So, What is a Green New Deal?

December 19, 2018

Whatever it is, people are talking about it.


Earlier this month, Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the New York Democrat, participated in a sit-in at House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s Capitol Hill office organized by a group of young people with the Sunrise Movement. Ocasio-Cortez didn’t high-five protesters because she’s against Pelosi—she says she is backing Pelosi to become the next Speaker of the House—as much as she was there to advocate for what the sit-in was demanding.

Those protestors were demanding something called the Green New Deal—a proposal, backed by Ocasio-Cortez, for Congress to comprehensively tackle climate change and, at the same time, the country’s income inequality, which is the worst it’s been since the years before the Roosevelt administration implemented the original New Deal.

Climate change and income inequality might seem unrelated. But it’s important that any nationwide economy-boosting program boost the right kind of economy—that is, one that doesn’t depend on polluting the air and water. It’s also going to be hard to persuade the average American that climate change is our most urgent nationwide priority if their social media feed is a constant stream of GoFundMe campaigns for their friends’ medical bills, or they have to sit down and breathe into a paper bag every time they think about whether they can retire before dying first.

So, what specifically is in this Green New Deal?

Nobody knows . . . though a lot of people already have ideas about what should go into it. Ocasio-Cortez has a draft proposal posted on her website that offers some basics, though it’s clear that the plan is still very much an outline.

The draft says that within 10 years from “the start of execution of the Plan,” the country will be fully powered by renewable energy sources. The proposal also gives a shout-out to that nationwide energy-efficient smart grid that so many renewable energy wonks (and also the actual Department of Energy) have been salivating about for years.

A grid like this could allow thousands of clean energy start-ups to bloom across the country and pay out some major cheddar to the workers who actually build it. The draft proposal also mentions upgrading every residential and industrial building across the country for state-of-the-art energy efficiency and decarbonizing (as in probably electrifying) manufacturing, transportation, and agriculture.

The draft also imagines “funding massive investment in the drawdown and capture of greenhouse gases” (possibly straight-up carbon capture technology, possibly incentives to manage land in ways that store carbon). And it envisions green technologies becoming a major export sector for the United States (which would theoretically involve research funding and support for clean energy start-ups).

Ocasio-Cortez also proposes providing all Americans with the opportunity, training, and education to be a full and equal participant in the country’s clean energy transition; universal health care programs that would help green energy start-ups get off the ground; and a jobs guarantee program that would assure a living-wage job to every person who wants one.

And how would this happen?

Ocasio-Cortez proposes that the House of Representatives establish a “Select Committee for a Green New Deal” made up of 15 members, Republicans as well as Democrat. The committee would have one year to have draft legislation to present to Congress, and finalized draft legislation would have be ready no later than March 1, 2020. The draft also contains a stipulation that no one on the special committee would be allowed to take campaign donations from oil and gas companies, to prevent the legislation from being watered down before it reaches the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote.

Is this deal really so new?

Sort of. There was Waxman-Markey, though that was much less ambitious than this. In 2003, a group called the Apollo Alliance announced a climate change plan that was sort of a New Deal/clean energy space race hybrid (hence the “Apollo,” after the Kennedy administration’s moon shoot project). The alliance had some heavy hitters backing it—and some bipartisan support—but it never achieved its ambitious goals.

Then there was Van Jones, whose 2008 book The Green Collar Economy raised a lot of excitement around living-wage jobs and renewable energy and launched Jones to the White House as President Obama’s green jobs advisor. The green collar economy was stymied, in part, by China’s ardent support for its own solar industry, but when the Obama administration passed the 2009 economic stimulus bill, it contained about $90 billion of financing for clean energy projects. While that money did do some important things, including funding risky but promising renewable technology, it was overshadowed by the larger economic collapse and the Wall Street bailout of firms like AIG.

This history of partially implemented green economy dreams illustrates how the New Deal aspect of the Green New Deal could come in handy. If we’re in a recession by the time 2020 rolls around, the “jobs” component of the New Deal could provide leverage against legislators who might want to use any financial crisis as an excuse to delay acting on the climate crisis.

Is a Green New Deal politically viable?

This is all heady stuff, and it’s important to remember that this is really just a draft resolution for the House to create a special committee to work out the specifics—specifics that could change a lot over the next two years. Actually making sure that the Green New Deal lives up to its promise of saving our troposphere, and our economy, will require grassroots pressure on senators and representatives from every corner. In other words, soon enough there will be sit-ins outside a lot of offices on Capitol Hill—not just Pelosi’s.




6 Responses to “So, What is a Green New Deal?”

  1. andrewfez Says:

    One of those dots is mine from 2016:

    The more the Sander’s wing of the party pushes out the Clinton components, the higher the probability that a green new deal will come to pass. Ocasio-Cortez is a Justice Democrat which is a new brand of Democrat that rejects the notion, which was catalyzed under Bill Clinton, that Democrats should take corporate contributions and act as Republican light politicians. The founders of the JD’s are Cenk Ugar and Kyle Kulinski, the latter having some odd ideas on carbon taxes: He seems to think we can tax Exxon, Cheveron, BP, etc. but that won’t translate to higher gas prices, based on the video I’ll post below. Perhaps he thinks a fee & dividend will offset the rise in gas prices like it did with Canadian natural gas, but at some point the price of gas has to get uncomfortable enough that people start buying more Priuses and Teslas, one would think. This seems to be a common theme amongst these folks – poorer first world people (that still own cars and homes btw) won’t have to pay extra, inside a carbon taxed society – the entire burden will be shouldered by the rich.

      • Sir Charles Says:

        Macron is not a “centrist”. He’s a neo-liberal. He relaxed workers’ rights (to make the market more “flexible”) and gave the rich tax breaks. Meanwhile, the lower and middle class have to carry the burden.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Welcome back, Andrew—-it’s been a while since we’ve heard from you. Good thoughts from you (and Kulinski in the clip).

      Finishing the latest book from Chris Hedges—-America: The Farewell Tour—-a very insightful and hugely disturbing view of how the USA has gotten to the present sad state. Perhaps the most impactful book I have read in years.

      Hedges addresses the same things Kulinski does, going back into history to show how the clashes between the communists and nazis in Germany led to Hitler and how Trumpism is a disturbing replay. Hedges talks about demonstrations in the USA and how the Alt-right vs Anti-fa and the Anti-fa vs the establishment demonstrations may not turn out well. The plutocracy will not go quietly, and the majority of Americans are frightened sheep that will not react well to upheaval.

      A good line from the book—-Hedges quotes someone as saying:
      “There are two kinds of fascists in the world—-fascists and anti-fascists”.

      PS Also just viewed Michael Moore’s new movie—-Fahrenheit 9/11. Two hours long and it’s jaw-dropping. He, Hedges, and Kulinski would find much to talk about over a beer.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: