About That Green New Deal…

About That Green New Deal… February 12, 2019

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey have submitted a resolution calling for a Green New Deal. They then updated the bill and I’ve been reading it. I’m going to focus solely on the environmental aspects of the program, not the jobs guarantee or any other components of it.

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It’s really just a set of goals, not a really specific program for how to achieve those goals. The resolution calls for a “10-year national mobilization” to work toward the end goal of ending greenhouse gas emissions and replacing all of our energy production with renewable sources. In order to keep the rise in global temperatures at 1.5% or lower, it sets these goals:

(A) global reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from human sources of 40 to 60 percent from 2010 levels by 2030; and
(B) net-zero global emissions by 2050;

This doesn’t seem all that far-fetched to me. What I have long called for is a national program similar to the Tennessee Valley Authority project, which was a huge push from the federal government to electrify rural areas in that valley. It should be the policy of the government to invest enormous resources in the development of new renewable energy technologies (principally solar and wind), better battery storage and to replace the current electric grid with modern technology. I do think we will also need to use nuclear power generation along with wind and solar, to provide a baseload that is then supplemented by solar and wind.

The proposal also focuses on conservation efforts, calling for “upgrading all existing buildings in the United States and building new buildings to achieve maximum energy efficiency, water efficiency, safety, affordability, comfort, and durability, including through electrification.” This is where state and local building codes must be updated. It should be a requirement that every new building deploy whatever renewable energy technology that is most efficient for the local environment. Every new home, business and factory should have solar panels attached to it, or small windmills on the corners of the roof, or both. We must have a multifaceted approach to this, with a million small contributions. Doing that could easily reduce the need for electricity generated by fossil fuels by a significant percentage.

The “global” part may be difficult, as we have no control over what other countries do. But the United States must lead the way. We are responsible for about 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the world. We must work with the other large producers of greenhouse gases — China and India, especially — on an aggressive program of replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy production. Will we ever achieve zero emissions? Probably not. Oil, for example, isn’t just used for energy production, it’s also used to make rubber, plastic and lots of other things. But we can, and must, reduce the use of such fuels to as low a level as possible.

The Green New Deal may be a bit too ambitious on some of the goals, and a lot of specifics need to be worked out. But it’s a good start.


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