Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey are championing legislation known as the Green New Deal (GND). Scratch the surface a little and this now-vague plan can be seen as a sweeping, exorbitant, infeasible and coercive scheme. The draft plan may be introduced as legislation this week, but the details remain uncertain.
The original draft of the GND sets a goal to eliminate fossil fuels by 100 percent in ten years — a much shorter time frame than comparable plans. A new text sets the softer goal of “net-zero greenhouse gas emissions” without a clear date for banning fossil fuels. Prematurity alone could defeat the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energies and leave the American people with a dysfunctional national electric system.
Supplanting 100 percent of the fossil fuels on which the U.S. now relies to meet 80 percent of its total energy demand is likely an impossible goal. Renewable sources now provide only 11 percent of our total energy, with wind and solar at a mere 3 percent, even after many years of federal and state subsidies and mandates.
Under the GND as drafted, the size and scope of the federal government would dramatically expand, if only to administer the many new federal authorities this energy plan would create. Some economists have characterized this plan for a Green New Deal as the most sweeping expansion of federal authority since the New Deal of the 1930s and the Great Society of the 1960s. The catchy name of this energy plan and media interest in the plan’s main proponent, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, mask the unavoidably huge costs that the GND would impose.
Proponents of this GND rely on an alleged threat of imminent planetary catastrophe as impetus for re-structuring US economy—now wholly dependent on fossil fuels. The GND’s declared transition from fossil fuels to renewable energies could transform the governing structure of the U.S. from capitalism toward top-down socialism.
Christina Figueres, former head of the UN’s climate program, has noted: “This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task … to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution.” Not long ago, this chilling rhetoric was shocking to most Americans. The draft plan for the GND, however, nonchalantly anoints the federal government as the “prime driver” of an energy transition that will require “direct government intervention.”
The financial terms may be gauzy but the plan candidly makes its political destination clear: war-level mobilization. According to the draft legislation for a Select Committee: “The Plan for a Green New Deal … shall recognize that a national, industrial, economic mobilization of this scope and scale is a historic opportunity to virtually eliminate poverty in the U.S. and to make prosperity, wealth and economic security available to everyone participating in the transformation. … to be driven by the federal government.” The “prime driver” of the energy economy apparently will no longer be private ownership, competitive markets or subsidies but coercion by the federal government.
And the Green New Deal goes far beyond environmental policies to supplant fossil fuels with renewable energies. The plan includes universal health care, along with guaranteed income and employment. Just how programs to “be responsive to … social, economic, racial, and gender-based justice and equality” comport with an energy plan remains to be seen.
Consider a few of the government programs proposed by the Green New Deal.
- “Dramatically expand” renewable power sources.
- A national “smart” grid.
- “State of the art” energy efficiency measures in every residential and industrial building.
- Elimination of greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing and agriculture.
- Elimination of greenhouse gas emissions for the transportation sector.
- “Fund(ing of) massive investment” by federal government in the “drawdown” of greenhouse gases.
- Implementation of Green New Deals across the world.
- Providing universal health care, income equality and guaranteed employment.
- “Deeply involve” labor unions.
- Efforts to “Mitigate deeply entrenched racial, regional and gender-based inequalities and promote economic and environmental justice.”
- Majority financing by federal government to include loans from Federal Reserve, regional banks and local public banks, quantitative easing, taxes on everyone and everything.
The GND is an impossible and dangerous energy plan. This energy leviathan 2.0, the GND, is a much bigger, more coercive, heavy-handed energy plan than its predecessor, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. At its best, the plan would waste trillions of dollars. At its worst, the attempt to implement the plan would massively expand the size and authority of a federal government with a more centralized, authoritarian nature.
Kathleen Hartnett White is director of the Armstrong Center for Energy and the Environment at the nonprofit Texas Public Policy Foundation and a senior fellow for its Life: Powered initiative. She is a former chairman and commissioner of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and a commissioner and officer of the Lower Colorado River Authority and numerous other boards and commissions.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.