.”

Early on, said Hickenlooper, some people were skeptical that a carbon price could advance through Congress as part of this sweeping package. That included White House staffers. “They’re coming around,” he added.

The video-conference offered no opportunity for questions from viewers.

Hickenlooper said he believed the Senate will pass both the reconciliation and infrastructure bills but, in the case of the former, it had a hard time figuring out which was first, the cart or the horse. As for reconciliation, he suggests a final package at $1.8 trillion to $2 trillion. And because of changes in the tax code,” this will allow us to build back better in a way that we can look America in the eye and say, ‘This is all paid for.’”

The bipartisan infrastructure bill has $73 billion for rebuilding and expanding the grid, significant resources for charging stations for electrified vehicles, and other incentives that Hickenlooper said will be necessary to accelerate vehicle electrification.

But Hickenlooper also cautioned about coming challenges. He cited spiking prices for fossil fuels in coming months that will almost certainly make it more expensive to heat homes and for automobile commuters.

Most of the session was devoted on the federal legislation’s potential impact on acceleration of vehicle electrification.

COSSA advertisement“In the coming decades, internal combustion engines are all going to disappear. That’s a fact, said Doug Campbell, chief executive of Solid Power, a Louisville-based company intent on producing all-solid-state rechargeable batteries for electric vehicles and mobile power markets.

Batteries—now exclusively lithium-ion— constitute the most valuable component of electric cars, he said, and they are not produced in the United States or even by U.S.-based companies. “This is an opportunity to change that supply-side dynamic,” he said. He called for a public-private partnership—but not to support lithium-ion batteries, but instead the new technology, including the produce his company is developing.

“The next stage of production will require some form of public-private partnership,” he said.

The National Energy Renewable Laboratory has been engaged in working on solid-state batteries and charging infrastructure, said Johney Green, the associate laboratory director for mechanical and thermal engineering sciences. He pointed out that the cost of lithium-ion batteries has dropped more than 90% during the last decade. “But we have more work to do.”

RJ Harrington is trying to help the charging infrastructure as a business developer for National Car Charging. He talked about the financial and other dynamics driving decisions about charging infrastructure.

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