OPINION: The Green New Deal’s Electric Power Transformation Is an Impossible Nightmare

H. Sterling Burnett | Heartland Institute

The much-hyped “Green New Deal” (GND) offered by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez  and Sen. Ed Markey would, if enacted, constitute a complete socialist makeover of the U.S. economy.

Though its provisions haven’t officially been scored by government budget watchdogs yet, estimates of the costs of Ocasio-Cortez’s earlier version of the bill topped $49 trillion in its first 10 years, making GND, by far, the costliest social and economic proposal in U.S. history. (For comparison, the United States has accumulated $21 trillion in debt over its 241-year history.)

The GND would mandate a wrenching transformation to the electric power system in the United States to replace virtually all fossil fuels with renewable power plants in just 11 years. The current electric grid was built over the course of 100 years or more. GND calls for replacing all of this in just a decade.

To meet present electric power needs under the mandates in the “Green New Deal,” millions of wind turbines would have to be erected, millions of solar panels installed, and billions of battery packs stored in millions of homes or at tens of thousands of centralized battery farms, which currently don’t exist. If we were to rely solely on wind turbines, those turbines would need to cover one-third of the continental United States. If we were to rely on solar panels, it would probably require covering more than 20 percent of the countryside, just to meet current demand.

In addition to these new facilities, we would also have to erect thousands of additional electric towers and string thousands of additional miles of transmission lines to get the power from the locations where the wind blows and sun shines regularly to the cities and towns where the power is needed. Talk about a devastating impact on wildlife and wilderness!

Cities and investors would lose billions of dollars when the coal- and natural-gas-powered municipal power plants and those operated by investor-owned utilities were idled prematurely by force of law. Stock portfolios would plunge, blowing a gigantic hole in retirees’ pension payouts. Taxpayers would likely be on the hook for billions of dollars to companies and investors when they are forced to close fossil-fuel power plants before they are paid off and before the end of their productive lives — facilities that various state public utility authorities licensed and approved. Residents of cities with municipal power systems would still be paying off the debt for the bonds used to build their publicly owned power plants idled by GND long after the federal government stopped them from generating power.

GND’s sponsors acknowledge hitting zero carbon-dioxide emissions would require a wartime-like effort, like that undertaken during World War II, calling for “a 10-year national mobilization.” To achieve this goal, virtually all manufacturing would have to be directed away from whatever products we build now — blenders, pump jacks, computers, etc. — and devoted to the production of millions of wind turbines, solar panels, electric vehicles, batteries, transmission towers and power lines, energy efficient appliances, and associated technologies for our new “green” economy.

The government would be conscripting all factories, and by extension their workers, into GND’s warlike crusade against chimeric climate change.

The labor and trade impacts of GND would also be profound. Even if all the millions of truck drivers, convenience store employees, oil and gas field workers, coal miners, workers at chemical refineries and power stations, and others put out of work by the Democrats’ GND could seamlessly transition to jobs in the green tech industry, the United States would have to open its borders to millions of additional migrant laborers to get the job done in the truncated timeline required.

Perhaps this is why many of the same people pushing GND also favor an open-border policy. The United States did something similar in the nineteenth century, when we imported Chinese laborers to help build the transcontinental railway. In immigration terms, GND would be the transcontinental railway on steroids.

Of course, the United States could import much of the renewable energy equipment required to meet GND’s energy diktats. However, importing more batteries, solar panels, wind turbines, and appliances, would make our trade deficit vastly bigger than it already is. Moreover, the United States would be offshoring, not reducing, its carbon-dioxide emissions. In fact, global carbon-dioxide emissions, as well as emissions of various air and water pollutants, would very likely increase because of GND, as countries with lower environmental standards than our own ramp up production to meet the large increase in U.S. demand for renewable power technologies.

The GND would also undermine U.S. national security, because the United States is 100 percent import-dependent on China, Russia, and other nations for more than half of the critical minerals that are the foundation of green technologies. And there are competing uses for these minerals. They are not just necessary for the powerful magnets used in wind turbines and to create thin films for solar panels. They are also used in our country’s advanced defense systems, such as jets, missiles, and radar and guidance systems, as well as more mundane consumer items, such as televisions, cell phones, computers, and gaming systems.

The United States has fought hard to reduce its dependence on foreign oil, seeing such dependence as an economic and national security threat. Thanks to fracking, the United States has become virtually energy-independent. GND would once again subjugate Americans to the whims of often-hostile foreign regimes for our energy supply.

GND is almost certain to cause the largest sustained depression and economic decline in the history of the United States, causing energy demand to fall as it has consistently done during previous recessions and depressions. Though they are unlikely to admit it publicly, for GND proponents this is probably a selling point of the plan, since many of them believe we need to consume less to save the Earth.

In the end, even if GND were logistically possible, is it highly undesirable.

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. is a senior fellow on energy and the environment at The Heartland Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois. 


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.

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