U.S. Could Go Net-Zero Carbon For A Fraction Of What It Has Spent On Coronavirus

The United States could achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 with a $600 billion investment, according to a professor’s sneak preview of a Princeton University study due out this fall.
That’s less than a third of the cost so far of the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic, said Assistant Professor Jesse D. Jenkins of Princeton’s Net-Zero America Project.
“What we find in our analysis is that additional investments equal to roughly $600 billion,” Jenkins said in a webinar, “if we spread that $600 billion over ten years, that could be enough to put America on track to achieving our net-zero greenhouse-gas goal by 2050.”
“Which, to put in context, is only 30% of the Covid-relief spending to date,” he added, “and relief spending that's likely to increase substantially in the coming months.”
It will be much more expensive for the U.S. to separate its responses to coronavirus recovery and climate change, Jenkins said, than to align them.
The country’s first effort must be to more than double its electricity generation from carbon-free sources, the study will recommend, which would lift the carbon-free portfolio from 40 percent today to between 60 and 75 percent by 2030.
Much of that growth would come in the wind and solar industries, which could add 3 million jobs if the U.S. promotes them at that scale. Many more jobs could be added in energy transmission and by electrifying transportation and home heating.
The U.S. could leverage the zero interest-rate environment to re-tool American manufacturing to make electric cars and heat pumps.
“If we do this right, this push could help onshore high-skill manufacturing jobs,” he said, “and create a more localized supply chain that's less vulnerable to future disruptions whether from pandemics or climate-related disasters.”
The study will also recommend retooling idle oil and gas drillers and infrastructure to develop geothermal energy and to build a network of pipelines to carry captured CO2 from power plants and factories to sequestration sites in the Gulf Coast and Dakotas.
“The coronavirus has caused a profound shock to our economy, and I want to be clear this clean-energy effort alone cannot put America back to work,” Jenkins said.
“Nor will near-term stimulus measures over the next few years be sufficient to fund the decades-long effort to build a net-zero carbon economy. Yet an ambitious course of action today can help confront both climate change and the COVID challenges at once and point our nation toward a cleaner and more resilient future.”
Watch the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment’s webinar on “Parallels Between Covid-19 and Climate Change”:

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