Elizabeth Warren Presents Bold Green Manufacturing Plan

Andrew Burger

Warren proposes an ambitious manufacturing plan on par with the 60s era space race

Massachusetts senator and Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren presented a bold green manufacturing plan to the public this week, one that would see the US invest $2 trillion to create a projected 1 million-plus jobs and firmly establish the US as a world leader when it comes to clean energy and the global effort to stem the tide of rising greenhouse gas emissions and temperatures.

Warren describes the plan as an example of economic patriotism in action. "It's a strategy for using all the tools of government to defend and create American jobs rather than continuing to cater to the interests of Wall Street and multinational corporations with no allegiance to America," she writes in a Team Warren post on Medium.

Warren likened her green manufacturing plan to the US, and international, response to mounting Nazi aggression in Europe in the 1930s. "The United States responded by mobilizing its industrial base to produce the technology the country and the world needed to face down this threat. Our investments in domestic manufacturing paid off for decades afterwards. New workers gained valuable new skills and manufacturing provided good middle-class jobs for millions of Americans," she wrote.

The second Saturn V launch vehicle (SA-502) for the Apollo 6 mission
On the scale of the Apollo mission

She also drew an analogy between her green manufacturing plan and the space race between the US and Soviet Union in the 1960s. "President Kennedy declared that the United States would be the first nation to put a person on the moon, he knew we hadn’t yet developed every technological and industrial innovation necessary to achieve this goal. But his commitment spurred a decade of nationwide scientific and technological mobilization that delivered not just the lunar landing, but innovations that helped American workers and industry," she recounted.

A coordinated, nationwide effort is called for today to address climate change and growing economic and political inequality in the US, Warren says. "Today, climate change poses both an existential threat and a scientific challenge," Warren wrote. "We already see its effects — record floods, devastating wildfires, 100-year storms that happen every year — costing lives and billions of dollars in damage. The world’s leading experts agree that without aggressive action and serious technological innovation, climate change will cause incredible harm across the world...

"To satisfy this global need, we need rapid innovation on par with the space race along with widespread domestic and international adoption of clean, renewable, and emission-free energy technology."

Warren points out that the market for clean energy technology is expected to grow and reach $23 billion in emerging economies alone over the next decade. "America should dominate this new market. We have the creative researchers, the skilled workers, and the basic infrastructure to develop, manufacture and export the technology the world needs to confront the existential threat of climate change," she says.

Warren's green manufacturing plan consists of three principal elements: 

  • Green Apollo Program — a commitment to leading the world in developing and manufacturing the revolutionary clean energy technology the world will need, like the way we invested in innovative science to win the race to the moon. That means $400 billion in funding over the next ten years for clean energy research and development — more than ten times what we invested in the last ten years. It means the creation of a National Institutes of Clean Energy. And it means provisions to ensure that taxpayers capture some of the upside of their research investments and that our research dollars result in manufacturing in the United States, not offshore.
  • Green Industrial Mobilization — a commitment to using the full power of the federal procurement process to spur innovation and create demand for American-made clean energy products, like how we mobilized our industrial base during World War II. That means a $1.5 trillion federal procurement commitment over the next ten years to purchase American-made clean, renewable, and emission-free energy products for federal, state, and local use, and for export. The United States is currently projected to spend roughly $1.5 trillion in the next ten years on defense procurement — a bloated number that’s far beyond what we need to keep ourselves safe. We should spend at least that much on purchasing American-made clean energy technology to address the climate crisis that threatens us all.
  • Green Marshall Plan — a commitment to using all the tools in our diplomatic and economic arsenal to encourage other countries to purchase and deploy American-made clean energy technology. This includes a new federal office dedicated to selling American-made clean, renewable, and emission-free energy technology abroad and a $100 billion commitment to assisting countries to purchase and deploy this technology.

Climate Politics & Policy