By Keith Reid
The announcement of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-NY) “Green New Deal” (GND) has caused quite a stir. It proscribes a move to 100% clean energy by 2030, just 10 years, to offset human influenced or Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW). While this is a “simple resolution” that lacks the force of law, it clearly defines the policy objectives of the environmental left and its political faction in the Democratic Party. Cosponsor Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) has indicated he will begin drafting bill to support the resolution.
Among a range of initiatives, one of particular interest to fuel marketers and retailers (not to mention society in general) as cited in the FAQ: Totally overhaul transportation by massively expanding electric vehicle manufacturing, build charging stations everywhere, build out highspeed rail at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary, create affordable public transit available to all, with goal to replace every combustion-engine vehicle.
So far, the bill has faced more ridicule than opposition from Republicans. The plan is utopian in nature, massive in scope (beyond the realm of feasibility) and seems to have as much, if not more, to do with social justice issues not specifically related to carbon remediation. It would transfer control of large swaths of daily life from the private sector to government and transform America into a country unrecognizable compared to the Constitutional republic that exists today.
Here are the bullet points from the FAQ:
- Move America to 100% clean and renewable energy [Editor: eliminating all fossil fuels.]
- Create millions of family supporting-wage, union jobs
- Ensure a just transition for all communities and workers to ensure economic security for people and communities that have historically relied on fossil fuel industries
- Ensure justice and equity for frontline communities by prioritizing investment, training, climate and community resiliency, economic and environmental benefits in these communities.
- Build on FDR’s second bill of rights by guaranteeing:
- A job with a family-sustaining wage, family and medical leave, vacations, and retirement security
- High-quality education, including higher education and trade schools
- Clean air and water and access to nature
- Healthy food
- High-quality health care
- Safe, affordable, adequate housing
- Economic environment free of monopolies
- Economic security for all who are unable or unwilling to work
The last part relative to “… or unwilling to work” appeared in this initial FAQ launch and was quickly denied by a Cortez staffer. He later walked that denial back by claiming a “preliminary version” was accidentally released, which itself appears to have now been reversed.
More specific, necessary actions cited in the FAQ and the resolution (with some overlap) include:
- Banning beef due to methane emissions (cow gas)
- The need to upgrade or replace every building in US for state-of-the-art energy efficiency
- Phasing out nuclear power (the only practical clean energy ready for prime time today)
- Providing job training and education to all
- Protecting right of all workers to unionize and organize
- Ensuring an economic environment free of monopolies and unfair competition
- Essentially replacing air travel with high speed rail (which is even losing favor in California now)
- Strengthening and enforcing labor, workplace health and safety, anti-discrimination, and wage and hour standards
- Ensuring that all GND jobs are union jobs that pay prevailing wages and hire locally
The driver for the need for such a massive disruption of society and the economy is the most alarmist view of climate change. The GND states: IPCC Report said global emissions must be cut by 40-60% by 2030 [Editor: Again, just 10 years.]. US is 20% of total emissions. We must get to 0 by 2030 and lead the world in a global Green New Deal.
It goes on to list such environmental impacts as wildfires that, by 2050, will annually burn at least twice as much forest area in the western United States than was typically burned by wildfires in the years preceding 2019 and the loss of more than 99 percent of all coral reefs on Earth that will occur if this is not met. While presented as fact, these are speculative. In fact, there is currently a notable debate going on among scientists that support AGW as to the severity of potential outcomes, including potentially beneficial results.
From Bjørn Lomborg, former director of the Danish government’s Environmental Assessment Institute (EAI) in Copenhagen writing in 2016 in the UK’s Telegraph: If our climate conversation managed to include the good along with the bad, we would have a much better understanding of our options. Climate economics does just that, taking all the negatives (like rising sea levels and more heat deaths) and all the positives (a greener planet, fewer cold deaths). A climate economics approach finds that today – contrary to the alarmists’ massive insistence on negatives-only stories – global warming causes about as much damage as benefits. Over time, climate becomes a net problem: by the 2070s, the UN Climate Panel finds that global warming will likely cause damage equivalent to 0.2 per cent to 2 per cent of global GDP. This is certainly not a trivial cost, but nor is it the end of the world. It is perhaps half the social cost of alcohol today.
However, such an outlook removes the primary motivator for “solutions” that go far beyond climate science but need an existential emergency to push through on society.
Politics or Science?
The GND’s focus on social justice in the climate realm is not surprising. This has long been a core component of the AGW remediation debate and one that has significantly politicized and clouded the discussions.
This conceptually ties back to the Malthusianism of the late 18th and early 19th century, carried through to Paul R. Ehrlich’s “The Population Bomb” of the late 1960s. Basically, overpopulation trends will kill the planet and endanger survival. Marxists quickly developed a resource redistributive concept from that more attuned to their political goals.
This is an important aspect of the debate. If you wish to claim that the science is settled (settled science is contradictory); or that there is a scientific consensus (there is not) then you have to equally acknowledge that there are significant political and economic forces at work on the left (including inside the scientific community) in addition to similar claims made against the right. The GND is very transparent on this, though it has been observable over the years.
The Copenhagen summit of 2009 was broadly considered to be a failure, even with the strong but not absolute support of President Obama. Inadequate wealth distribution to the developing world was a component of the failure. As the leftist Guardian reported at the time: Many reactions were strongly critical of Obama. Hugo Chávez, the president of Venezuela, described Obama’s speech as “ridiculous” and the US’s initial offer of a $10bn fund for poor countries in the draft text as “a joke.”
Politically, through the process of Intersectionality, climate justice is being linked to identity politics to pursue a more broadly socialist policy in a range of areas.
SocialistWorker.org ran a newsletter piece in 2014 from the Syracuse Peace Council on the Global Climate Convergence’s Earth Day to May Day campaign. It included the following: … the campaign seeks to “build a unified movement that can link climate justice to…economic inequality, the racism of mass incarceration and mass deportations, the sexism of the ongoing attacks on women’s reproductive rights, systemic oppression of LGBTQ people, [and] attacks on working people’s living.
Campaigns like these are especially important considering that the mainstream environmental movement has largely failed to take into account how issues such as racism, sexism and class inequality are integral to the fight to save the planet. Despite these failings, communities of color have long connected their fights against environmental degradation to other forms of oppression through the framework of environmental justice.
Not Your Grandparent’s Socialism
Socialism can mean traditional safety nets like Medicare/Medicaid; Social Security and a hand up for those down on their luck, through measured welfare programs. Democratic socialists believe in foundational socialism with strongly Marxist overtones. As the Democratic Socialists of America (which is Cortez’s affiliation) state in their “about” materials: Democratic socialists do not want to create an all-powerful government bureaucracy. But we do not want big corporate bureaucracies to control our society either. Rather, we believe that social and economic decisions should be made by those whom they most affect.
Today, corporate executives who answer only to themselves and a few wealthy stockholders make basic economic decisions affecting millions of people. Resources are used to make money for capitalists rather than to meet human needs. [Editor: Do 401K holders count?] We believe that the workers and consumers who are affected by economic institutions should own and control them.
Social ownership could take many forms, such as worker-owned cooperatives or publicly owned enterprises managed by workers and consumer representatives. Democratic socialists favor as much decentralization as possible. While the large concentrations of capital in industries such as energy and steel may necessitate some form of state ownership, many consumer-goods industries might be best run as cooperatives.
As NPR coverage of the GND noted: The Green New Deal framework combines big climate-change-related ideas with a wish list of progressive economic proposals that, taken together, would touch nearly every American and overhaul the economy.
It has been argued by opponents that the GND will overhaul the economy in the same way an iceberg overhauled the Titanic’s seaworthiness.
Cortez acknowledges the economic challenge. A challenge simply too big for a capitalist market economy. As their FAQ states: The level of investment required is massive. Even if every billionaire and company came together and were willing to pour all the resources at their disposal into this investment, the aggregate value of the investments they could make would not be sufficient.
Once again, we’re not saying that there isn’t a role for private sector investments; we’re just saying that the level of investment required will need every actor to pitch in and that the government is best placed to be the prime driver.
The GND basically specifies far, far more deficit spending on top of an already disturbing 22 Trillion-dollar debt load.
There are a range of unsupported claims for a positive economic outcome both financially and in terms of jobs. In a comparison to World War II the FAQ states: We invested 40-50% of GDP into our economy during World War 2 and created the greatest middle class the US has seen.
That is basically correct, but it omits a few key details.
- The Axis powers were not able to damage the US economy through military action. The GND would correct that and likely inflict severe damage on the economy as it exists now with a questionable ability to create a superior replacement.
- At the end of World War II, the US was the strongest economic power in the world, with virtually no competition for the next 20 years. The post war golden era began to grind to a halt when foreign cars, steel and other products started entering the global market in the 1970s. The US currently face strong economic competition throughout the world that will not be undertaking a GND of their own.
- Because the US had tremendous surplus manufacturing capacity at the end of the war, it enjoyed considerable business rebuilding much of the war-ravaged, non-communist world.
- The US had cheap access to abundant fossil fuels and built and efficient petroleum refining and distribution system that helped both win the war and drive the post war boom. After a period of decline, that is once again the case. The GND aims to kill our current energy revolution.
It would be easy to dismiss this as the fantasy of an inexperienced and ill-informed Junior Congresswoman with an extreme agenda, if not for the disturbing amount of support it has received from the rest of the Democratic Party including many senior members.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has been dismissive and declined to name Cortez to the new Climate Change Committee. However, this illustrates the well documented divide between the aggressively progressive base of the party and what remains of the more moderate, “Blue Dog” contingent.
Currently, the GND resolution has been cosponsored by 65 Democratic house representatives. It was Initially cosponsored by Senate veteran Ed Markey (D-MA).
Announced and likely presidential candidates including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA); Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA); Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ); Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY); Amy Klobuchar (D-MN); and former Maryland Rep. John Delaney have either fully or conceptually supported the GND.
The Democratic Party has relied increasingly on a coalition of highly progressive identity groups in recent years and is beholden to provide the maximum amount of support politically possible to each of those groups or face serious consequences in voter turnout and campaign support.
Politically, millennials are a core component of the Democrat base and support many progressive intersectional issues. Polling conducted by the left-of-center newsmagazine The Nation suggests that climate change is a major concern for millennial’s and shows strong support for the GND. Interestingly, that same poll shows that support drops (but does not reverse) when millennials are informed of the actual financial costs and sacrifices that would have to be made to support such policies.
Ironically, the FAQ states this goal: Make the US the leader in addressing climate change and share our technology, expertise and products with the rest of the world to bring about a global Green New Deal.
We already are. As Howard Feldman, API senior director of regulatory and scientific affairs notes: “The United States leads the world both in natural gas and oil production and in cutting GHG emissions – clean natural gas produced through advanced technologies like hydraulic fracturing is playing a significant role in driving carbon dioxide emissions to 25-year lows. Americans have the cleanest air in decades due in part to the increased use of natural gas to generate electricity, demonstrating that environmental protection and economic growth are not mutually exclusive.”
While there is little likelihood for such policies being passed through 2020, any significant change in the political landscape after the elections could shift that, perhaps in some significant ways. Many progressive environmentalists have even gone on record since the release stating that getting off carbon in 10 years is not feasible, but aggressive actions along those lines to support the base—well beyond cap and trade or a carbon tax—would not be unexpected.
Reducing the US carbon output to pre-industrial levels will not change the fact that China, India, Europe and the rest of the world will not be massively disrupting their economies though a GND of their own. And, If you fully accept AGW science this unilateral action will not solve the alarmist concerns. However, reducing the US to a developing-world quality of life is an achievable goal.