Last month, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and an assortment of her Democratic colleagues in Congress introduced a resolution to create what they call a Green New Deal. Our prosperity, warm homes, jet travel, and smartphones are owed to the affordable, reliable fossil fuel energy that the GND would eliminate. The core element of the program is a 10-year “national mobilization” to meet 100 percent of US power demand with “clean, renewable, and zero-emission” energy sources.
The Green New Deal (GND) has galvanized not just the environmentalist movement but also the Democratic Party more broadly, drawing support from presidential hopefuls Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Elizabeth Warren, among others. Despite the fanfare, however, anyone familiar with the current energy make-up of our economy will recognize the GND as an outrageous and perilous proposal.
Eliminating Four-Fifths of Americas Energy
What an interested layman would quickly learn is that our prosperity—our enjoyment of things like warm homes in the depths of winter, jet travel across the globe, and smartphones that serve us on demand—is owed to the affordable, reliable fossil fuel energy that the GND would eliminate. Four-fifths of the energy used in the United States comes from oil, natural gas, and coal. Excluding transportation, a field where oil dominates, 63 percent of American electricity is generated by natural gas and coal. Nuclear and hydropower contribute most of the remainder, while wind and solar energy generate just eight percent.
Eliminating trusted fossil fuel energy sources, as the GND proposes, would put the comforts we now take for granted in jeopardy. Despite decades of federal, state, and local subsidies intended to put them on par with reliable energy sources, wind and solar energy remain unfit for mass energy production. Neither wind nor solar has yet solved the puzzle of intermittency, meaning that an economy resting upon them would be left at the mercy of nature’s vagaries—when the wind stops blowing and the sun is obscured, power stops with them.
Fossil fuels are just as important to our future as they have been to the strides made since the dawn of the Industrial Age.
Furthermore, wind and solar energy on a national-industrial scale would require unfathomable expanses of land to generate the energy needed to maintain the lifestyles we now enjoy since neither can tout the density of the energy contained in hydrocarbons. The bottom line is that fossil fuels are just as important to our future as they have been to the strides made since the dawn of the Industrial Age.
Given this insurmountable drawback, why is it that the Green New Deal has such currency with Democratic presidential candidates?
For a lead, consider that the GND does not stop at a complete re-configuration of our energy system; it also includes job, healthcare, and housing guarantees; the “repairing [of] historic oppression of indigenous peoples,” and language barring “unfair” competition in the market. Indeed, the GND is a proposal that transcends energy policy and encompasses a broad range of concerns.
Global Warming Is Used to Villainize Capitalism
The GND uses global warming as a beachhead from which to introduce an integrated anti-capitalist agenda. It is a strategy made explicit in prominent GND cheerleader Naomi Klein’s 2014 book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate.
To Ocasio-Cortez and Klein, global warming is not a curse, but a perceived saving grace for their ideas. Capitalism, they scornfully tell us, might make us richer today, but it is dooming future generations to lives of scarcity, conflict, and danger. As they see it, global warming is capitalism’s comeuppance—proof that we have lived too greedily for too long. The ultimate goal of the Green New Deal is to burden us with shame for enjoying our surplus-laden way of life, cut us down to size, and seize complete and utter control of our every economic action.
Endorsement of the Green New Deal represents faith in the redemptive power of imposed economic suffering to conquer the sins of capitalism.
Now, of course, Harris, Booker, Warren, and the other Democrats hoping for the 2020 nod will not state their ambitions in those terms. They will assure us that under a Green New Deal, if we like our warm homes, jet travel, and smartphones, we can keep our warm homes, jet travel, and smartphones. Watered down though their respective economic takeover plans may be, that Harris, Booker, and Warren feel compelled to pay tribute to the Green New Deal reveals the philosophical foundation from which they operate. Socialists like Ocasio-Cortez wield much influence within the Democratic Party because they uphold most devotedly the party’s anti-capitalist animus.
Given its broad outlines and sweeping, generalized calls for reform, endorsement of the Green New Deal would be more aptly described not as a policy statement but as a profession of faith—a faith in the redemptive power of imposed economic suffering to conquer the sins of capitalism. The necessary response to the Green New Deal is not to reject its letter while endorsing its spirit; it is not to compromise and accept the supposed lighter touch of a carbon tax, and it is not to quibble about cost.
The necessary response to this malevolent proposal is to stand proudly as free individuals, shed the guilt with which the GND seeks to burden us, and forge ahead with policies promoting the liberation of energy resources and, resultantly, our wealth and well-being.