President Biden has quickly followed through on his commitment to address climate change with a series of executive orders aimed at undoing the policies of the Trump administration and appointments across the government to carry out his ambitious agenda. But his plans will also require the approval of Congress to provide the necessary funding and legislative authority.
Given the political divides in Washington, there are plenty of questions about Biden’s ability to win over the new Congress even with his party in charge of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
In this edition of Columbia Energy Exchange, host Bill Loveless is joined by Heidi Heitkamp, a former Democratic senator from North Dakota, for some informed insight on the dynamics on Capitol Hill. Senator Heitkamp is known as a middle-of-the-road politician, one who worked with Republicans as well as members of her own party in search of legislative solutions. Among her priorities then and now is a commitment to making sure rural states like North Dakota have a say in national debates over major issues like energy and climate change.
She served in the Senate from 2013 to 2019, and had assignments on the Agriculture, Banking and Homeland Security committees. Earlier in her career, she was an attorney for the Environmental Protection Agency before completing two terms as North Dakota state tax commissioner and two terms as the state’s attorney general. After leaving Congress, she co-founded the One Country Project to reopen rural dialogue between voters and Democrats.
Recently, the Bipartisan Policy Center named Senator Heitkamp co-chair of its new Farm and Forest Carbon Solutions Task Force and the University of Chicago Institute of Politics made her a 2021 Pritzker Fellow.
Among the topics Bill and Senator Heitkamp discuss are the prospects for President Biden’s priorities for funding and legislation to curb greenhouse gas emissions and promote cleaner forms of energy, including new jobs. Bill and Senator Heitkamp also talk about some of her former colleagues in Congress and their potential influence on energy and climate issues, as well as the outlook for oil and natural gas and the potential for emerging technologies like carbon capture and sequestration.
Bill Loveless: Hello and welcome to the Columbia Energy Exchange, a weekly podcast from the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. From Washington, I’m Bill Loveless. President Biden has quickly followed through on his commitment to address climate change with a series of executive orders aimed at undoing the policies of the Trump administration and appointments across government to carry out his ambitious agenda. But his plans will also require the approval of Congress to provide the necessary funding and legislative authority. And given the political divides in Washington, there are plenty of questions about Biden's ability to win over the new Congress, even with his party in charge of the Senate and the House of Representatives. To get some informed insight on the dynamics on Capitol Hill, I sought out Heidi Heitkamp, a former Democratic senator from North Dakota. Heitkamp is known as a middle of the road politician, one who worked with Republicans as well as members of her own party in search of legislative solutions. Among her priorities, then, and now is a commitment to making sure rural states like North Dakota have a say in national debates over major issues like energy and climate change. She served in the senate from 2013 to 2019, including assignments on the agriculture, banking and homeland security committees. Earlier in her career, she was an attorney for the Environmental Protection Agency, before completing two terms as North Dakota's State Tax Commissioner and two terms as the State's Attorney General. After leaving Congress, she cofounded the one country project to reopen rural dialogue between voters and Democrats. Recently, the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington named Senator Heitkamp, cochair of its new Farm and Forest Carbon Solutions Task Force and the University of Chicago Institute of Politics recently made her a 2021 Pritzker fellow. Well, here's our conversation. I hope you enjoy. Senator Heidi Heitkamp, welcome to Columbia Energy Exchange.
Heidi Heitkamp: Thank you so much for inviting me and thank you for the great work that you do. I think it's so important that we have this kind of academic review of what's happening in energy. I think a lot of people think they know stuff, when there's really amazing things happening. And Columbia is right on the vanguard of all of it.
Bill Loveless: Thank you very much. And we appreciate the opportunity to talk to people like you, especially at these busy times. We’re just rolling off the inauguration of President Biden the other day and vice president Kamala Harris. Were you back for the inauguration?
Heidi Heitkamp: I was, I had a chance, I’m grateful that committee sent Former members tickets, and this is my sixth or seventh inaugural, and each one takes on a different flair. And so, it was great to see old friends. But mainly, it was great to see the first woman sworn in as Vice President. I hope that I live long enough to see the first woman sworn in as President. And Joe Biden's a dear old friend. And I just am so grateful to the voters of this country for turning the page and making the presidency about America again.
Bill Loveless: Well, President Biden comes to office with a lot of ambitious plans and enormous tasks before him. Top of the list of course is dealing with this pandemic. But climate change is one of his priorities as well. And his plans, we’re seeing them roll out so far with executive actions and more appointments than we can really keep track of right now. But his plan will also require approval by closely divided Congress. What will be the political atmosphere for his climate agenda on Capitol Hill?
Heidi Heitkamp: You know, I would tell you, I came to the Senate in 2012, or actually 13, you know, over seven years ago, and at the time, there was just a huge gaping Grand Canyon between the two sides, one believing that this was an existential threat. The other side believing that this was all a hoax, I would tell you that the movement has definitely bent towards this as an existential threat. We saw Minority Leader McCarthy come out with a climate plan. He knows that young voters really care about this issue. If the Republican Party is going to be competitive, they're going to have to have a plan. Plan is pretty heavy on carbon capture, sequestration and utilization, but yet it's an acknowledgment that climate is an issue that needs to be tackled. And I think more and more groups and industry is moving in that direction. And I think as a result, more of our citizens are moving in that direction, dragging some of the folks in the Republican Party with them.
Bill Loveless: Well, in his inaugural address, President Biden made a call for unity, you know, as a Democrat from a conservative state, as a spokesperson for rural issues, how do we find common ground on Energy and Climate?
Heidi Heitkamp: Well, I think I think it's a lot easier than what people think. You know, I believe that, in fact, I can tell you, the North Dakota Association of Rural Co-ops, basically did a public opinion poll, you know, for the last 20 years, and people in North Dakota overwhelmingly believe climates an issue to be tackled. The question that they have is, how do you do it? How do you do it in a way that doesn't raise my energy costs? How do you do it in a way that doesn't cost jobs for so many of our citizens who work in the energy field? But how do we, I mean, what's the plan look like? And the more what they see extreme the plan is, the more they retreat from the issue altogether, and I think, a broad plan, which I think, you know, I look at people like Jennifer Granholm, I look at people who are heading up this effort, who really understand the need to have a dialogue and actually create a benefit to our part of the country as we began to tackle climate. Bill you may not know this, but I've signed on with the Bipartisan Policy Center, along with Saxby Chambliss to look at how agriculture and forestry could be part of the climate discussion, and I will tell you, I'm going to be talking to the corn growers. I'm going to be talking to the Farm Bureau, but everybody's ready to listen. I'm not saying they're ready to jump on any plan that comes by, but they are definitely interested in what does this mean for me? And how can we help?
Bill Loveless: Yeah, Saxby Chambliss of course is a former Republican Senator, from the State of Georgia. You know, you're from an oil producing state, the number two oil producing state still, despite some decline, in the past year or so. Um, the President has made some rather bold moves on oil in his first days, I mean, he, you know, he is decided to not permit the Keystone Pipeline, the project that you had supported when you were Senator. In the past day or so, the Interior Department under this new administration has placed a 60-day freeze on oil and gas, leasing and permitting on federal lands. How does that sit with you when you talk of trying to find middle ground?
Heidi Heitkamp: Well, I think the people who would exploit, you know, people who would say, politically, see, we told you so I would say, take a deep breath. You know, I find it interesting on Keystone XL, that it was such a significant and urgent issue that one of the first things President Trump did, when he came to office, one of the first things he did was what permitted the Keystone XL pipeline. It is four years later, and it's not built. So maybe we ought to think about why isn't it built even though they had permission for those four years. And I would say the economics of that pipeline have completely changed since it was first proposed. And as we look at what's happening in the Permian, and looking at what's happening in the Bakken, with shale plays, you know, that the ability to produce domestic oil and the ability to kind of move that oil to market now that we've opened up oil export markets, has been kind of, it has changed the dynamics of what happens with oil or tar sands oil up in Canada, which is what the Keystone XL pipeline would carry. And so I would say everybody should kind of think about why it's not built after four years, and whether this changes anything. But I will tell you, I would worry less about the domestic oil industry and their reaction, and more about the reaction of the trade unions and people who really thought that they were going to have a project that would bring jobs. And so, if President Biden does, in fact, follow this up with a very robust, very aggressive infrastructure plan that replaces those potential jobs with different kinds of infrastructure jobs. I think that some of the reaction would definitely be muted. On federal lands, you know, it's interesting because when oil prices are low, you don't tend to see people going out exploring, right? And right now, in the oil patch, what we're doing is basically producing. We know where the oil is, we know how to get the oil out of the ground. And not a lot of people are investing in expanding or wildcatting, old phrase that a lot of people don't use anymore, but wildcatting oil and so I don't think you're going to see a lot of reaction to begin with. But I think there's going to be concerned about what happens offshore, I think there's going to be concerned about whether there's a regulatory environment on nonfederal lands that would inhibit production and expansion of these oil fields.
Bill Loveless: Yeah. So I mean, generally speaking then on oil and gas, I mean, do you think that sector -- how does that sector fare under the Biden administration?
Heidi Heitkamp: Well, I think you see the oil and gas industry basically doing what coal didn't do to their detriment. They're coming to the table on climate. They're saying, how can you know, I teach students and I just got off around at Brown University, and I asked students, I said, If I could guarantee you that electricity generated by natural gas had zero carbon impact, would you be okay, with natural gas? They kind of looked at me because it was like, beyond their imagination, that that could be a true statement. But we know with the development of more, you know, what's happening with air capture of co2, what's happening with better, you know, kind of delivery of technologies in the carbon capture area, there may still be a role, but I think that the oil industry and the natural gas industry have accepted that they have to be part of the solution. So I think they're going to be much more willing to not look for a political solution. But look for a technological regulatory solution. You know, still a lot of talk about a carbon tax. I would tell you, I'm not a big believer that's ever going to happen. But it does raise the question about how do we calculate the cost of the externalities and how do we drive those costs back to people who consume. For the oil industry, if I'm offering advice, and I won't have to do that anywhere, because I'm not a Senator from North Dakota, take a look what's happening globally with the movement to electric vehicles. And we know that oil and gas, especially oil is -- the market is being driven by transportation. And the more we see transportation, moving towards electric vehicles, I think, the more that market is going to diminish and we always say this at Columbia. And I love what you do there. Because when I started in working with the oil and gas industry, we would always say, okay, what's the price going to be? What's the price going to be? Because that would drive development or investment. Now we say, when are we going to globally hit peak oil demand? And that's a big question. And I think that if you talk to people, I think it's going to come sooner rather than later. And that's going to be a challenge for the oil and gas industry, based on their market more than regulation or climate control.
Bill Loveless: Right. Well, you mentioned carbon capture. I do want to get back to that, because I know that's a topic near and dear to your heart, but first, just getting back to Congress. I mean, what do you think? What's Congress likely to accomplish this year on climate, on energy, either through spending packages, budget reconciliation, or some sort of broad energy legislation?
Heidi Heitkamp: I think they're likely to include elements of Biden's climate plan within the infrastructure. I think anytime you can talk about these projects as infrastructure projects and one of the interesting kind of maybe possible things is looking at Jay Inslee’s idea of a Climate Corps, training up people for the new green jobs, making sure that young people who want to participate in the whole effort to reduce our carbon footprint are given an opportunity to do energy conservation, looking at building codes, looking at kind of mandating certain standards before we will invest in projects. I think those are the things that are possible. And you might say, well, they're around the edges. But all of this works pretty significantly and you know, the work that you're doing at Columbia to try and do cost benefit on various strategies on carbon, I think is so valuable and I think that Congress needs to be very aware of the work that's being done. Academic and intellectual work that's being done on where's the best investment, the best bang for the buck?
Bill Loveless: Right. Well, the President has said just the other day of executive orders, which he's signing a slew of these days. He said, they are important, but we're going to need legislation for a lot of the things we're going to do. So you…
Heidi Heitkamp: Can I just mention something on the executive orders, because a lot of people are saying CCC. And I'm like a lot of those executive orders are reversals of executive orders that President Trump signed. And I think it is a cautionary tale that if you simply think that policy can be driven by politics, that there's not permanency to that. And so working a deal and getting a broad bipartisan consensus on a deal, means there's more permanency to it, and it's going to have, you're going to have a better result.
Bill Loveless: So in terms of that legislation, you don't see any big pieces of legislation, anything along the lines of a carbon tax, or maybe I don't know, the standard, clean energy standard of some sort, you see more likely to be working through individual bills, working on infrastructure, promoting green energy and jobs in that way.
Heidi Heitkamp: If I could pass one piece of legislation, it would be a hard, fast carbon goal. And then sit down and you know, there's always this idea that we know all the answers in Congress or in Washington, I think there's a tremendous number of people both in academic institutions and across the corporate world that have really good ideas and say, Look, don't, you know, this was my complaint about Clean Power Plan, Clean Power Plan was completely top down driven. And I kept saying to Gina McCarthy, look, you are investing a lot of political capital in a plan where coal fired power plants are going to shutter, they're going to close. And so you're putting all your eggs in that basket saying, see what we're doing on climate and as a net result, number one, it got reversed to get that, you know, prevented by the courts from being implemented and then eventually repealed by the Trump administration. But more importantly, we're seeing fewer and fewer electrons generated by coal. And that's being driven by the economics and by the competition from natural gas. What I would say is, let's be smart about what that carbon plan is, and not just knee jerk, the ideology that comes so often with contentious issues like climate control.
Bill Loveless: Yeah. Well, the President has set goals, I mean, net zero emissions by 2050, for example, and he has set a goal for the electric power.
Heidi Heitkamp: But we need a national not, not President Biden saying it, we did a national consensus on goals. And this is where industry and academic folks can really help push to set a national target. You know, when we look at Paris, Paris was a deal signed by the administration, was never approved by Congress. It didn't have to be approved by Congress, because it was, as we said, hortatory, it was aspirational.
Bill Loveless: Do you think it should have been approved by…
Heidi Heitkamp: I don't, I actually, I actually had this argument with several of my Republican colleagues who wanted me to sign on something saying that it was meaningless without it, I said, so, you know, it's aspirational. It's not there. If we want a real climate plan, we have to have a climate plan that is recognized by everybody and public policy, from one end of the spectrum, from the industry to academicians who feel very strongly that this is an existential threat.
Bill Loveless: You mentioned consensus. So do you think there's the president with his 36 years in the Senate before he was Vice President, do you think he has still has the chops to bring about work that sort of consensus?
Heidi Heitkamp: Well, you know, the Senate, he hasn't been in the Senate for now 12 years? Right. And I would tell you, the Senate is a different place than it was 12 years ago, he may have a sense that he can do a deal. My advice is get the hell out of Washington. You know, sit down with the mayors, sit down with the governor's say, Okay, what sit down with the industry, sit down with constituency groups, and build this plan from the outside in. Because, you know, Mitch McConnell may want to do a deal with this president. He may be very willing and seems very willing based on their past relationship. But I would tell you, he also has four or five guys in his caucus who get up in the morning and look in the mirror and see a president. And they're going to do everything that they can to be the opposition. And so to me, you have to do this the right way. And that is build a national consensus around a plan, and then work that plan in Congress, as opposed to going to Congress, hat in hand saying, please, please, please work with me. You know, I'd love to say everybody's ready to Kumbaya-and call me cynical, I was there for six years. Never saw it in six years.
Bill Loveless: What are you hearing from some of your former colleagues in the Senate on this issue?
Heidi Heitkamp: Well, I think there's broad consensus within the Democratic Caucus, and that this is climate is an issue that needs to be tackled, needs to be a high priority. Of course, within that caucus, there's a range of ideas on how you get there. And so, you know, one thing, think about this, think about how hard it was that Jeanne Shaheen and Rob Portman's energy conservation bill could never get a vote. In six years that I was there, we kept saying, oh, we're going to do it. Now, we're going to do it.
Bill Loveless: A bill that didn't seem all that controversial when you looked at it?
Heidi Heitkamp: No, there was nothing controversial about it. And we know conservation is the low hanging fruit in climate. And so what I would say is, there's a general acceptance, I think that there is a real interest in coming to some kind of terms. And I think there's Republicans on the other side, whether there's enough that can, in fact, step forward. I think the group that I was part of, the Common Sense caucus, really, I think will play an outsized role, you saw already that they're meeting, a lot of that's going to be about COVID, and about economic stimulus about economic recovery. But climate is a huge part of that. And the more you can get your climate idea in that stimulus, the more you can get your climate idea moving forward on infrastructure, I think the more successful you're going to be.
Bill Loveless: I’d like to note, some of those big players are in the Senate, starting with Joe Manchin, the Senator Democrat from West Virginia, who will be the chairman of the Senate Energy Committee. Many ways there's a lot like you, I think, in terms of his politics, and you know, he is…
Heidi Heitkamp: He's meaner than I am.
Bill Loveless: [Laughter]. Well, I do remember, I do remember Senator Manchin from taking a shot literally at the cap-and-trade bill when he was running for the Senate back in 2012 or so.
Heidi Heitkamp: You know, everybody kind of miss you know, Joe is a dealmaker. He believes climate is an existential threat. He believes climate is a huge, huge problem that needs to be tackled. But he also wants permanency to those solutions. And so I expect him to be playing a pretty outsized role and that will be good for the country. You know, I think everybody looks at him and says, Oh, he's all about coal. You know, I don't think that's true. I mean, basically, what he's saying is, we helped build the country. And we paid in many ways, black lung, minor accidents, we paid for that, West Virginia did. What is in it for us? And I think the more people can say, this is what we're going to do for the state of West Virginia, to compensate on the loss of those energy jobs, to help the state recover economically and reward the state for the great work that they did in delivering affordable energy. I think the more you're going to get Joe’s ear.
Bill Loveless: Yeah. How do you do that, though, that's been talked about for a long time. It's obviously a big part of the President's agenda these days, economic justice, along with racial justice, and treating fairly those communities, whether they are former coal communities or low-income communities, or others who have been disadvantaged for any number of reasons. A lot of talk about that over the years. But I mean, when you get down to it, what's the best way to fix that? What kinds of policies are needed?
Heidi Heitkamp: I mean, I think investment in education, always, investment in health care and investment in young people. And then taking a look, you know, if Tesla really wants a climate solution, sit down with the folks in West Virginia saying what can we do for Tesla to create, what can Tesla do for West Virginia to create an economic opportunity? I think it's going to create, I think it's going to require not just public investment, but a lot of private commitment to places. You know, people say, Oh, this corporation really cares about climate, I want to say, then go to states like North Dakota in West Virginia and the Permian Basin, and where we are producing a lot of energy out of New Mexico and sit down and say this is what we're willing to do to help you economically recover, bringing high tech jobs, bringing new manufacturing jobs, so don't come empty handed. And with an idea that well, you're just going to have to put up with it, come with some ideas and come up with real solutions, not we're going to retrain you to, you know, do wind towers mean, they've been through this after NAFTA, a lot of the manufacturing belt has been through this. And the retraining wasn't successful. And so we've got to start pursuing economic opportunity, real economic opportunity in places that have been hit by trade, that have been hit by conversions in industries like energy.
Bill Loveless: Well, I'd like to touch on a couple of other former colleagues of yours who will be chairing committees, Tom Carper of Delaware, he will be the new chairman of the Senate Environment Committee and Ron Wyden, Oregon, will be chairing Finance Committee Taxes. It seems like they will have a big say in the President's climate agenda.
Heidi Heitkamp: And both really committed to the climate agenda. Tom, obviously a long time very, very personal and close relationship with the president, having come from Delaware and served with this president. So Tom also is somebody who is a great listener, who believes that there's always a solution to any problem, and that we can move the country forward. Ron's never hidden his agenda. You could go out and google it on taxes, you can find out what his agenda is, comes from a state that is very concerned about climate, but also concerned about trade and concerned about economic development. And so I would I think Oregon sometimes gets misunderstood. Everybody thinks Oregon is Portland, I went to school in Oregon. I know what Eastern Oregon looks like and what the political attitudes are. And so there's a real opportunity to address -- I guess what I would say with Ron, you know, he's not just the Senator for Portland. He is a Senator for all of Oregon. And he knows that.
Bill Loveless: And of course, your former Minority Leader, now the Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, you know, he has been pretty outspoken on what he would like to do on this topic. He said recently, make no mistake, the Senate will forcefully, relentlessly and urgently address the greatest threat to this country and to our planet, climate change. How does he handle this?
Heidi Heitkamp: Well, I mean, I, again, with results, with that, you know, and if people won't come and won't be collaborative, I think they're going to look at reconciliation. They're looking at everything that they can, but the great thing, and I and I mean this honestly, if you're a Republican, and you're in your 30s or 40s, and you're looking at voting issues into the future, if you're not paying attention and responding to climate, you are not addressing one of the major concerns of future voters, those millennials and generation x's, they care about this issue. And that's why you see people like McCarthy coming up with their plan, but it's got to be real. And so I just think that I just see the stars aligning for some real collaboration on this issue. And it doesn't need to be as contentious as what people think.
Bill Loveless: Who among the Republican Senators should we look to for engagement on energy and climate issues? You know, one comes to mind, he certainly doesn't fit in that age category mentioned, but as John Barrasso of Wyoming, he's the top Republican on the Energy Committee and one of the leaders of the Republican caucus.
Heidi Heitkamp: Well, yeah, and John was a great partner of mine. Well, we did 45Q, the carbon capture, but he also has a coal producing state. They don't have a lot of oil in Wyoming. And so I think you have to look again, to what is the replacement economy for what you have, he will be very disappointed and I haven't seen his comments yet on federal leasing. Federal leasing is much bigger in the State of Wyoming than it is in the State of North Dakota. And it's really important for people to understand that that issue, you know, how you feel about that issue really varies by state, and varies by how many, how much acreage we have that's federal land. So I think I wouldn't look so much to Barrasso I'd look to you know, I, for the life of me, don't understand why some of the most aggressive Republicans aren't people from Florida. I mean, if you look at climate and who's going to get hit, you know, New York can probably build a seawall because they live on granite. Guess what Florida lives on, they live on sand. And the elevation changes across Florida are minimal. And the vast majority of Floridians live, you know, within 10 feet of sea level. So this is an issue. I think you've got to engage with communities like my great friend Sheldon Whitehouse says. Sheldon, Sheldon will go anywhere and talk to anybody. And people say why is he so engaged, I said, because the name of his state is Rhode Island. You know, the sea level matters greatly in Rhode Island. And not that he wouldn't care anyway, but clearly find those states that are going to be most dramatically hit, hurt within the hurricane belt, within the tornado belt, you know, make the case that we're already suffering ramifications from the change in climate, and that we have to address them, whether it is new paths in grains that we see up in my part of the world or in Montana, down to weather patterns that are unexplainable in other parts of the country and the tornado belt, and then looking at hurricanes and sea level increases. And I think we can make an argument that you're already seeing the consequence, time to do something about it. And so you’ve got two avenues, you can address climate and reduce carbon and you also have mitigate the current results of what's happening. And as we work very, very diligently to develop technologies, things like direct air capture, that someday could be hugely significant in reducing not just our emissions, but also pulling some co2 out of the air. We have to we have to work together with a plan for mitigation and a plan for prevention.
Bill Loveless: You mentioned Senator Whitehouse, and I've mentioned this probably several times on this podcast. But I've been struck by the fact that Whitehouse and others from that the left side of the Democratic Party worked with Barrasso, Senator Capito from West Virginia and Inhofe from Oklahoma, Republicans, conservative Republicans on bills, much of which was incorporated into a rather huge energy section and a stimulus bill that passed the Congress in December that included carbon capture, included nuclear energy, renewable energy. You know, is that a sign of what's possible in Congress in terms of bipartisan agreement or am I making too much of that?
Heidi Heitkamp: No, I think it's huge. I mean, kind of that relationship started with 45Q and the expansion of 45Q, they realized that you can be maybe a little agnostic on fuel source, if you look at being pro technology. And I think that it is hard to if you're from a state like Wyoming or West Virginia, or even North Dakota, big coal states. It's hard to think that you have a path forward for that industry, without technology.
Bill Loveless: Yeah, the carbon capture still remains controversial in some circles. This administration has included CCS, carbon capture and sequestration, in its national and international climate energy plans. What do you see as the role for carbon management of all kinds in an energy transition?
Heidi Heitkamp: Well, I mean, I think it's where the sweet spot is. And so there is so much information out there about new technologies and what's happening. And I think, again, I always just tell my students, tell anyone who’ll listen, you need to be agnostic about fuel source, and think about carbon. You know, Julio Friedmann not a stranger at all, to the folks at Columbia. When people say, Well, why do you work in fossils, Julio, if you care so much about climate. He says, I go where the carbon is, I go where the carbon is, that's where the carbon is. And that he, you know, the work that he's done in so many people, especially at Columbia, to really address the kind of future of what is possible now and what needs to happen now. It's just exciting. It's exciting. And I think everybody should be optimistic and not say, here we go again, it's just going to be the same old, same old. I think people like Sheldon, who have worked very hard to create relationships doesn't mean that they're always going to be there. But as the business community comes forward and says this the priority, that's going to help drive priorities for Republican legislators.
Bill Loveless: Right, Julio, of course heads the research that's done at the Center on Global Energy Policy on carbon capture issues. You sponsored that 45Q Tax Credit Amendment for carbon capture the Internal Revenue services, finally provided guidance for the credits and the Congress has extended some of the key provisions there. What's the future of that legislation? Does it serve as a template for legislating in a divided Congress?
Heidi Heitkamp: I think we're always going to have to figure out what needs to be tweaked, one of the things that we knew when it happened is if you don't give certainty that the credits are real, or if they think that we're going to make these investments in technology, and then the IRS is going to come back with a rule that says no, because you haven't provided certainty. You know there's the challenges of the IRS, along with working with agencies like the EPA to determine whether in fact, those projects are meaningful in terms of climate solutions, which they should be. But I think, again, you know, public policy is done two ways. There's a carrot, there's a stick. 45Q is a carrot, it's like, come with us, we'll help you become competitive. And I always tell people probably the first use that I expect in North Dakota of 45Q is going to come in an ethanol plant. And people forget that one of the things that we did with the amendment for that section was expanded beyond in oil recovery and made it possible for cement plants to use it, for ethanol plants to use it, for other industrial emitters. People always just look at coal, but 20% of industrial co2 emissions come from cement. So you can't just look at transportation fuels and say, well, that's going to solve the problem.
Bill Loveless: Now, before we go, I wanted to ask you about your students. You been teaching at Brown University, and I'm interested in what sort of, I'll be honest with you, I don't know what you what you taught at Brown. But what you hear from students, when you talk about these issues, climate, energy, politics, those things.
Heidi Heitkamp: I think they are so hungry to understand why what they see, as such a serious threat doesn't seem to get the attention. And, I tell them look, make it a voting issue. You want the -- there's a reason why you don't see Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security cut. That's because older people vote and so younger people need to vote on -- need to see this as part of their legacy. But mainly, I think they want meaningful solutions. They're not as ideological as people think they are. They're being driven, and certainly in that institution, by data. The same is true, with very few exceptions. When I was at Harvard, same thing was true. And I'm seeing it now I've finished my fellowship at Brown. Now I'm over at Chicago, talking to a whole new group of students. And that's fun. But, you know, kind of…
Bill Loveless: You're working your way across the country?
Heidi Heitkamp: Yeah, yeah. Well, I think this might be it. I think I'm wearing out my academic welcome. I always laugh Bill, because I say, they're letting me do this. And institutions I probably couldn't have got into, [Laughter] into when I graduated from high school. So that's been kind of fun. But, you know, I think that the people who run the institutes of politics in those three institutions really want to expose the students to a much broader, you know, not ideological, kind of fact data driven kind of discussion. And that's really what we do. I think I find some people naive, some students naive, but they're rare. There's, they're, they're really very, very sophisticated in their understanding of the issue, and their willingness to listen to an alternative point of view.
Bill Loveless: And many young people were interested in the Green New Deal, you know, the very progressive platform, I think many would give credit to the Green New Deal for elevating the discussion of Climate Change, certainly in Washington and across the rest of the country. But how does that, where do you see those sorts of thoughts fitting in these days? A green New Deal versus perhaps some other perspectives you see from young folks on climate?
Heidi Heitkamp: You know, I had one discussion, a young woman said, Well, you've been critical of Green New Deal. I said, well I haven’t been critical, just tell me what it is, you know, are you okay with nuclear? And she just looked at me today, you know, so. So there's the people who just throw out that the slogan, right, Green New Deal. And then there's students who have really dug in, and you know, done the work like somebody like Sheldon Whitehouse and said, Look, I want real solutions. I don't want slogans. And I'm not saying the Green new deal is a slogan, I think it elevated the issue. But I also think that I find it interesting, when people say well, we're going to go to electric vehicles, and I want to say well, so what if that electricity was generated with natural gas? I mean, you know, there's that you know, an electron is an electron and you aren't going to know if that was a wind one, or if that was one that was generated with fossil fuel, and then they're like, wipe out all fossil fuel. And I said, Hmm. So do you understand the difference between intermittent power and baseload and battery storage for energy and, you know, so we talked about, we spend a lot of time talking about those things that are on the vanguard of what needs to be done in order to tackle climate and can actually have a very meaningful result. And I'm not being critical of the Green New Deal. I think you're right. I think it elevated the discussion. But it's important that we not just say something and believe that, you know, tomorrow, we're going to shut down all fossil fuel and we're going to go immediately to renewables. You know, I said, that's not a possibility. That's not something you can do in a day.
Bill Loveless: Right. Well, there's certainly so much for discussion right now. And hopefully, it's going to be a rich discussion not only among the politicians in Washington, your old cronies up here on Capitol Hill, but also on the college campuses. And, you know, across the US, there's an opportunity to do some things but as you say, it needs some careful consideration and in cooperation. Senator Heidi Heitkamp, thanks for joining us on Columbia Energy Exchange.
Heidi Heitkamp: Thanks so much for having me, Bill.
Bill Loveless: And for more on Columbia Energy Exchange and the Center on Global Energy Policy, find us on the web at energypolicy.columbia.edu and on social media @columbiauenergy and if you have a minute, give us a rating on your favorite podcast platform. It really does help us grow even more. For Columbia Energy Exchange, I'm Bill Loveless, we'll be back again next week with another conversation.