Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s so-called Green New Deal makes the obligatory nod to the original New Deal, but FDR’s handiwork is much too modest an antecedent. The Green New Deal calls for a top-down revolution in the operation of American society so sweeping that it would be disturbing if it weren’t so wholly ridiculous. It shows all the thoughtfulness of a college sophomore pulling an all-nighter to write a term paper for his Millennial Socialism 101 class. The Green New Deal, as explained in draft legislation to create a congressional committee to pursue it, would transition to 100 percent renewable sources of national power in 10 years. Since renewables only account for 17 percent of U.S. power now (7.5 percent from hydropower, which might not pass muster under the Green New Deal), the plan would require shuttering more than 80 percent of current sources of American power.
This isn’t like a European country adopting an ambitious goal for renewables (Denmark wants to be at 50 percent by 2030); it is a country with more recoverable oil reserves than Saudi Arabia and Russia spurning a stupendous source of national wealth to take a flyer on a lunatic experiment. The architects of the Green New Deal apparently believe that once you have lost touch with reality with one proposal, you might as well pile on as many wild-eyed schemes as possible.
It would build a new energy-efficient grid, itself a massive proposition. It would upgrade every — not just many, not even most, but every — residential and industrial building for energy efficiency. There are 136 million homes in the United States.
It would eliminate emissions from industry, including farming, offering instead a vision of investment “in local-scale agriculture.”
It would eliminate emissions from transportation, which sounds like mandatory electric cars and hydrogen-powered planes. Because the Green New Deal aspires to achieve all of socialism in one energy plan, it includes a federal job guarantee with a living wage and perhaps “basic income programs” and “universal health care.”
There’s nothing the Green New Deal can’t do. It would “mitigate deeply entrenched racial, regional, and gender-based inequalities in income and wealth,” and, oh yeah, “virtually eliminate poverty.”
All of this would be so tremendously costly that it’s hard to fathom, not to mention technologically infeasible. Since wind and solar energy aren’t continuously available if we relied on them entirely, we’d either have to have regular blackouts or deploy unimaginable amounts of storage relying on technologies that haven’t been proven at scale.
The Green Energy Plan would take one of the country’s unadulterated policy triumphs of the past 20 years, the revolution in oil and gas drilling, and trash it for no good reason. It would throw hundreds of thousands of employees in this industry out of work. But don’t worry — they could get a federally guaranteed job and perhaps grow fruits and vegetables in their backyards. The case for the Green Energy Plan is based on the alleged climate crisis being so dire that it must overwhelm all cost- and-benefit analysis. Actually, we have already been making incremental progress in reducing emissions, thanks largely to natural gas, which the Green Energy Plan can’t abide. While global emissions have been increasing since 2005, U.S. emissions have been declining.
Even if we were to kneecap ourselves with the Green Energy Plan, the world’s biggest emitter wouldn’t follow suit. According to research by the green group CoalSwarm, China is now developing as much new coal capacity as currently exists in the U.S.
Pressed on the plausibility of the Green New Deal by Anderson Cooper on “60 Minutes,” Ocasio-Cortez said we must pursue change we don’t conceive as possible. The Green New Deal certainly meets that standard. It’s the perfect program for a movement that has no idea of how to make means meet ends, and doesn’t even care to try.
Rich Lowry can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• By Rich Lowry