Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren dropped yet another environmental proposal on Tuesday, pitching a variety of ocean-related conservation and energy plans under the banner of what she terms a “Blue New Deal.”
“While the ocean is severely threatened, it can also be a major part of the climate solution — from providing new sources of clean energy to supporting a new future of ocean farming,” the plan reads. “A Blue New Deal must be an essential part of a Green New Deal.”
The proposal includes support for mainstream clean energy technologies, namely offshore wind, as well as more out-there proposals to boost wave energy and biofuels made from algae.
Warren’s campaign cites statistics that offshore wind off the coast of New England could provide 36,000 full-time jobs in the U.S. by 2030. Though only one project is currently in operation — the 30-megawatt Block Island farm off the coast of Rhode Island — developers including Vineyard Wind, Equinor and Ørsted have major offshore installations in the works.
State targets for offshore wind now top 20 gigawatts. To smooth the way to meeting and exceeding those targets, Warren said her administration would “streamline and fast-track permitting.”
Vineyard Wind's 800-megawatt project, which has an offtake contract in Massachusetts, hit a snag this summer when the federal government ordered more environmental impact studies, potentially delaying the entire market's takeoff.
An easier path to development wouldn’t mean shortcuts under Warren's plan, however; the Blue New Deal promises rigorous environmental impact assessments and community benefit agreements that guarantee the positive impacts from the projects would flow back into local economies.
Warren supports extending federal clean energy tax credits, but under the plan, incentives available to offshore wind would be contingent on the project benefiting nearby communities.
“I’ll insist on a clawback provision if a company doesn’t hold up its end of the deal,” says Warren in the plan.
Ensuring local economic benefits is among the numerous justice-focused aspects of the Blue New Deal — a nod to the framing of the original Green New Deal. In the energy sector, those benefits include guaranteeing jobs in local communities. Warren also suggests electrifying ports to reduce pollution impacts to frontline communities.
Alongside support for offshore clean energy and electrification, a Warren administration would also end new permits for offshore drilling through an executive order and work to phase out existing leases. During that phaseout period, tougher well safety rules revived from the Obama era would govern operations.
The administration would focus on transitioning that industry’s supply chain to boost offshore wind, the materials for which Warren plans to manufacture in the U.S. under her $2 trillion green manufacturing plan released in June. Part of that plan, a $400 billion “Green Apollo Program,” would provide research and development funds for clean energy, including nascent technologies like wave energy — a sector that so far has had few successes and many bankruptcies.
While the clean energy industry is likely to applaud Warren’s overarching goals — the plan already won praise from the American Wind Energy Association, the industry’s largest trade group — much of the likelihood of their coming to fruition will rest on the powers of Congress. A president can make some headway through executive orders, but only legislators can enshrine presidential priorities in law.
Warren’s plan also recognizes that ocean conservation is a global endeavor, with two-thirds of ocean waters existing outside of any national jurisdiction. The plan’s unveiling comes amid international climate talks in Madrid, where global economies are scrambling to piece together an agreement on climate collaboration and action. A United Nations report published this year laid out grim conclusions on the state of the world’s oceans, finding that surface temperatures have been increasing significantly while sea levels are also rising.
As the last days of the talks draw near, participating countries are still working to find common ground on a plan for carbon markets as well as eliciting renewed pledges to strengthen national emissions-reduction targets. The Trump administration has been a notorious detractor of those meetings, but having a Democrat in the White House would turn that around. Specifically, Warren promises in the Blue New Deal to ratify the Law of the Sea treaty, which fosters international cooperation on the world’s oceans, as well as vowing to join the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification.
“Once we rejoin the Paris Agreement,” Warren promises, “I will use the United States’ leadership on the international stage to champion how the ocean can play a vital role as a critical climate solution.”