Kenneth Stein | Policy Director, Institute for Energy Research
One by one, we have seen the 2020 candidates for the Democratic nomination — both presumed and declared — voice support for a “Green New Deal.” The mere fact that this idea is being taken seriously should be of concern to every freedom loving American.
The Green New Deal is truly a Greenist Manifesto: a call for reviving old socialist ideas, but this time, with green characteristics.
The list of “green” proposals is as comprehensive as it is fanciful: reaching 100-percent renewable power, building a nation-wide smart grid, upgrading every building for energy efficiency, eliminating greenhouse gases from industry and transportation, and funding massive investment in a “drawdown” of greenhouse gases, among others. All within a mere 10 years.
A low-end attempt to estimate the cost of these proposals adds up to many trillions of dollars per year. But even before considering the astronomical cost, there is a more practical barrier: the bounds of technology and even physics. Simply put, these goals are not possible.
Take 100-percent renewable power, for instance. In 2017, wind provided just 6.3 percent of electricity generation in the United States, with solar providing a mere 1.3 percent. And that is after decades of subsidies and federal and state mandates for renewable generation.
A recent estimate calculated that to simply generate enough electricity to meet current U.S. power demand, it would require covering 12 percent of the land area of the continental United States with wind turbines. That is more than twice the size of California of just wind installations.
Wind and solar are also intermittent. Currently, natural gas or coal are used as a backup when renewables are down, but in this new green world, some alternative will need to be found, perhaps batteries. Vast acres of hugely expensive batteries, the technology for which has never been proved able to power the entire grid on their own.
All this in just 10 years.
Not to mention that without coal, how does industry produce the steel in all those wind turbines and solar panels? Perhaps there is some sort of future technology that would allow all the mining of minerals and cement production that will be needed to build the vast fields of wind and solar, and the batteries to be done free of greenhouse gas emissions, but that technology certainly doesn’t exist today. The same would need to be done for all the other products made from fossil fuels: plastics, clothing, pavement, etc.
And in just 10 years.
Then there is the goal of eliminating emissions from transportation. One should shudder at the vast cost of replacing hundreds of millions of vehicles with more expensive electric alternatives, but what about freight trucks, ships, trains, airplanes? Are we going to electrify 140,000 miles of railroad? Put nuclear reactors in every ship (or maybe just revert to sail power)? There is not even theoretical technology available for replacing jet-fueled airplanes.
Even on longer time scales than 10 years and with unlimited money, achieving any one of these goals would require huge technological advances. It is a simple fact that, even if it was a good idea, we do not have the technological knowledge today to achieve any of these goals in just 10 years, irrespective of cost.
Yet this Green New Deal is still treated as a real policy proposal, not a fanciful alternative universe from a sci-fi novel.
The second half of the “Green New Deal” looks much more familiar: a job guarantee for everyone, a living wage guarantee, a free hand for labor unions, government mitigation of income inequalities, a universal basic income, universal health care and any other programs the drafters might desire.
Other than the novel, yet baffling, provision for a “just transition” for all workers most affected by climate change, these are all provisions that are fairly standard fare for your average advocate of far-left socialism.
For those not on the left, this manifesto should be a warning. Ultimately this “Green New Deal” is not about saving the environment.
The greenwashing is about creating a sense of urgency and moral panic, the better to entrench government ever deeper into the lives of American citizens. Americans resisted socialism in the Cold War; now it’s time to resist socialism in the Green War.
Kenny Stein is a policy director at the Institute for Energy Research.
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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