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White House hopeful Inslee wants to put 'meat on the bone' of Green New Deal

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who is vying to become the Democratic nominee for U.S. president in 2020, said the ambitious Green New Deal proposal for addressing climate change needs more "meat on the bone," something he hopes to do as part of his run for the White House.

Inslee spoke March 20 at the American Council on Renewable Energy's renewable energy policy forum in Washington, D.C. The Washington governor, who announced his presidential bid on March 1, has pledged to make climate change this top priority if elected to the White House.

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Washington Gov. Jay Inslee
Source: AP

While not offering a direct endorsement of the Green New Deal, which seeks to have the U.S. achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions, Inslee said it "has been helpful" in raising attention on climate change and "lifted people's level of ambition" to tackle the issue.

He acknowledged concerns that the plan lacks specificity and may include overly aggressive timelines but compared criticisms of the proposal to people's doubts about former President John F. Kennedy's efforts to place a man on the moon.

"People did not criticize Kennedy because he hadn't designed the retrorockets on the capsule," he said. "This is a push [on] the go button."

But Inslee said a resolution in the U.S. Congress to form a Green New Deal must include more than ambitious targets. "We need a whole suite of policies to put meat on the bone," he said. "We're doing that. I will be talking about that … in the next couple months."

Inslee pointed to a host of policies that Washington and the country as a whole could adopt to tackle global warming, which has become an increasingly big issue for voters. "There is not one silver bullet" for addressing climate change, he said, adding that a price on carbon emissions is just one of several solutions worth considering.

In November 2018, Washington state voters rejected what would have been the country's first direct tax on carbon emissions amid opposition from oil refiners and other energy companies. The tax "did not match voters' desires," according to Inslee. However, the Washington Legislature is advancing several bills that could reduce emissions in the state, including a proposal to require all of the state's power to come from renewable sources by 2045.

On the federal level, the White House contender criticized what he said was an "unlevel playing field" for renewable resources. He said fossil fuel producers have received around $27 billion in federal subsidies, while tax credits for wind and solar power projects are set to expire in the coming years and some emerging technologies have yet to receive such tax benefits.

"We need to continue to help these new industries thrive," he said. "We're not at a point where they can be considered mature industries in my view, particularly battery storage."

Inslee also blasted the Trump administration's proposed cuts to renewable energy research funding, calling the request "a pessimistic view" of U.S. potential. "Jobs in the clean energy sector today are growing twice as fast as the rest of the economy," he said, noting that solar installer in the fastest-growing job, followed by wind turbine technician. "These are jobs for today for a vision of tomorrow and a healthy planet for us to live on."

Inslee is part of a crowded field of competitors for the Democratic nomination for the 2020 presidential race. Although Inslee has been particularly outspoken in his push to address climate change, all leading party contenders have said climate change will be a key focus of their campaigns. But President Donald Trump, who will be defending his hold on the White House, has worked to roll back a wave of federal climate regulations and has dismissed the findings of a recent federal report warning of potential severe economic impacts from global warming.