Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

A Green New Market

Off-grid power. Photo: USAID in Africa. Public domain.

George Harvey

A Green New Market is coming. We can create it, or we can watch other countries create it. But it is coming, and it should be in America.

The Green New Market should appeal to Democrats because it can address poverty, the environment, and climate change. I want to point out, however, that Democrats seem not to mind much that wealthy people are wealthy, as long as the needs of poor people and the environment are addressed.

Republicans, similarly, would not mind doing things to address poverty and climate change as long as it means that people can be free to attain and keep exceptionally high levels of wealth.

Our response to the coronavirus pandemic shows clearly that conservatives and liberals can work together. The economy has been hit badly, putting poor people out of work and making stock market value vanish. I would never have expected Democrats to be willing to back a solution to fix the market economy by throwing money at it, just as I would not have expected Republicans to be willing to throw money at people in need. But that is what they did, and they did it together. Trillions of dollars are being thrown at the economic problem caused by the coronavirus.

I suggest that Americans should do better than throw money around. I believe we can do more, and do it better, if we create our own Green New Market.

I will start by suggesting that Republicans do something they will find entirely counter-intuitive, until they look at the bottom line. They should get behind the Green New Deal. And they should back it, not just locally, but worldwide. Why should Republicans do that? Because they can make nearly unimaginable piles of money by doing so, and they can make America great again in the process.

I want conservatives to consider an image. Suppose we put aside just 10% of the initial response money many of them were willing to throw at dealing with economic losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Out of the $2.2 trillion in that initial response, we would be using just $220 billion.

Now suppose we spent all of that money here in the United States, employing people to build small solar kits for people who now have no access to electricity. Each kit is to cost $1,000. Each would have one or two solar panels, a small inverter, a small charge controller, a battery, a cell-phone charger, and LED lights. Now, we take the 220 million kits we have made and give them away to people, all over the world, where access to power is not available. That would power the households of something like a billion people.

These families include about a billion people who are not currently customers for American products. With electric power, however, they could become customers of all sorts of green new American products. This is particularly important because these same people are being given some pretty good deals from China right now. (China has a history of loaning money to poor nations so they can buy Chinese products. Even the terms for default are easy. When Sri Lanka defaulted on a loan, all it lost was a few acres of land in a port that China could use for a navy base.)

The people who would get our kits are also people who may not love America, except as a potential destination for emigration. Do you care about America being overwhelmed by immigrants? Give them a reason to be happy where they live. Not only might that work a lot better than a wall, it might actually make us money, as we sell them products.

Do you care about America building good will? It could build a lot of good will if 220 million families watch television or run computers that are powered by home generating systems with American flags on them. And yes, a $1,000 solar system could power a computer and a television, both at the same time, if they are chosen with reasonable care.

Conservatives would have to accept the possibility of climate change, if they are to buy into the Green New Deal, of course. But I think they will accept climate change if they look at it objectively.

Climate change represents what may be the biggest business opportunity ever to be presented to humanity. And it is not just that we have to stop climate change; the business reasons to do so are overwhelming.

The fossil fuels sectors were losing money before the pandemic struck, because they were obsolete and the market was already turning away from them. With low-cost renewable power, fossil fuels were already too expensive, and the costs of renewables just keep falling. Continued investment in fossil fuels just builds up stranded assets.

If we act now to push renewables in America, we can be on the bandwagon of countries profiting from the change. If we act quickly, we will be able to drive the bandwagon. If we continue to act as we are, however, America will eat the bandwagon’s dust.

If Republicans get behind the Green New Deal, even if only to get access to the coming Green New Market, my guess is that Democrats will not mind. If some people get needlessly, possibly even mind-bogglingly, wealthy, Democrats might not care, as long as people who need it are getting help.

The political willpower needed to do this is only difficult because fossil fuels would not survive in a Green New Market. Climate naysayers are well-funded, but with a goal to preserve fossil fuels, not to make America great again.

We can make America great again, but only if we ditch fossil fuels.

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