Op-Ed: A Green Perspective on the ‘Green New Deal’

The Green New Deal has recently become a popular and controversial topic of conversation since New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey introduced HR 109. This is a non-binding House Resolution to transition the country to 100 percent clean energy by 2030 while providing high-wage jobs to millions of workers and addressing “systemic injustices.”

Republicans are calling the “completely outrageous” proposal a “socialist fantasy” whose goal is “ending air travel, destroying American energy and banning cow farts” while secretly rejoicing that it will seal the doom of Democratic economic policies.

Conservative and moderate Democrats, for their part, are contemptuous of the resolution, viewing it as too ambitious, “unrealistic” and downright bothersome to their generous fossil fuel corporate donors. Aside from the seven Democratic presidential candidates and 65 House members who have co-sponsored the resolution, the majority of Democrats are not backing even the idea of a Green New Deal while being publicly shamed by their progressive base.

Instead, some—for instance Sen. Dianne Feinstein and even the editorial team of the Washington Post—have independently crafted their own watered-down versions of a Green New Deal which, they claim, are far more realistic than AOC’s version and more likely to pass both houses. Given the general lack of support for the resolution among the Democratic Party and to save face, Senate Democrats now plan to introduce a loose resolution that acknowledges the importance of combating climate change but without any timeline, emission reduction targets or explicit details as to how to proceed.

What they are all missing—or conveniently ignoring—is that a Green New Deal is supposed to be a long-term, coherent plan to tackle the planetary emergency, similar in scale and scope to President Roosevelt’s 1930 “New Deal” that pulled the United States out of the Great Depression.

Such a comprehensive plan will need to be well coordinated, modified by revisions, and therefore is not intended to become legislation right away but rather serve as a solid blueprint for a bold vision. In that sense, HR 109 is neither solid nor bold enough.

The text of the resolution remains extremely vague and widely open to interpretation. Many climate and social justice groups have already criticized the resolution, including the Indigenous Environmental Network, the Green Party of the United States, Code Pink and Food and Water Watch. They share the general concern that it does not call for an immediate divestment and phase-out of fossil fuels, and investment in renewable energies only. Explicit terms such as “fossil fuels,” “coal,” “natural gas,” “fracking,” or “pipelines” are nowhere to be found in the resolution.

Likewise, federal programs such as single-payer universal healthcare, guaranteed affordable housing, tuition-free public college education and universal basic income do not appear in the document although they were part of the initial “Green New Deal” draft that AOC campaigned on. These concepts have been replaced in HR 109 by weaker terms such as “high-quality healthcare; and affordable, safe, and adequate housing” that are diluting the original social justice concepts.

If indeed one of the goals of the resolution is to counteract racial, social, and economic injustices that “frontline and vulnerable communities” face every day, then such basic human rights must be guaranteed in a “Green New Deal.”

The resolution also stops short of rejecting the for-profit, market-based approach to our economy and prioritizes private sector partnerships to implement its measures. Apart from public banking, there is no mention of any wealth redistribution or a transformation of our policies away from corporate and industry lobby rules that would be required to stop global warming, create new jobs and fight inequalities.

Climate change cannot be fought with the same profiteering tools that put us in this mess in the first place. But since members of the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis who will work on the Democrats’ Green New Deal plan are all receiving donations from the fossil fuel industry, the future impact of this resolution remains unclear.

The resolution seems to exist primarily to, as writer Will Morrow wrote, “promote illusions that the Democratic Party, a party of the corporate and financial elite, no less than the Republicans, can be transformed into an agency of social progress.”

Indeed, the timing is impeccable.

If approved, the newly-formed committee would have to draft a Green New Deal plan by January 2020 and present a legislative draft by March 2020, just in time for the primary elections. The plan would reassure the progressive base of the Democratic Party without challenging its conservative members, but would go nowhere after the elections.

The concept of a “Green New Deal” is not new.

The United Kingdom Green Group published the first report on a Green New Deal Plan in 2008, coauthored by Caroline Lucas, Green Party member of the U.K. Parliament. Shortly after, the Green Party of the United States put a comprehensive, integrated Green New Deal at the heart of its platform in 2009. Howie Hawkins ran for governor of New York in 2010 with the Green New Deal as part of his campaign, as did presidential candidate Jill Stein in 2012 and 2016.

Unlike the Democrats’ version(s), the Green Party’s Green New Deal, a four-part comprehensive plan, calls for an economic bill of rights (including the right to single-payer healthcare, a guaranteed job at a living wage, affordable housing and free college education), a green and just transition, a real financial reform, a functioning democracy, and demilitarization. Cutting military spending by 50 percent would not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions worldwide (U.S. Department of Defense is the world’s worst polluter), but would help fund the massive public infrastructure works needed to transition an entire economy to 100 percent renewable energy while creating millions of jobs. A financial reform, including a 90 percent tax on bonuses for bailed out bankers, would also pay for the plan.

The Green Party of Santa Clara County welcomes this long overdue national discussion on a Green New Deal. However, only a true integrated policy approach to today’s economic, social and environmental crises can lead us to a sustainable, just and peaceful future for our nation and the world.

The different versions that have been recently introduced by Democrats are not only missing the bigger picture, they unilaterally ignore the link between corporate and industry-lobby control of our legislative policies, and omit the sweeping systemic changes critical for implementation of a meaningful Green New Deal.

Now that the idea of a Green New Deal has been introduced, it is up to us where we want to take it; by participating in discussions, raising awareness, organizing locally, and contacting our representatives to call for immediate and bold action.

Let’s raise our expectations and demand more. Let’s make the Green New Deal a transformative reality at last.

Christine Pépin and Nassim Nouri are members of the Green Party of Santa Clara County. Opinions are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside. Send op-ed pitches to [email protected].

13 Comments

  1. Dear Snowflakes,

    #1 Please give us your definition of “Climate Change”.
    a. Is it anthropogenic warming, in other words completely caused by man?
    b. Is it because the planet has been coming out an ice age for the last 10,000 years?
    c. Is it because your Social Studies teachers have been telling you that for the last 23 years?

    #2 Please explain to us the Green Party, 24 years ago it used to be known as the what party?
    a. The Democrat Party?
    b. The Republican Party?
    c. The Socialist Party?
    d . The Communist Party?

    #3 Please explain to us what happened after FDR, “Socialist New Deal” was put into place?
    a. Prohibition ended and Al Capone went to prison for making liquor and killing people?
    b. People moved from the dust bowl to California?
    c. People were paid minimum wedge to live in tent camps eat at soup kitchens and build walls till World War 2.

    #4 Please explain how much your Green New Deal will coast and how will it be funned?
    a. A 75% tax on every one that is working?
    b. A 75% tax on everyone richer than George Soros?
    c. A 100% tax on every corporation on the planet?
    d. A 100% tax on cow farts?
    e. A sell the entire solar system to the people moving to Mars?

    Please answer these questions so I may know who to vote for in 2021.

  2. In the business of psychology, AOC would be considered delusional or worse. Does she make up this crap on the toilet? It is clear to those of us who are based in reality that any deal that comes out of her mouth will lead to the further destruction of this country, apparently her primary motivation. She is also as phony as a stack of 3 dollar bills and is not a poor, Hispanic resident of the Bronx. She grew up in upstate NY and graduated from my high school in wealthy Northern Westchester County. Her level of ignorance about almost everything begs the question of her singular lack of intelligence. God help us.

  3. psst… psst… Christine, yeah… Nassim … come hear… shhh…

    I have a little secret for you…

    but don’t tell anyone…

    no one in power on the left actually believes any of this stuff on global warming

    and…

    sorry…

    it’s not cool to be the last to know…

    most of their voters don’t either, at least the ones that haven’t sold their $2M coastal home yet

    but, you know, don’t tell anyone…

    cause… you know… I still haven’t gotten my Tesla rebate yet.

  4. Yo Greenies,

    How much CO2 (and other “Greenhouse gases”) are released into the atmosphere when a volcano erupts?

    David S. Wall

  5. Pépin and Nouri take turns showing off their econonsense:

    Now that the idea of a Green New Deal has been introduced, it is up to us where we want to take it…

    …well then, how about taking it to China, which currently emits 60%+ more CO2 than the U.S.

    And China’s emissions are skyrocketing upward, while America’s emissions are declining.

    This “Green New Deal” ignores the elephant in the room, so as usual China gets off with the usual free pass.

    That’s because China doesn’t give a damn about emissions, and they ignore everything the Barmaid says.

    If these wet behind the ears kidz cared about America, they’d tell their twenty-something ex-barmaid-cum-Congresscritter Leader, who knows it all, to go and bark at China.

    But, NO-O-O-O-OOO!!

    Instead, they make totally ridiculous proposals like this, which would only widen the gap between China and the U.S., and impoverish the middle class here.

    If insanity is contagious, Chrissie and Nassie should invest in those throwaway mask thingies. That’d make more sense than the economic illiteracy they’re exhibiting here.

  6. HR109 is nonbinding. It’s funny how many “conservatives”, no, scratch that, Repubs, are getting all bent out of shape over it. Are they afraid it might come true? Their handlers, ie, the fossil fuel lobby, have them shaking in their boots.

    What’s sad in this is that there are prominent Democrats, like our own Senator Feinstein, that are also afraid of disturbing the status quo.

    The pot is starting to heat up; when will we frogs begin to notice?

    • This is a weak strawman. As a rental property owner, I have far far more to gain if AOC gets her way. The Fed Gov subsidizing me to become an electicity generator, with most of the profits going to my pocket instead of oil companies and utilities, would be a great personal win. I would make more than enough profit on that alone to support my family. It is however not in the common good. Taking CO2 impact on glocal climate debate off the table through concession (even thouh I am strongly skeptical), solar/wind is a very poor replacement strategy.

      The fastest way to reduce CO2 emissions is conversion of centrally generated electricity from Coal to Natural Gas through increases in NG supply. This has been done to great effect by fracking over the past decade. Natural gas emits 50% the CO2 as coal, as well as far less other nasty things. To further accelerate reductions in emissions, the central grid model should then convert to nuclear. Nuclear and Hydro generation for rural/farm areas is the fastest, most secure path to permanately reducing emissions.

      If the left were serious about reducing emissions, they would back off thier resistence to fracking, nuclear, and hydro dams. There are so many issues with Solar and Wind, it would take forever to explain. Intermittence, massive dimishing returns, transmission lose, intensity/humidity, regressive rooftop rebate structures, boondoggles like Ivanpah, wildlife intrusion and other land use issues. Off-grid solar, maybe remote wind farms that supply small island communities, great. Nuclear and Hydro for the urban and rural areas is the only way to get there, not solar and wind.

      The tranision from airfights to trains is equally ill advised. The amount of carbon emitted in the acquisiton of materials to produce the concrete and steel push tje breakeven date on emission 70-80 years out, given current ridership projections (which are overestimates). That is far past the 12 years being predicted as the end of the world.. Also, building out rails is an easy play for the rich to game. Land acquisition, development contracts, consruction supplies. Its like a license to print money and it will be paid for predominately by the middle class. This is just more welfare for the rich, and invisible for the poor. Even in train heavy Europe, 80% go to work in their car. You would have a huge upfront carbon emission from building out the tracks and little decrease in ongoing emissions by residents. Look at AOC, there are many other options for her to travel intra and inter city, and she flys and takes vans, as would anyone else with a choice.

      The reason conservatives such as myself are reacting so strongly is we have seen these types of bad ideas get popular backing by impulsive, scared population. Once started, and the public sentiment dies down, the rent-seekers employ sunk cost reasoning to keep them alive. By talking about EoD predictionas and asking if it moral to have kids, Ms AOC and the a large portion of the left are whipping their supportters into a frenxy to get as much of this nonsense off the ground, regardless if it will achieve the desired effect.

      • > The reason conservatives such as myself are reacting
        > so strongly is we have seen these types of bad ideas
        > get popular backing by impulsive, scared population.
        > Once started, and the public sentiment dies down, the
        > rent-seekers employ sunk cost reasoning to keep them alive.

        That’s funny, you could say the exact same things about starting unnecessary wars, like the ones in Iraq and Afghanistan. The American population is scared, so the politicians HAVE to do something. Even when the sentiment dies down, like it has for Afghanistan (that war is still going on, btw, 17 years later), the rent seekers (I think that’s the wrong term) keep things going, generating profit after quarterly profit.

        As a conservative, you should be rejoicing! You’ll be able to jump at this opportunity open new businesses, create more jobs, and then rake in the dollars. Or, you might be afraid that the Dems, once in power again, will put in place a way to actually *pay* for the trains and other infrastructure, instead of keeping them in a separate set of books like GW Bush did for his phony war (that’s still going on, btw).

        Other thing I don’t understand about your post is that you make it seem that by putting solar panels on your rental properties, just the savings from your PG&E bill will be enough to support your family. That doesn’t make a lot of sense.

        • Agreed, this is as foolish as almost any war, it is just 9 times more expensive.

          Rent-seekers is the exact term. For any sane American, they consider “Defense” to be the defense of the borders, no one dropping bombs on their house. This could be achieved with a really good Navy, perhaps a better missile shield, and midwest full of silos. Let’s say that costs 1X.

          The Rent-seekers use their ability to manipulate the public and politicians to make the definition of that said Defense to be much broader and convince Bush/Obama/Clinton/Trump to invade Syria, threaten Iran, instigate the Arab Spring, bomb Yemen, bomb Somalia, continually fight wars he campaigned against. Now the cost of that defense is 10X. After some expenses, let’s say 5X, the rent-seekers have just created 4X profit through lobbying of public and political opinion. Getting a 4X profit from something that should cost 1X is rent-seeking.

          The same thing is happening with the Environmental Lobby, the parallels in structure make one think the same people are behind it. Don’t be surprised if the same large defense corporations will be the ones supplying big systems to win the war on global CO2. Look to the language of the Left, this is our “WWII”.

          If you owned rental properties you would know what I meant, the more separate services offered, the higher revenue and profit.

          Regardless, Solar doesn’t work, because it needs storage and always requires alternative sources. When an individual goes solar, they know by design they are not stand alone. They push the cost of standby on rate-payers, who are doubly burdened as they are no longer contributing. In this world, rate-payers are usually the ones who can’t afford solar or are renters. This is regressive. What’s worse, the Left’s solution to this is to force the big bad utilities to pay me for electrons during the day, when I and the utility don’t need them (see Duck Belly). This is regressive times 2. Solar is not only a bad solution, but it is also immoral.

          And batteries are not green!

          How about we Conservatives and Progressives agree:
          1) The US gets out of the Middle East and allow the chips to fall where they may, as an oil exporter it is not in the US’s interest to keep theirs flowing. it is more strategic in the ground.
          2) convert electricity generation to natural gas over the next 10 years
          3) convert to Nuclear/Hydro over the next 50 years

          End your No Nukes, No Fracking, No Dams nonsense, we’ll pick up signs that say “No Blood for Oil”, and we can be rid of these dark clouds over our heads regardless whatever anyone believes about the superpowers of CO2.

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