December 11, 2018

Green New Deal: A Crazy, Expensive Mess


KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • The Green New Deal proposes carbon neutrality and 100 percent renewable power within 10 years – experts say the latter goal is impossible by 2050, let alone 2029. 
  • All-renewable electricity would mean closing every nuclear, coal, and natural gas plant and would cost $7 trillion. 
  • The Green New Deal’s job guarantee would replace productive work with federally backed make-work jobs, distorting the labor market and hurting private businesses. 

House Democrats are rallying to a proposed “Green New Deal” to make the United States carbon neutral within 10 years. While the plan is being sold as a solution to climate change and a jobs program, it would cost trillions, and it ignores the rest of the world’s contribution to climate change.

2005-2017: U.S. Cut CO2 Emissions; China Dramatically Increased Emissions

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If enacted, the Democrats’ idea would require 100 percent renewable-sourced electricity along with changing transportation and industry to eliminate the burning of carbon. While Democrats have not released a cost estimate for their proposal, independent estimates suggest it would cost at least $7 trillion. Even with all that spending, the international nature of climate change means that the plan could fail to meaningfully affect global carbon dioxide emissions. Twenty-two House Democrats have endorsed the Green New Deal and they plan to create a select committee early next Congress to begin drafting legislation.

Ignoring emissions trends

Even if the Green New Deal functioned exactly as Democrats are trying to sell it, the U.S. might spend $7 trillion only to find that climate change still got worse. Global emissions could rise because the Green New Deal ignores entirely the international aspect of climate change. The United States generates only around 15 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions.

Of the G-20 countries, the United States has the best recent record on carbon dioxide emissions reductions. The U.S. cut 862 million tons from 2005 to 2017, a 14 percent decline. Over the same period, the European Union reduced its emissions by just 771 million tons, and global emissions rose 26 percent. India increased its carbon dioxide emissions by 1.3 billion tons, and China increased its emissions by 4 billion tons—a 70 percent increase.

Viewed from a global perspective, the Green New Deal is a colossal waste of money that misses the vast majority of the problem.

Renewables not yet up to the task

Producing 100 percent of electricity from renewable sources is a practical impossibility in the near future. Scientists doubt it would be achievable by 2050, let alone 2029, the deadline Democrats would set. Such a massive overhaul in power generation would require the closure and replacement of about 83 percent of U.S. electricity generation, including all coal, natural gas, and nuclear plants. While nuclear energy does not release carbon dioxide, it is not renewable and would not be allowed under the Green New Deal. Today, renewable electricity — mainly wind, solar, and hydroelectric — provides only 17 percent of American electricity.

Because renewable energy sources are not as stable as traditional electricity sources, the entire grid would have to be revamped. Massive amounts of energy storage would be needed, requiring dramatic technological improvements. Vast new transmission networks would be needed to bring electricity to areas less conducive to solar or wind generation. New technologies would be needed to regulate electricity frequency, output fluctuations, demand response, and voltage management. Even mainstream left-leaning environmentalists have argued against a 100 percent renewable strategy because of unsolved technical problems and enormous expense relative to benefits.

Democrats Promise Federal Job Guarantee

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job guarantee And a Grab-Bag of Other Left Policies

The Green New Deal also proposes a job guarantee for every American who wants one. Beyond promising a not-yet-defined living wage, the details are scarce. Other job guarantee proposals popular among Democrats generally promise federally subsidized jobs in fields such as infrastructure and public works, child care, and the environment, for anyone whether they are currently employed or unemployed.

A job guarantee is deeply flawed policy. The only “guarantee” is a badly distorted labor market. First, it is doubtful the government could successfully implement such a huge program. Once underway, the damage to private businesses would be devastating. The effects would fall heavily on small businesses, which could be forced to shut down if they were unable to match the federal wage or because workers prefer one of the “guaranteed” jobs over their current one. It could effectively nationalize a huge portion of the economy. A job guarantee also would double down on Washington picking economic winners and losers. Finally, the cost would be enormous. The authors of one prominent proposal peg theirs at $543 billion annually.

Democrats promise their Green New Deal will “mitigate deeply entrenched racial, regional, and gender-based inequalities in income and wealth.” They add the possibility of including basic income, universal health care, and the involvement of unions. House Democrats have yet to explain how these goals will be achieved through energy policy and how they relate to climate change.

Issue Tag: Environment