For all the talk about the Green New Deal (GND), I suspect that the number of people who really understand it is not large.
To start with, it is a very general plan about how to deal with a wide set of problems. It does not contain many specifics. There are broadly stated goals, but there are no details on how they are to be achieved. It only requires that the specific details of the goals, the programs, and the finances be addressed in the near future. There is no allocation of money.
The GND arises out of a perception that our country needs to be run sustainably. It is hard to imagine that any thoughtful, patriotic American would oppose this. Sustainability, whether environmental or economic, will not happen by accident. In the absence of at least some effective planning, we can only operate in an economic system narrowly focused on selected specifics, such as current revenues and costs, to the exclusion of anything else. In such a system, our democracy and our freedoms will pass into history as failed experiments, as we fail to steward the environment’s ability to support our lifestyle.
The GND addresses the issue of sustainability by setting goals we can achieve for the environment, our health, and employment. It says we will be carbon-neutral in ten years, we will offer health care to all, and we will make sure that everyone can earn a livable income.
The hardest part of the GND may not be paying for it. In fact, it may pay for itself.
The energy side of the GND could turn out to be easily achieved. Falling costs of renewable energy have already hit parity with fossil fuels. Electric vehicles are already competitive with those dependent on gas and oil. Heat pumps already save money over carbon-based systems. Efficiency beats all else. And the nature of the technological learning curve (Wright’s Law) is that the falling costs will continue to fall for some time, quickly making fossil fuels impractical.
We could save hundreds of billions of dollars each year just by eliminating air pollution. It has long been recognized that it will be cheaper to prevent or treat medical problems before they become major problems than in emergency rooms.
Similarly, it has long been seen that it will be cheaper to employ people than to deal with the problems arising from their being unemployed.
A so-called free market is being exploited by people who donate to political campaigns to make sure politicians act according to their wishes. But the market, as it stands, is only free for oligarchs who dominate it. Freedom does not arise out of an unregulated system. I know of no one who would advocate for freedom to murder or steal. Sane market regulation is a requirement for a truly free market, not an impediment to it.
The current political regime has us tied to fossil fuels and a pursuit of American greatness in obsolete technologies. The result of this is that countries like China and India have surpassed us in vital economic activities ranging from vehicle production to computer engineering. Today, America is trying to enter the future by living in the past, hardly a path to greatness. We need a Green New Deal to save us from inevitable failure of a system that pretends its own sustainability is unimportant.
If our nation can become a place where everyone is employed and healthy, living in a clean environment, then we will have a nation wealthy beyond our current expectations.
Achieving the Green New Deal’s Energy Goals
Opponents of the GND have claims ranging from the idea that electric grids would not be reliable with just renewable energy to the notion that supporting it would destroy the economy. These claims usually seem to be backed by obsolete data or unsupported suppositions. One source worth mentioning, however, is the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration; the history of that organization’s long-term projections on growth of renewable energy shows that they have consistently been wildly off the mark.
Backing for the GND, however, has been growing. The federal GND bills calling for it have 89 co-sponsors in the House and 11 in the Senate. A number of the presidential candidates have endorsed it. Others may join, as the issue is pressed by powerful, active forces.
One of these forces arises powerfully from a level of society that is among the least well represented. Our children, seeing that their futures are at stake, are demanding action. Between now and the next general election, millions of Americans will become old enough to vote. Any politician who does not pay attention to the future of the children is risking the future of his own place in politics.
This issue will not wait. Clearly it is highly unlikely to pass in both chambers and be signed by the president. Action at the federal level will be delayed until the climate deniers are no longer in control. That really does not matter in the end, however, because the movement can achieve huge success elsewhere. There is an adage for the environmental movement that is vitally important. It is, “Think globally – act locally.”
This is not an issue that we should be content to watch our politicians fight over in Washington, D.C. We cannot allow action on it to be delayed until after the next election. Fortunately, it is an issue that we can win by taking it upon ourselves to move more amenable powers. The effects can already be seen.
It has been picked up by state governors, leaders in state legislatures, counties, and municipalities. Among the states importantly moving on the issue are New York, Massachusetts, Maine, Colorado, and Illinois. All three of Vermont’s congressional delegates have endorsed it. It is being pursued by leaders in many states. (Please see the article on the Green New Deal in New York on page 3.)
According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti decided to cancel billions of dollars’ worth of natural gas plants under development because of the health, environmental, and economic problems that the plants represented. “This is the Green New Deal,” he said. “Not in concept, not in the future, but now” (http://bit.ly/LATimes-GND).
Los Angeles is not the only place where progress is being made. Support for climate action and the other goals for the GND is so widespread and extensive that it is hard to keep up with its current status locally.
Of course, environmental groups have run a number of closely related programs for years. One of the best known is the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 campaign. (http://bit.ly/ready-for-100) This is an issue that can succeed without support of the federal government. We, the American people, can bring it about by acting at the state, local, and personal levels.