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Clinton unveils plan to combat climate change

July 27, 2015
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Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks about her renewable energy plan, Monday, July 27, 2015, at the Des Moines Area Rapid Transit Central Station in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks about her renewable energy plan, Monday, July 27, 2015, at the Des Moines Area Rapid Transit Central Station in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton called climate change one of the “most urgent threats of our time” and laid out elements of a sweeping plan Monday that would see every U.S. home powered by renewable energy by 2027. However, she declined to take a position on the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada that is opposed by environmental activists.

Climate change has become a key issue in the Democratic presidential primary, where Clinton is the heavy favorite. Among Clinton’s 2016 Democratic opponents, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has been vocal about the need for action to curb climate change and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley released a plan in Iowa several weeks ago that deals not just with consumer energy use, but also industrial and transportation, as he aims to make the U.S. entirely powered by renewable energy by 2050.

Most of the leading Republican presidential candidates express skepticism or deny that climate change poses an urgent problem. They generally advocate more production of fossil fuels and oppose costly programs to support renewable energy, expressing concern about the cost to the U.S. economy.

In Iowa, which holds the first nominating contest next year, Clinton called for installing 500 million solar panels by 2020 as part of a plan she likened in its ambitions to President John F. Kennedy’s effort to put a man on the moon the 1960s.

“I know these goals will test our capacities, but I know they are within our reach,” Clinton said after touring a regional bus station in Des Moines, Iowa, that was built using some recycled materials and uses solar panels and rainwater to save energy.

But Clinton again would not be pinned down on the Keystone XL oil pipeline, the $8 billion project that would transport oil from Canada’s tar sands to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. Environmentalists say the project would contribute to global warming by distributing dirty oil. Clinton said she wanted a State Department review started when she was secretary to run its course.

“I put together a thorough, deliberative, evidence-based process to evaluate the environmental impact and other considerations on Keystone,” said Clinton. “I’m confident that the pipeline’s impact on global greenhouse gas emissions will be a major factor in that decision, as the president has said.”

Both Sanders and O’Malley oppose the pipeline. O’Malley’s deputy campaign manager, Lis Smith, said in a statement Monday that “every Democrat should follow his lead and take a stand to commit to ending our reliance on fossil fuels.”

Environmental groups praised Clinton for setting the goals but said they wanted to see details and a conviction that she would follow through.

Bill McKibben, an environmental activist and the co-founder of 350.org, said Clinton was “half the way there” but needed to show she understood “the other half of the climate change equation” by standing against fossil fuel projects like offshore and Arctic drilling, coal leasing in the Powder River basin in Montana and Wyoming — and the Keystone XL pipeline.

Surveys released last week by Quinnipiac University in three potential presidential battleground states — Colorado, Iowa and Virginia — found that more than 6 in 10 voters in each state think climate change is caused by human activity, siding with the widespread scientific view that some Republican candidates challenge. Yet less than 45 percent in each state called climate change a moral issue, as it was defined by Pope Francis in his recent encyclical.

Clinton declined to specify how she would pay for her proposal, telling reporters that while there would be some upfront costs, “A lot of these changes will pay for themselves.”

One of Clinton’s current proposals would create a “Clean Energy Challenge,” which would set up competitive grants for states, cities and communities that pursue renewable energy projects.

Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon estimated the 10-year cost of the grant program would be $60 billion, which he said would be offset by raising taxes on the oil and gas industry.

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Thomas reported from Washington.

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This story has been corrected to reflect that $60 billion is the estimated cost of proposed grants, not Clinton’s overall energy plan.

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