The Green New Deal sounds really good. But as the details start to come out, it looks worse and worse. In fact, the costs would be stupendous, and the damage done by its policies would be catastrophic.
First, how much will it cost? One of the main promoters of the Green New Deal, freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, said recently that paying for it may require raising the top tax rate on incomes above $10 million to 70 percent. The experts developing the Green New Deal openly admit that it will cost not billions but trillions of dollars. Although how many trillions is open to debate, the fact is that the money will have to come from somewhere.
Progressive economists have argued that the federal government can print as much money as it needs and that spending so much will fully mobilize the economy and thereby create growth. How has that worked out in Venezuela?
Second, what are these policies that will cost so much? According to Ocasio-Cortez, the plan within 10 years must transition "the U.S. economy to become greenhouse gas emissions neutral." This likely would require replacing all coal, oil, and natural gas used for electricity generation and transportation with renewable energy, upgrading all buildings to state-of-the-art energy efficiency, and a whole lot more.
However, turning our energy economy upside down in a decade is only part of the Green New Deal. Income redistribution and social justice must be accomplished at the same time. Thus the federal government must create a "job guarantee program to assure a living-wage job to every person who wants one."
It must also mitigate "deeply entrenched racial, regional, and gender-based inequalities in income and wealth" and "ensure a 'just transition' for all workers, low-income communities, indigenous communities," etc.
The obstacle to achieving these dubious goals is that moving to 100 percent renewable energy within 10 (or many more) years is impossible. About 80 percent of America's energy comes from coal, oil, and natural gas. After decades of multibillion-dollar subsidies, wind and solar accounted for 9 percent of electricity produced in 2017. From 9 percent to 100 percent is a long way to go, and replacing all the gasoline, diesel cars, trucks, and tractors with electric vehicles will require much more renewable power.
This not only won't happen; it can't happen. That's because the electric grid becomes unstable and unmanageable as the percentage of power produced by intermittent and variable sources increases. Twenty percent wind and solar poses problems; 50 percent threatens blackouts and collapse. But what about battery storage? Alas, the technology available for the foreseeable future can provide minutes of expensive backup power, not hours or days.
The Green New Dealers reply that the climate crisis is so dire that we must do whatever it takes to stop it. But even a green leap backwards will not stop global greenhouse gas levels from increasing. Chinese emissions are now higher than the U.S. and Europe combined and still growing. And Indian emissions are increasing rapidly as hundreds of millions of people start to climb out of energy poverty.
The good news is that although global warming may present long-term challenges, it's not an immediate crisis, despite the dire warnings of politicized scientists. The rate of warming over the past 40 years has been modest, and the demonstrable impacts have been mild. The experts predicting doom ignore the data and rely on discredited computer models.
What would cause a real, immediate crisis is for Congress to enact the back-to-the-Dark-Ages policies of the Green New Deal.
Myron Ebell is director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.