Sunrise Movement and AOC Push Pelosi for a Green New Deal, Highlighting Job Creation

Jerri-Lynn here. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez has floated the eminently sensible albeit extremely modest suggestion that  the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives create a a Select Committee on a Green New Deal.

That’s there’s any debate about this proposal at all – given the crisis we face – is further testament to how broken the US political system is, and how deeply corrupted are most of our politicians.

As California Congressman Ro Khanna notes (according to Common Dreams):

“Pelosi should not only create this committee, but also appoint ⁦⁩ as Chair,” Khanna tweeted. “That is the boldness voters want. We need to shake up Congress & give the millennial generation a chance to lead. They have the most at stake re climate change.”

And AOC has gone even further. Not content with forcing Pelosi to honor her pledge to create the select committee, AOC is part of a group pressing her to back a plan to move to 100% renewable energy in a decade (see this account in Politico,  Ocasio-Cortez’s ‘Green New Deal’ becomes flash point for Pelosi).

We’ll see. Given what I know about how the campaign finance system works – which I first started to learn beginning in the spring of 1980 as a student of Tom Ferguson– and the amount of fossil fuel money sloshing around both sides of the aisle, I understand why even the modest select committee proposal isn’t a slam-dunk- despite Pelosi’s pledge (for more details, see this Politico piece, Veteran Democrats wary of climate push by Ocasio-Cortez and her allies, also see the informative first chart in this recent Ferguson et al INET post, Big Money—Not Political Tribalism—Drives US Elections, and note that only Mitch McConnell is more dependent on big money interests than is Pelosi).

I’m also pleased to see AOC join in the Sunrise Movement sit-in in Pelosi’s office. IMHO, we need less decorum in Congress – and a rejection of the absurd insistence on bipartisanship as the primus inter pares cardinal virtue (a fallacy I debunked in my 2016 post, Don’t Be An Obamamometer: Support Naked Capitalism and Critical Thinking).

Democrats are faced with a real choice here – lead on a climate change agenda, and commit to welcoming the hatred of the fossil fuel industry – or continue to serve as tame lapdogs and watch the planet burn (see this account in the New Statesman discussing this choice, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal shows the radical choice facing the Democrats). And note that as another benefit, the New Statesman calls the Green New Deal “the most transformative economic proposal since the Roosevelt era”. Think of how that would play electorally, if the party could find a path to enacting such a program, despite the formidable institutional obstacles that currently block the way.

I am certainly well aware that Trump remains President, and that the Republicans control the Senate. But Democrats will continue to languish at the polls if they continue to march to the beat set by their donors, and pursue policies that are DINO (aka,Democratic in Name Only).

By Nathanael Johnson (@savortooth on Twitter), Grist’s senior writer and the author of Unseen City and All Natural  Originally published at Grist.

The young climate activists clustered into California Representative Nancy Pelosi’s office this week to demand a “Green New Deal” hadn’t wasted any time. As soon as it became clear that Democrats will have a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, they descended on Washington to exert whatever clout they had.

The protest in Pelosi’s office was organized by the Sunrise Movement, a group of young people who have been pushing for climate action for a little over a year. They may have some sway with Pelosi, who issued a supportive statement while they were occupying her office on Tuesday. But with a Republican-held Senate and Donald Trump in the White House, the chances of enacting meaningful climate legislation next year are close to zero. So what’s their strategy here?

Varshini Prakash, Sunrise’s co-founder and communications director (and one of our Grist 50), said they have two objectives. First, they want all Democrats in leadership positions to stop accepting contributions from fossil fuel interests. And they want Pelosi to back something along the lines of a “Green New Deal,” a massive government mobilization to build a new, non-polluting, economy while also creating jobs.

Prakash said she was under no illusions about Pelosi’s ability to drive a climate bill through a Republican-controlled Senate, but she believes both of the group’s objectives could still be satisfied. Politicians don’t need anyone’s permission to stop taking oil money, and Democrats could set up a select committee in the House to begin laying the groundwork for a massive climate jobs program. As it happens, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the newly elected Representative from New York, joined the protesters outside Pelosi’s office, and has already proposed such a committee.

House Democrats need to start hammering out policy now, Prakash said, so that they will have strong legislation to pass when climate-conscious politicians take the Senate. In the meantime, Sunrise will be building a campaign to elect politicians who will support their cause at both the state and federal level. “This is definitely not a one-off event,” she said.

In a statement, Pelosi said she welcomed “the presence of these activists” and noted that she has already recommended reviving a select committee on climate change, which Republicans disbanded when they took the House in 2011.

That’s not enough for Prakash. “The old committee was toothless,” she said “It had no funding and no ability to put forward legislation — its purpose was to make connections and raise awareness. The time for messaging to the public about climate change is over, we need action.”

Pelosi’s office had no comment when we requested a response, but Representative Frank Pallone, a Democrat from New Jersey, told reporters that even Pelosi’s proposal for a select committee goes too far. It’s unnecessary, Pallone said, because the environmental policy committee he is expected to lead can handle the job.

In her statement, Pelosi said that many Democrats had campaigned on something that looks very much like a Green New Deal. “House Democrats ran on and won on our bold campaign for a $1 trillion investment in our infrastructure that will make our communities more resilient to the climate crisis, while creating 16 million new good-paying jobs across the country.”

Environmental journalist Mark Hertsgaard, who might have been the first person to use the term “Green New Deal” back in 1998, said Pelosi needs to embrace the rhetoric of young activists if she wants this idea to take fire.

“The next step is to get Pelosi to use those words, Green New Deal,” Hertsgaard said. “She’s already on board, but her statement about 16 million jobs and $1 billion investment in infrastructure, that’s policy wonk talk out of Washington.The average person can understand what a Green New Deal is.”

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  1. Isotope_C14


    They will do nothing, the people in charge are sociopaths or “They Live” aliens. Chris Hedges is right on this, the Democratic party is thoroughly corrupt and incapable of reform. They don’t mind being on the Titanic as long as they have first-class tickets.

    Anyone who believes Pelosi will do anything regarding climate change, well, I have a number of bridges for sale at rock-bottom prices.

  2. Ignacio

    Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez makes me feel some optimism. Pelosi is like the mummy that…(ups this migth be considered incorrect)

    It is time to start treating those “climate change skeptics” and “science critics” just as commissioners of crimes against humanity. Yes, Trump, you are one of those. You and those deeply corrupted politicians that fill the chambers. I liked that expresion Jerry-Lynn ;)

  3. UserFriendly

    In her statement, Pelosi said that many Democrats had campaigned on something that looks very much like a Green New Deal. “House Democrats ran on and won on our bold campaign for a $1 trillion investment in our infrastructure that will make our communities more resilient to the climate crisis, while creating 16 million new good-paying jobs across the country.”

    If your blind maybe it does. To me it looks like we are going to build sea walls while putting our fingers in our ears and screaming LA LA LA LA LA.

    1. jrs

      is it going to be an infrastructure deal that Trump passes, that’s not the type of infrastructure he wants if he wants any infrastructure at all really, he wants corrupt public-private projects that enrich cronies, border walls, etc., and the last thing on earth he could care about is green infrastructure.

      I mean good for AOC for fighting the good fight and I mean it, but that’s just the realities of who controls our government presently.

      1. JerryDenim

        AOC seems to understand what Trump does, which is you don’t start your negotiations by asking for what the conventional wisdom believes you can get. That’s meek and weak and will yield meek and weak results aka ‘Obama style’. Go big. Be outlandish and bold. Let your critics laugh. Real change requires big demands. After you negotiate down your grandiose demands, after several rounds of bargaining your original ask doesn’t seem so outlandish and you eventually get what you wanted. Plus there is the whole policy making angle. Hammering out the finer details of good policy doesn’t happen overnight and requires input from a large number of stakeholders. Best to plow that ground now and be ready with a workable plan that already has political support once climate progressives can make headway in the Senate.

        I’m very happy to see Ocasio-Cortez and other incoming freshmen upset Pelosi’s applecart. ‘Decorum’ is almost as overrated as bipartisanship. The fossilized, dollar-crazed, career politician, septuagenarians of the Democratic Party are not going to change unless they are absolutely forced to.

  4. Amfortas the hippie

    “First, they want all Democrats in leadership positions to stop accepting contributions from fossil fuel interests.”

    is it taboo to call them “bribes”?
    or even “fees for service”?
    for all these years, when I call my republican senators and reps offices, I make no secret of my disdain for them…and I call them Prostitutes openly and without apology.
    when the staffers clutch their pearls, I point to OpenGov, “Gucci Gulch” and the like…there’s the money, and there’s the vote the money paid for.
    I ask, “what is the fee for actually representing us’n’s?”
    I suggest that if they could settle on a price, I would endeavor to crowdfund it.
    I usually get hung up on…but still.
    pleasantries and manners are useless when dealing with these creatures…and I’d feel the same if mine had a D after their name.
    employees who habitually betray their employers deserve no respect., and have instead, earned it’s opposite.

  5. russell1200

    Sticking the words green and jobs together doesn’t make it so.

    In addition to the difficulties of pollution, you also have the difficulty of increasing costs of your energy sources. It’s all very nice to say that solar farms are cheaper than coal fired generating plants, but until practical energy storage exists at the application level, I would hope most people here would understand the limitations of the solar farm.

    The move away from fossil fuels will be a major disruption to the economy. It is not a given that we have full adequate replacements. Acting like it is a no-brainer, only made possible by the evils of political oil, sets yourself up as a strawman that is easily knocked down.

    1. Ignacio

      The limitations of solar energy that you mention will be overcome much faster if such political “green” initiatives are undertaken. Costs are not a difficulty if there is will. The only real limitations are technical but even with current technology a lot of fossil fuel energy can and should be replaced with renewables. In fact there are plenty of opportunities with high potential for job creation. Not as easily knocked down as you seem to believe.

      Not to mention opportunities in energy saving.

      Think only of the many things you could do for the price of a F35. A LOT!

      1. russell1200

        “will be overcome”

        I have worked in the technical side in solar. It’s why I tend to default to using it as an example.

        There are many interesting ideas out there. None that I am aware of have reached the operational stage. I promise you there is a world of difference from a closely monitored system test subject, and equipment that you can tie into a solar farm (or the adjoining switching station), turn it on and walk away. There is no logical reason that I know of that renewables have to succeed at anything. Maybe they will succeed, more likely they will partially succeed, and one hopes they won’t fail.

        As some have noted below, the real issue is downsizing. And that is a very hard sell.

        1. Ignacio

          I install solar in Spain. And it works. I dislike solar farms and believe that, please, first instal PV in roofs. Decentralise production. Currently we use it with small storage to reduce demand from the grid. Combine it with energy efficient systems and you can reduce demand by a lot. In some cases (hotels) we use hybrid pannels (PV + thermal) and our clients are happy.

    2. a different chris

      Saying that people are “acting like it is a no-brainer” is a …. strawman.

      “We will land on the moon before this decade is out.” What happened to those Americans? JFK didn’t say it would be easy — in fact he said we would do it “because it is hard”.

    3. Robert Valiant

      I agree. It may even be the case that the Earth can’t ever support early 21st century consumption patterns solely through “green” alternatives. If that’s the case, de-growth is the only option – smaller houses, smaller cars, less travel, modified diets, etc. I don’t ever expect to hear plans or initiatives from politicians to address that eventuality.

      1. JW

        You could rephrase that as shorter or no commutes (work from home!), lower utility bills, and healthier food, and really market it successfully. Unfortunately greens tend to be moralists who want us all to wear hair shirts to pay for our sins.

        1. Robert Valiant

          My experience with the Green Party in Washington State – I was a volunteer for two years – was that they liked to think that if we did everything right – remove the hydro power on the Columbia river, decommission the Columbia River Generating Station (nuke), and install wind turbines and solar (in eastern Washington, I guess) – then everyone would get to drive Teslas. That might be true, at least for everyone who drove, which would be a tiny minority. Very little “hair shirt” in their marketing, I assure you.

      2. Grumpy Engineer

        Aye. AOC advocates the 100% renewable “solution” that appeals emotionally but fails technically. James Hansen, arguably the father of the movement to control greenhouse gas emissions, condemned the 100% renewable solution as a “grotesque fantasy“. And he’s right. One only needs to look at the failure of Germany’s Energiewende (which has yielded ZERO reduction in CO2 emissions since 2009 despite the expenditure of billions of euros) for experimental proof that such an approach will fail far short of its goals.

        So what technical solutions exist that will actually work?

        [1] Extreme degrowth. Kick people out of their energy-hungry McMansions in the suburbs and force them to live in well-insulated block housing in the city. Near public transportation, as we’ll be seizing their gas guzzlers too. But like you said, not politically popular.

        [2] Embrace nuclear power big time and replace direct combustion of fossil fuels with electricity in as many places as we can. Even though this solution would let people maintain something closer to their current lifestyle, it too is deeply unpopular politically.

        I read through AOC’s Green New Deal proposal at It is terribly short on technical details. It also brings in a bunch of bunch of social justice goals that aren’t strictly relevant to the environmental goals, which ensures even greater political opposition. This seems like a bad approach to take if you want to actually get something useful done regarding climate change.

          1. Grumpy Engineer

            @jrs: Now?!? That’s the problem with solution #1. You’re talking about kicking over 150 million people out of their energy-inefficient single-family homes. Where will they live? There isn’t remotely enough housing available (esp. energy-efficient housing) for all of the people who would be displaced. Building new housing for that many people would easily take 40 years.

            And would people willingly leave their existing homes? I suspect most would not. Especially if they weren’t reimbursed for the loss of net worth they’d be suffering. After all, we can’t let them sell their house to somebody new who would live (and consume lots of energy) in it. That would defeat the purpose. The single-family homes must be abandoned.

            I suspect you’d have to force out millions of people at gunpoint, which could very well trigger a civil war. Are we willing to risk such an outcome? Remember that wars can dump stupendous amounts of CO2 (and other pollutants) into the sky.

            I’m deeply skeptical that the largest forced mass migration in American history is the best solution to our environmental woes.

      3. thump

        Yes, I have wondered how politicians will sell lower standards of living or a lower population as the way forward. If worse comes to worse, and a renewable and sustainable economy happens to be a Stone Age-level one, I have wondered how many people would choose extinction instead.

        1. efschumacher

          Do, please, read the Brexit herds if you want to know how to sell lower standards of living. They mostly do it by waving the flag of ‘freedom’, and pandering to people who have a visceral dislike of inconvenient details.

      4. Tony Wright

        Let alone address the fundamental problem of too many people – the planet is way out of balance ecologically, with the top predator (us) continuing to cause mass extinctions of other species, mostly via continued depletion of rapidly dwindling ‘islands’ of relatively natural habitats. Keep going like this and we are all doomed – forget the hair shirt, it will be a morass of famine, wars, diseases – the ecological consequences of overpopulation as apply to all species, including us, despite our smartass, arrogant assumptions that we can kick the ecological can down the road indefinitely.
        However, the political climate worldwide seems to be increasingly adversarial, with political energies largely wasted in short term political pointscoring, no vision for the future and no consensus between the divides ( that was so last century……)
        Furthermore, modern day politicians are battling to sell their existing, ecologically exploitative policies despite the shiploads of growth ( human population worldwide has more than doubled in my adult lifetime), fuelled by ever – increasing mountains of debt.
        The only hope for the future seems to be if some sort of moderate catastrophe occurs ,enough to wake us out of our collective reality denial, but not sufficiently destructive so as to cause our own extinction. Preferably before we trash the planet completely, so that surviving humans have something worth living for, and a decent diversity and number of other species also manage to survive.
        Maybe, just maybe, Trump will be that moderate catastrophe catalyst – he seems to be showing an unprecedented inclination to both create various crises, and bring matters to a head.
        Then a new more ecologically based economic order can be established (nature abhors a vacuum) after the modern neoliberal order has been shown clearly for what it is – a capital based scheme which favours the top one percent financially, at huge expense to both the rest of us and the ecological health of the planet, our ultimate life support system.

    4. Another Scott

      I’d like to know what type of jobs are they: union or non-union? Are there requirements that parts must be Made in America or will they be sourced from China? Will policies be put in place to prevent the downward pressure on wages if people lose their jobs as auto mechanics who are displaced because an electric drivetrain is simpler than a traditional one?

      These are the types of questions that need to be addressed when developing the solution. It is not inevitable who will benefit from it; however, the quality of the legislation will have a huge impact on it, and I’m very concerned that the Dems in congress will prioritize the interest of the middle and working class.

    5. marym

      Here’s an excerpt from a timeline from Wikipedia

      1974 – J. Baldwin, at Integrated Living Systems, co-develops the world’s first building (in New Mexico) heated and otherwise powered by solar and wind power exclusively.
      1976 – David Carlson and Christopher Wronski of RCA Laboratories create first amorphous silicon PV cells, which have an efficiency of 2.4%.
      1977 – The Solar Energy Research Institute is established at Golden, Colorado.
      1977 – The world production of photovoltaic cells exceeded 500 kW
      1978 – First solar-powered calculators.[12]
      1979 – U.S. President Jimmy Carter installs the first White House solar panels.
      Late 1970s: the “Energy Crisis”; groundswell of public interest in solar energy use: photovoltaic and active and passive solar, including in architecture and off-grid buildings and home sites.

      Your last paragraph about disruption and viable replacements is what we’ve been hearing for >40 years (of huge technological changes in every other area) and here we are.

    6. CarlH

      I would assume any Green New Deal would have to include major funding for new technologies. Similar to the moon shot. Much of the technology didn’t exist before the project began.

  6. Frank

    I wish her good luck and hope she gets it right. I’m a little experienced in hearing all the talk of Green Jobs … that’s a regular utterance one hears from Senator Sanders of VT. I’ve spoken to the Senator about his apparent willingness to cheer on support for installing wind farms and solar orchards no matter if the proposed site is headwaters of a significant stream, destroys critical wildlife habitat, encroaches too closely on existing homes, triggers upsizing of road culverts (no state or federal money for this) and so on and his response is always, “we need to create jobs.” But its hard to know a lot about those jobs that are created. When wind turbines are installed they use experienced people from outside the community and leave only a few short term jobs for haulers, cleaning out level spreaders and things like that. When it comes to installing solar panels that is not quite so much the case – panels are pretty much a package thing that is bolting the panels to a rack and plugging the panels together. And once the installation is finished the contractor moves on to another site probably using the folks they already know. But my point is that many of the jobs are temporary and do not require very much in the way of new skills.

    I urge those wishing for a Green Energy New Deal to be on the alert for legislators (getting marching orders from developers) seizing the opportunity to weaken environmental protections by complaining about the permitting process standing in the way and being too costly.

    One last anecdote – here in my little VT town we have field adjacent to the cemetery; the field was given to the town for future cemetery plots. And, as one can expect, our energy committee has some members willing to overlook practically any shortcoming of a renewable energy project. The energy committee immediately seized on that 10 acre or so field for a solar installation. The company representative was very aggressive with the town – everything was hurry up and one always felt as though they were being hustled.
    Finally the town officials voted to go ahead and only on nearly the last hour of the last day did the installer contact the power company about the size of the project and were told that the line here would not accommodate a project of that size. The company walked briskly away. We were left with a somewhat bitter taste about the project.
    Why checking for the feasibility of the project was not the first step is a mystery. BTW, that is usually the approach by wind turbine installers – they will not get in the ISO queue or pay for a system impact study till the last thing.

    BTW I’m certain that climate change is real and rapidly coming on. I also have solar panels installed at my house and am a supporter of home solar installations.

    1. a different chris

      >many of the jobs are temporary

      Isn’t that an interesting thing about the future? Cars used to start showing rust at 3 years, the motor would often be worn at 75k. Now a lot of them go 10years/200k. And better tools (what they call “automation” to make it sound all roboticy but it’s really just better tools) reduces the number of man-hours need to make these long-lasting vehicles.

      Now instead of somebody showing up and ladling coal into the maw of the power station every day, they will mount panels on your roof and you’re good for 20 years. How will that work? I dunno. But it’s going to happen and we will figure it out, I hope.

      So although your point may be valid, it isn’t a problem just with solar power. It’s a problem with everything. And if you’re like me, and think we should have a much smaller population with a lot more leisure time, then it’s not even a problem.

  7. PhillyPhilly

    What sources are available to find out how much money a particular legislator has accepted from fossil fuel companies? It would be interesting to see how corrupt my local leaders are.

  8. Eclair

    Green change is ‘not feasible.’ It ‘costs too much money.’ Politicians are ‘too corrupt’ to implement it. It will be a ‘major disruption to the economy.’

    George Monbiot’s column, published a few days ago in The Guardian, quoted a young woman, member of the newly created “Extinction Rebellion” in the UK, who when asked if their aims were ‘realistic,’ responded: “What is it that you are asking me as a 20-year-old to face and to accept about my future and my life? … This is an emergency. We are facing extinction. When you ask questions like that, what is it you want me to feel?”

    My grandchildren are a few years younger than that young woman. What will their home and their life be like when they are my age, if indeed they are allowed to live for an additional 60 years?

    In Hoboken, NJ, my daughter and her family had to twice empty out their basement and lower floor and move everything to the top floor of their house, due to surge flooding from storms. They have moved inland.

    In California, an entire town has been burned, leaving over 40,000 people homeless. Most are living in a tent city set up in a Walmart parking lot. To the south, there is the notorious ‘caravan’ of homeless, unemployed Central Americans, moving north. The Bay Area’s air, filled with heavy smoke from the fires, is ‘worse than Beijing.’ The elderly, the asthmatic, the very young are compromising their lungs, their circulatory system and their lives, by the act of inhaling.

    This is a (family blog) emergency. This requires a ‘war-time mobilization.’ The nation has done this in the past; we can do it now. The Extinction Rebellion group in the UK has begun a campaign of civil disobedience, blocking roads and gluing their hands to government buildings, to raise awareness and apply pressure to politicians.

    AOC is applying pressure to the admittedly moribund congressional Democrats. We need the people to apply some pressure on the outside; and, probably, a polite e-mail or phone call to your congressional representative is not going to cut it.

    1. readerOfTeaLeaves

      If you google ‘US military’ + ‘climate change’, you get some interesting publicly available, unclassified info. There have been numerous reports about US military concerns regarding the linkages between climate change and conflict.

      Here’s hoping that some of the newer Dems will use the military’s expertise, not to militarize climate issues, but to solve them in a pragmatic, coherent fashion.

      1. akaPaul LaFargue

        This opens up an interesting question. What if in every State that receives funds from the War Dept we determined where and who gets those funds, which jobs are involved and then we come up with a Green Jobs program to replace the war economy one. Just thinkin’ out loud. :)

    2. jrs


      A polite email to congress may be more effective than some leftists tactics frankly (Another protest? Really? I know it’s meant well and is better than nothing but ..), but better to occupy their offices, better to demand changes of city hall, better to run to office – those who can.

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