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Should the US Support the Green New Deal?

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Background

The Green New Deal, Explained (2019) As we will see, the exact details of the GND remain to be worked out, but the broad thrust is fairly simple. It refers, in the loosest sense, to a massive program of investments in clean-energy jobs and infrastructure, meant to transform not just the energy sector, but the entire economy. It is meant both to decarbonize the economy and to make it fairer and more just.

But the policy is only part of the picture. Just as striking are the politics, which seem to have tapped into an enormous, untapped demand for climate ambition.

When I think about the social status of the GND, I am struck by an analogy: It’s a bit like concentrated solar power. (I’m an energy nerd. Sue me.) In a concentrated solar power plant, large arrays of mirrors reflect sunlight onto a single tower, heating the fluid inside it. The fluid transfers heat to water, the steam from the boiling fluid drives a turbine, and the turbine generates electrical power.

Cortez Releases Green New Deal (2019) In very broad strokes, the Green New Deal legislation laid out by Ocasio-Cortez and Markey sets goals for some drastic measures to cut carbon emissions across the economy, from electricity generation to transportation to agriculture. In the process, it aims to create jobs and boost the economy. In that vein, the proposal stresses that it aims to meet its ambitious goals while paying special attention to groups like the poor, disabled and minority communities that might be disproportionately affected by massive economic transitions like those the Green New Deal calls for.

Importantly, it’s a nonbinding resolution, meaning that even if it were to pass (more on the challenges to that below), it wouldn’t itself create any new programs. Instead, it would potentially affirm the sense of the House that these things should be done in the coming years.

Pro

Green New Deal Can Promote Life Over Capitalism (2019). From this perspective, the transformative potential of struggling for a radical Green New Deal is not to simply replace fossil fuels with renewable energy in such a way that yokes our air, wind, or sun to the compulsions of capitalist growth. The point is to reimagine social labor and human purpose, where care across scales — individual, social, and planetary — can finally be made whole.

The Case for a Coercive Green New Deal (2019) Something as transformative as the Green New Deal—a democratically achieved Climate Leviathan—will not come about because the Democratic Party or Xi Jinping or the UN secretary general suddenly realizes that radical change is necessary, nor simply through ordinary parliamentary and congressional procedure. Major change of this sort could only come from a far more basic form of democracy: people in the streets engaged in actions like school strikes and coal mine blockades. This is the kind of pressure that progressive legislators could then use to push through a mutually agreed-upon Green New Deal capable of building a powerful administrative force that might convince or coerce everyone into preserving the global commons.Coercion: It’s not exactly a sexy campaign slogan. But if democracies don’t embrace moonshots like the Green New Deal—along with the administrative apparatus to force powerful interests to comply—then the increasing political and economic chaos of climate change will usher in yet more authoritarian regimes that offer an entirely different coercive agenda. The Green New Deal isn’t just an important policy initiative. It may be the last democratic method of guiding Lifeboat Earth to a safe harbor.

Con

Swing state households would lose $70g in first year of the GND. (2019). Radically transforming energy consumption under the “Green New Deal” (GND) would cost the average household at least $70,000 in the first year of its rollout, and a cool quarter-million dollars total after five years, a new study concluded. The study, released jointly by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and Power the Future on Tuesday, looked at a wide swath of data to estimate how transforming the energy sector — which includes de-carbonizing transportation and retrofitting U.S. commercial and residential buildings — would affect the average household in five representative states. Within the first year of implementing the program, the average household in each of the given states (AlaskaFloridaNew HampshireNew MexicoPennsylvania) would incur at least $70,000 in expenses — followed by roughly $45,000 in annual expenses for each of the following 2-5 years and over $37,000 after that time frame.