AOC’s Green New Deal as Policy

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

As is well known, one of the first things Alexandria Orcasio-Cortez (AOC) did when she came to Washington was to join a sit-in, in Nancy Pelosi’s office, sponsored by the Sunrise Movement, that publicized a Green New Deal (GND).

The GND is obviously an enormous topic, so in this post I’m going to focus only on the GND as a policy proposal, as opposed to a pleasing slogan. (I also won’t be looking at the history of programs proposed under the GND moniker, as from the Green Party, the Data for Progress version, precursor bills introduced in Congress, or a 2008 version proposed by the UK’s New Economics Foundation). In a subsequent post I’ll look at the GND as politics; it does poll well (and not just the phrase, but the actual program). Amazingly enough, Indivisible supported the GND almost immediately (although they don’t support #MedicareForAll).

I got a little wrapped around the axle looking for the primary source on Ocasio’s GND, because I remembered the original version I read at https://ocasio2018.com/green-new-deal as a cellphone-friendly, swipe-intensive document with large type; that URL now redirects to a Google[1] Doc, here, which is the proposed rule for the establishment of a Select Committee For A Green New Deal (which Pelosi and the liberal Democrat leadership, sadly, gutted, someting I’ll talk about in the post on GND politics). I had hoped to compare what AOC originally proposed with what emerged as the proposed rule, but the Wayback Machine, sadly, honors the redirect.

In any case, the “DRAFT TEXT FOR PROPOSED ADDENDUM TO HOUSE RULES FOR 116TH CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES” (“Draft text”) has two parts: The proposed “Addendum,” and a “Frequently Asked Questions” section, in different fonts. In the Addendum, two “paragraphs” (legislation-ese for “section”) are key from the policy perspective: “(2) (A) LEGISLATIVE JURISDICTION” and “(6) SCOPE OF THE PLAN FOR A GREEN NEW DEAL AND THE DRAFT LEGISLATION.” Most of the FAQ is, as it should be, talking points; I think the question “How will the government pay for these investments?” is the most important. The entire document, including the FAQ, is only eleven pages long, so I suggest you grab a cup of coffee and read it.

Here are the articles I looked at as preparation for this post. I’m simply going to list them, because none of them quote anything more from the “Draft Text” than phrases, where I intend quote great slabs. In no particular order:

The Green New Deal, explained” Dave Roberts, Vox. A Vox explainer, with a respectful treatment of MMT. Well worth a read.

With a Green New Deal, Here’s What the World Could Look Like for the Next Generation” Kate Aronoff, The Intercept. A backgrounder.

Corporations See a Different Kind of ‘Green’ in Ocasio-Cortez’s ‘Green New Deal’” Whitney Webb, Mint Press. A critique from the left, with more close reading than most.

We Have To Make Sure the ‘Green New Deal’ Doesn’t Become Green Capitalism” In These Times. A conversation with Kali Akuno of Cooperation Jackson.

Meet the scholar crafting the ‘Green New Deal’ E&E News. There seem to be several; this is “The New Consensus.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Will Be The Leading Democrat On Climate Change Alexander C. Kaufman, HuffPo

First, I’ll look at the Addendum. Then, I’ll look at the FAQ. In each case, I’ll simply add comments. Since I’m not fully up to speed on climate change issues — and what individual could make such a crazy claim, anyhow? — I’ll do a lot more questioning and poking at inconsistencies than anything else. To the text!

The Addendum

Here is the first key paragraph. I’m adding comments as numbered notes in square brackets, thus: [n]:

(2) JURISDICTION; FUNCTIONS.—

(A) LEGISLATIVE JURISDICTION.—

(i) The select committee shall have authority to develop[1] a detailed national, industrial, economic mobilization[2] plan (hereinafter in this section referred to as the “Plan for a Green New Deal” or the “Plan”) for the transition of the United States economy to become [3]greenhouse gas emissions neutral and to significantly draw down greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and oceans and to promote economic and environmental justice and equality. In furtherance of the foregoing, the Plan shall: (a) be prepared in consultation with experts and leaders from business, labor, state and local governments, tribal nations, academia[4] and broadly representative civil society groups and communities[5]; (b) be driven by the federal government[6], in collaboration, co-creation and partnership with business, labor, state and local governments, tribal nations, research institutions and civil society groups and communities; (c) be executed in no longer than 10 years[7] from the start of execution of such Plan; (d) provide opportunities for high income work, entrepreneurship and cooperative and public ownership[8]; and (e) additionally, be responsive to, and in accordance with, the goals and guidelines relating to social, economic, racial, regional and gender-based justice and equality set forth in paragraph (6)[9].

COMMENTS

[1] This is a plan to make a plan. Nothing wrong with that!

[2] “Mobilize,” as the country was mobilized during World War II, is an important word and concept. Indeed, it’s not even clear to me that a society dominated by neo-liberalism can mobilize; the ongoing Brexit omnishambles in the U.K. is a case in point.

[3] Greenhouse gases are indeed the object of policy, but “carbon” (dioxide) is by no means the only greenhouse gas; the only early version I’ve been able to find shows that the writers of the draft actually adjusted their text to meet this objection! (The FAQ still uses the phrase “carbon neutral,” which, along with the two different fonts for each part of the documents, suggests a hasty process, making the deliverable all the more impressive.

[4] Where the family blog is the Oxford Comma?

[5] I didn’t list the WSWS article on the GND in my bibliography above, because I felt it was, well, doctrinaire. They write: “Everything is phrased as part of consultation with “business” leaders.” Well, no. Business leaders have “a seat at the table.” That’s politics. And the Estates General began with all three orders of the realm attending, after all. Then things changed.

[6] The Federal government is the driver, overturning the Reagan revolution (“In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem“).

[7] The latest IPCC report, if nothing else, has been effective in setting a deadline.

[8] GND mobilization produces a mixed economy, like the original New Deal but (see note [5]) more mixed than what we presently have. It’s not clear to me that entrepreneurship includes rentiers (finance capital). It had better not, otherwise their rake-off will cripple the program.

[9] I’ll have more to say about “social, economic, racial, regional and gender-based justice and equality” when I get to politics.

Here is the second key paragraph:

(6) SCOPE OF THE PLAN FOR A GREEN NEW DEAL AND THE DRAFT LEGISLATION.—

(A) The Plan for a Green New Deal (and the draft legislation) shall be developed with the objective[1] of reaching the following outcomes within the target window of 10 years from the start of execution of the Plan:

Dramatically expand existing renewable power sources and deploy new production capacity with the goal of meeting 100% of national power demand through renewable sources;

building a national, energy-efficient, “smart” grid;[2]

upgrading every residential and industrial building for state-of-the-art energy efficiency, comfort and safety[3];

eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from the manufacturing, agricultural and other industries, including by investing in local-scale agriculture[4] in communities across the country;

eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from, repairing and improving transportation and other infrastructure, and upgrading water infrastructure to ensure universal access to clean water[5];

funding massive investment in the drawdown of greenhouse gases;

making “green” technology, industry, expertise, products and services a major export of the United States, with the aim of becoming the undisputed international leader in helping other countries transition to completely greenhouse gas neutral economies and bringing about a global Green New Deal[6].

COMMENTS

[1] Objectives should be measurable. If each of these subparagraphs represents a tranche of greenhouse gas reduction, then we should quantify the reduction for each tranche; how else are we to set priorities or make trade-offs? Now, this is a plan to have a plan, so it shouldn’t include metrics as such; but the plan to have a plan should have a requirement to develop metrics.

[2] I would want to look into the assumptions behind that, especially if decentralizing power production is a good idea.

[3] I’m not sure why “comfort” is important, unless we’re talking about home heating and cooling. It cost me upwards of $60K to get the enormous old Maine house in order, and I funded a lot of highly skilled workers in the town to do it. Seems like a lot multiplied out, but it’s nothing compared to an F-35, which doesn’t send any local children to college, either.

[4] Soil and biodiversity should be mentioned explicitly; in general, I see a slight cognitive bias toward the technical. A “smart grid” (there’s that word, “smart”) is mentioned explicitly, but reforestation, a proven carbon capture solution, is not.

[5] In general, the issue of who owns these improvements seems a little hazy. Are they all public works? Evidently not, if private homes are to be (for example) weatherized. As usual, I don’t like the word “access.” I’m sure Nestlé would be very happy to privatize every municipal water system as the “universal” water provider!

[6] Presumably, at the very least, a Marshall Plan manner, and not as our rentier class would prefer.

The FAQ

Paragraph (C) of the Draft Text covers financing, but I’m going to quote the FAQ because it’s more reflective of the public mind:

How will the government pay for these investments?

Many will say, “Massive government investment! How in the world can we pay for this?” The answer is: in the same ways that we paid for the 2008 bank bailout and extended quantitative easing programs, the same ways we paid for World War II and many other wars. The Federal Reserve can extend credit to power these projects and investments, new public banks can be created (as in WWII) to extend credit and a combination of various taxation tools (including taxes on carbon and other emissions and progressive wealth taxes) can be employed.

In addition to traditional debt tools, there is also a space for the government to take an equity role in projects, as several government and government-affiliated institutions already do.

The Dave Roberts article gives a lot of space to MMT, but when I read paragraph (C) and the FAQ, I see less MMT rigor than I would like. Perhaps “Why not #MintTheCoin and have done with it!” is not a politically viable approach, but none of this reads like the draft text authors sat down with an MMT economist and developed detailed wording that’s really bulletproof against the assaults that will surely come. Yes, the answer to “How did we pay for World War II?” is “We printed money!”, and that’s directionally correct, but even a plan to have a plan needs more rigor than that. Sadly, the paragraph also outright says that Federal taxes fund Federal spending (“various taxation tools”). That cannot stand.

Conclusion

If we think of the “Draft Text” of this GND not so much as a text, but as a space in which to mobilize, I think that AOC did a very good job, and in a very short time with virtually no resources, too. That’s impressive. If I pull my nose back from the grindstone of close reading, it seems to me that there are four areas where improvements could be made: (1) Clarifying the role (hopefully, zero) that finance capital will play in the process; (2) more focus on “natural” approaches like soil and reforestation: (3) introduce a requirement for metrics; (4) straighten out the funding language a la straight-up MMT. L’audace, l’audace, toujours l’audace!

NOTE

[1] Continuing to whinge: It would be helpful if AOC’s staff put up a PDF version; I tried several methods of converting Google’s horrid HTML markup to PDF, so I could embed the document here, and failed. (Maybe Google Docs has this functionality, but I wouldn’t know, because I don’t have an account. Perhaps on Genius.com, or some other annotation platform? UPDATE See below.

APPENDIX

Here is the PDF, courtesy of alert reader Phillip Allen:

AOC_Green_New_Deal
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This entry was posted in Environment, Global warming, Guest Post on by .

About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.

67 comments

  1. Susan the Other

    Thank you for this reference. Since MMT is based on stabilizing an economy, I’d think it is a good way to address how future maintenance of this great shift to sustainability will be financed far into the future. For the initial mobilization we definitely need to go on a war-like footing. If rentier finance is allowed to fudge around looking for opportunities to do their usual god’s work we will end up with an equity imbalance that spins out of control and hysteria will follow that we must” balance the budget”, no matter how silly. They might look into making any financing non profit; certainly not based on their usual 11% returns. I don’t know why the banks can’t function like other utilities while we get ourselves out of this mess. And I certainly agree with you on giving nature – wildlife, forests, estuaries, shoreline, waterways, and especially our oceans a special paragraph all together. I’d like to see “research institutions” defined and expanded and certain qualifications delineated. But I agree this is a really good start and AOC is a force of nature. Hope she can stay that way.

    Reply
    1. UserFriendly

      Well, the focus on MMT in building a green new deal would first off note that we don’t need to hike taxes or cut elsewhere to find ‘pay fors.’ And Richard Murphy did help her out drafting this so I’m not surprised she got that right.

      The other, more important part of the Green new deal that I have hardly seen mentioned is doing a survey of the world’s current capacity for producing steel, silicon, and every other raw material input for solar panels, wind farms and nuclear plants. Determine how long it would take to be able to increase all that capacity, see if where some of that capacity is currently going is necessary or can be trimmed back, calculate the energy required to build out that infrastructure, and then see just how quickly it would be possible to decarbonize.

      And yes, nuclear is here for a reason it is absolutely impossible to get past 80% PV and wind without adding lots of toxic batteries or using pumped hydro storage which isn’t an option most places. Because I missed a chance to comment the other day on someone’s flat out wrong assertion that nuclear is more green house gas intensive than wind and PV here is a link to a harmonized meta analysis for the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of every electricity producing method (it even breaks down into what type of nuclear, or what type of solar).. This is the gold standard, done by NREL (The National Renewable Energy Laboratory) so not some ‘nuclear shil.’ Just by the exceptionally large amount of material that needs to be produced per kW generated PV is more greenhouse intensive than nuclear. I recommend the scatter plot and then removing the electricity production methods you aren’t interested in.

      Reply
      1. rob

        nuclear isn’t “green” and it isn’t cheap.
        It is time for the worn out old way of thinking this will happen, will move on.
        Nevermind what people “promise”, trying to build new nuclear plants in south carolina and florida, westinghouse had to declare bankruptcy, and admit that their technology wasn’t working, and that the costs were completely off.
        So , Besides the fact tha something else MUST be the answer, no matter how difficult. Nuclear isn’t an option.
        Also, there is still a problem with waste storage. At hanford, and los alamos, the waste storage plans already are NOT panning out. JUST 50 years on. What about the next 10,000?
        The nuclear plants in existence have to be kept for as long as possible, because we have no way to deal with the waste now. So they will be providing energy for the future, until we have to mothball them.
        But to think we can build more is really shortsighted. Nevermind the theory, nevermind what people are teaching, nevermind what the marketing says, nevermind what the journals say…. the people who have the best resouces, just failed. and have been failing in 10 years of trying. duke/dominion/westinghouse didn’t just give up for nothing.Ten billion dollars plus later with nothing to show….. that isn’t a plan.
        Then there is fukushima…. the latest reason not to go down that road….. that mess is still happening. that catastrophe has yet to be understood. we still don’t know what is inevitable at this point.
        Plan on wind,solar(pv and parabolic)wave,tidal,whatever… that has a chance of actually being “green”

        Reply
        1. UserFriendly

          The cost is high here because we killed off our supply chain in the late 70’s. China and South Korea build nuclear plants for a fraction of the cost and they work just fine. And if you pay slightly closer attention to MMT the problem isn’t how much will it cost, it”s how quickly can we bring online carbon free power. Just by the very nature of requiring different raw materials it’s worth doing. We know exactly how to handle nuclear waste, deep storage, but big oil has waged a 50 year fear mongering campaign against their only serious competition to make people like you think nuclear isn’t safe. According to the UN, (the same people who put out the IPCC reports on climate change) found that:

          In general terms, because the doses following the accident were low, the risks were correspondingly low. After an exposure corresponding to an acute dose of 100 mSv to the whole body, the lifetime risk of cancer could be estimated at about 1.3 per cent, in addition to the usual pre-existing 35 per cent chance of developing cancer in a Japanese population that had not been exposed.

          and that:

          For almost all workers (99.3 per cent as of 31 October 2012), the effective doses reported were low (less than 100 mSv) with the average at about 10 mSv. Any radiation-induced risks would be correspondingly low. A statistically discernible increase in radiation-related health effects among workers or their descendants that could be attributed to radiation exposure was not expected on the basis of current knowledge and the information on doses.
          As of 31 October 2012, about 0.7 per cent (i.e. about 170) of the workers were estimated to have received effective doses in excess of 100 mSv, predominantly by external exposure, with an average dose of about 140 mSv. No discernible increase in cancer in this group was expected, because its magnitude would be small in comparison with normal statistical fluctuations in cancer incidence for such a small group.
          For the 13 workers who were estimated to have received absorbed doses to the thyroid in the range of 2 to 12 Gy, an increased risk of developing thyroid cancer and other thyroid disorders could be inferred. However, no discernible increase of the incidence of cancer in this group was expected because of the difficulty in confirming such a small increase in incidence against the normal statistical fluctuations in cancer incidence for such a small group.

          But even if we use the linear no threshold model (which basically says all radiation, even sunlight and xrays) is not safe and will shorten your life by some number of days, add in all the people that died evacuating from the area around the plant just after the Tsunami, and use the same method to count deaths for every other nuclear accident that has happened, nuclear is still the least deadly way to produce energy..

          This country is so insanely propagandized it makes me want to scream. I have no doubt I will lose this fight and that millions of people will die because of it.

          Reply
          1. Susan the Other

            UF, I would love nuclear energy to enter the current era with an updated technology which makes nuclear power disasters a thing of the past. When there is a method for fixing a plant when it has gone all haywire from an unexpected 9. quake and a 40-foot tsunami that prevents a meltdown quickly and safely I’ll be very pro nuclear. Fukushima Daichi was such an enormous disaster no-one was allowed to compare it accurately to Chernobyl. The radioactivity absorbed by the Pacific Ocean was nothing short of an assassination. We still do not hear the truth about the food chain and all the animals that are sick and dying. Here in the western US clouds of radioactivity hung around in the atmosphere in inversions in spite of all the rain from military cloud seeding (that lasted for weeks – never seen so much rain). There was speculation at the time that Fukushima had caused so much radiation, which spread around the world several times, that it would alter epidemiology worldwide – perhaps implying that some viruses and bacteria would survive the holocaust better. There are so many dangers with no solutions when it comes to nuclear that I don’t like planning on it. As someone pointed out here on NC back in 2011 (after I expressed my shock that nuclear power was a technology without a repair manual because for fixing a meltdown or even cleaning up toxic leaks there simply was no method. Nor anything for prevention except diligent maintenance of a facility) ‘there really are no quick fix-it solutions for any modern technology’. So Maybe another mandate for a new century of sustainability would be not just inventing new energy technology but also the antidote to it for worst case accidents. Certainly in any case Nuclear needs to come full circle and be made into a fail-safe technology. Never hear
            much about that.

            Reply
            1. Grumpy Engineer

              You said, “There was speculation at the time that Fukushima had caused so much radiation, which spread around the world several times, that it would alter epidemiology worldwide“.

              Yes, there was such speculation. And it was wrong. Radiation from Fukushima indeed spread throughout the Pacific and reached all foreign shores, but it did so in such infinitesimal amounts that ultra-high sensitivity “event counters” capable of detecting individual atom breakdowns were required.

              I remember hearing a report where 35 Becquerels per cubic meter were detected in ocean waters off the coast of California. This is 35 Becquerels per metric ton of water. And people were FREAKING out. [Just in case you don’t know, a Becquerel is one atom breakdown per second.]

              For comparison purposes, the typical 12-ounce can of Brazil nuts clocks in at 70 Becquerels because it contains more naturally-occurring radium than most foods. And people EAT them. And the typical human body already contains enough radioactive potassium and radiocarbon to reach a radioactivity level of about 8000 Becquerels, per https://hps.org/publicinformation/ate/faqs/faqradbods.html. And still we freak out, even though it takes billions of Becquerels to approach actual hazard.

              UserFriendly is correct. The US is insanely propagandized against nuclear power. The actual level of risk is blown all out of proportion. Even with the Fukushima, Chernobyl, and Three Mile Island accidents, nuclear power has caused the fewest deaths per GWh of all energy sources. And if we built more reactors today, we certainly wouldn’t be building exact replicas of those flawed stations. People in the nuclear business have been learning from their mistakes and improving their technology, just like people do in other industries. There are a LOT of safer reactor designs out there.

              And what you may not like “planning on it“, what’s the reasonable alternative to nuclear?

              [1] Renewables? Nope. UserFriendly’s earlier comment about not being able to get to 100% without MASSIVE energy storage systems is correct. [How far you can go depends of how much hydro you’ve got. For the US, we’d probably reach a major pain point at 30% or so.] It would easily take 5X as long and be 5X as expensive as a nuclear solution.

              [2] Natural gas (supplied by fracking)? This may be the favorite of politicians in DC, but I truly doubt it’s the best we can do.

              [3] Coal? Groan… It’s filthy and needs to die.

              [4] A police state to strictly enforce limited-energy living? To confiscate people’s cars and kick them out of their single-family homes and force them into well-insulated urban block housing near public transportation? Yeah, right. One, it’d be too slow, and two, we’d have a lot of brutally miserable people (and maybe even a CO2-spewing civil war) along the way.

              [5] Mass forced sterilization? Nope. Still not fast enough. And oh, yeah, that pesky CO2-spewing civil war thing again. Even more likely here.

              [6] Mass murder? On this one I don’t even need to comment.

              So when the alternatives are ruled out, nuclear is the only thing left that can substantially decarburize our economy while not requiring tremendous personal sacrifice. I don’t see any other solution succeeding.

              Reply
              1. Scott1

                Great leaders call upon their best engineers to solve their most pressing problems. Experts are not necessarily engineers. If you really want a Green New Deal you have to put the engineering talent on to the job first.

                I spent some weeks in Middleton, otherwise known as Three Mile Island for the Connnie Chung Segment “Three Mile Island, Ten years After”. People there did have high rates of thyroid cancer and Leukemia.

                The Smart Grid is an Engineering term I started seeing on CR4 about a decade ago. Doing things in order is smart, I will say that.

                We may have missed the last great moment to move in the right direction when Carter was president. Now we are in the Last Last moment.

                I fault AOC for talking about taxation this early when the best thing to talk about is the power of the US Treasury to spend in the nation for what does the nation good. Doing things in order you know.
                Maybe it is an attempt to address financial engineering. Meyer Lansky is the premier financial engineer of our time since Clinton.

                The ideal is Solar, or was.
                In the great two front war that was WWII it was the government that paid for everything, industry and the labor that made all the planes & tanks & guns and ships and soldiers and sailors. What that implies is that to cause the application of engineered solutions to the problems caused by climate change the Government will have to do the same thing, and pay for it.

                Lots of people want to live in a free society where there are good paying jobs so the US is unlikely to run out of labor unless it prevents necessary immigration.
                To keep it simple give the problem to your engineers and then do what they tell you.

                Reply
                1. UserFriendly

                  In case it wasn’t obvious, both Grumpy and I are Engineers.

                  I spent some weeks in Middleton, otherwise known as Three Mile Island for the Connnie Chung Segment “Three Mile Island, Ten years After”. People there did have high rates of thyroid cancer and Leukemia.

                  Did people in PA get cancer? I’m sure they did. I’m also sure that having all the news about 3-mile island made them think that is what caused it. Did they get cancer at a statistically significant higher rate than the rest of the country not near 3 mile island? I seriously doubt it because there are not any credible scientific papers making the claim and it sure isn’t from a lack of investigating as your 10-year on scare mongering news trip proves. Trust me, the guys over at Exxon would LOVE to be able to find this evidence and wave it all around if it existed, there is no lack of funding. Honestly they probably got less radiation from the 3 mile island accident than they did from a few years of normal operations at the 2 coal fired power plants or one of the 2 waste incineration plants that was having problems, all within 10 miles of Middleton.

                  Reply
                2. rob

                  It is also true that engineers aren’t experts in anything other than their field. And since they usually work in teams, you would have to imagine that some are better than others. I would imagine an engineer doesn’t have a clue as to local public health data.Unless it is in the wall st journal, or some such. And they also tend to be a certain type of person, not really abstract thinkers.

                  Reply
                  1. UserFriendly

                    Well, to refute your ad hominem. I have degree’s in Chemistry and Chemical engineering so radioactivity and power generation are technically part of my specialty. But I have also always been fascinated by pharmacology and took several classes on that in college too, combined with having worked in the medical device field where I focused on biocompatibility, so yes I think that puts public health in my purview as well. In school I thought economics was boring but as soon as I spent 5 min looking at MMT I was hooked and I can explain it as well as anyone on here, which kind of is an abstract concept so….,

                    Stick to the arguments, you’ll have better luck than with character assassination.

                    Reply
            2. UserFriendly

              From the UN study linked above:

              Radiation exposures and effects on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems
              The doses and associated effects of radiation exposure on plants and animals following the accident were evaluated against the Committee’s previous evaluations of such effects.
              In general, the exposures of both terrestrial and aquatic (fresh-water and marine) ecosystems were too low for observable acute effects. Any effects were expected to be transient in nature, given their short duration.
              Effects on non-human biota in the marine environment would have been localized—i.e. confined to areas close to where highly radioactive water was released into the ocean.
              Continued changes in biomarkers for certain terrestrial organ¬isms, in particular mammals, could not be ruled out, but their significance for population integrity was unclear. Any radiation effects would have been limited to the area where deposition of radioactive material was greatest; beyond this area, the potential for effects on biota was insignificant.

              As Grumpy Engineer points out, the alternatives are extremely unfeasible. But I have little doubt the majority of people in this country would rather see vast millions die do to climate change than admit they were force fed propaganda about nuclear from Exxon.

              Reply
    2. Tony Wright

      Yes, oceans and rivers increasingly polluted with microfibres resulting from washing synthetic fabrics. End result? Fish and other aquatic organisms, which should be feeding on plankton, progressively starving to death after ingesting said microfibres. Destruction of aquatic food chains.
      Lobster sir? Sorry, it’s Off….
      We need many more politicians like AOC if the planet is to survive in a state fit for human habitation beyond about 2030.

      Reply
  2. a different chris

    Not to nit, but:

    >but it’s nothing compared to an F-35, and it doesn’t send any local children to college, either.

    I believe that second “it” refers to the F-35? Maybe “that” would make the phrase more understandable.

    Reply
  3. Jonathan Holland Becnel

    Excellent post, LC!

    What we need is text, text, and more text.

    GND is an Universal Issue with which the Worlds Working Class can unite.

    Internationalism with National Sovereignties left intact.

    All this stuff is super exciting. I feel like we are getting our shit together after 2008.

    Reply
  4. taunger

    “Objectives should be measurable. ” Most of the benchmarks in the paragraph are absolutes, so metrics are unnecessary, or available. “100%” and “every residential and industrial building” and “eliminating” provide the metrics.

    Reply
    1. taunger

      There are pros and cons to decentralized power production, but if there is to be an economy with anywhere close to current power production without fossil fuel plants, then in many places such generation will be distributed, or at least far more than currently.

      Reply
    2. taunger

      Comfort is in relation to home heating and cooling. As you state you now well, retrofitting homes in the Northeast to be truly heating efficient is costly. And as I hope you note in politics, “Put on a sweater” has not been a good message for a while.

      Reply
      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Money-costly to be sure. But skycarbon costly?

        Lambert Strether’s huge Maine house could be the analytical test case.
        How much carbon was skydumped to weatherise the house?
        How much less carbon will the weatherised house emit per year as against how much more carbon did the house emit per year before it was weatherised?
        How many more years can the weatherised house stay weatherised and stay livable?
        That number of more-years X the amount-less-carbon skydumped per year by weatherising the house will equal the total amount of carbon “saved” over the lifetime of the weatherised house. If that amount of carbon is bigger than the amount of carbon skydumped BY weatherising the house, then the weatherising is justified by carbon-survival even if it costed “big money” to do at the time.

        If “society” agrees, then “society” should pay to weatherise the houses which poor homeowners cannot afford to weatherise.

        Reply
        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > How many more years can the weatherised house stay weatherised and stay livable?

          A long long time. Maine has the oldest housing stock in the nation, but that means our houses aren’t crap shacks with styrofoam pediments, either.

          It’s extremely hard for me to believe that my efforts didn’t net out positive for carbon. When I first started the project, the blower door test results weren’t even on the scale (at the high end, of course). The knobs were more like 1100, not 11. I can’t believe I’m not the only Mainer with a house like that, even today. Back in the day, the thermostat was right by the front door. Why? So the boiler would go on when somebody came home. Such were the constraints when hearing oil was ten cents a gallon.

          Reply
          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            Then the case is strongly made that all the millions of houses and other buildings should be weatherised with “society” paying for it if necessary, because “society” gets a survival-benefit which is worth more than all the money spent. Namely, survival. Survival is the benefit.

            Reply
    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      No. If the goal is to reduce greenhouse gas by X%, using strategies A, B, and C, and we need to know how much each strategy contributes to the goal. Achieving 100% of goal A for 1% of the policy goal doesn’t mean anything, especially if strategy A turns out to be the F-35 of the greenhouse gas reduction technology.

      Reply
  5. taunger

    VERY scared of the inclusion of carbon taxes given Mankiw was the primary mover for this policy, and it continues to be a darling of neoliberal family bloggers that look to markets for solutions.

    Reply
    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Was the Mankiw tax the same as the Hansen Tax-and-Dividend? And would the money “raised” be used the same way under Mankiw as under Hansen?

      The Hansen plan is designed to raise the anti-carbon fee every year to eventually reach unbearably torturous levels in order to torture fossil carbon all the way out of the energy picture. Is the Mankiw plan designed to do that?

      Reply
    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      The draft text does have a bit of a “Big Tent” feel, doesn’t it? Still, the idea that the Federal government should be the leader completely undercuts the markets-firsters, though doubtless they will fight to retain/regain dominance.

      Reply
  6. drumlin woodchuckles

    Catchy meme-ing to reach and inspire others will be as important as deep and detailed thinking on the part of the already-inspired.

    I envision brilliant green hats with bold white letters on them. The letters would be M A G A.
    That would stand for Make America Green Again. Trump and the Stormtrumpers would threaten to sue. The response could be ” Please sue us! We need the publicity!”

    Reply
      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Someone should do it , then. Hopefully a lot of someones.

        I hereby CopyLeft the idea of The Green Hat with the White M A G A Letters on it. I give that idea away for free to anyone who cares to weaponise it for dissemination.

        Make America Green Again

        On a bright green hat.

        Reply
      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Take it. No need to steal it. I have given it away for free to all who want it.

        I Really really REALLY hope that someone, at least a few practical jokers, makes a few actual green hats with the bold white letters on them. M(ake) A(merica) G(reen) A(gain)

        Reply
  7. SerenityNow

    upgrading every residential and industrial building for state-of-the-art energy efficiency, comfort and safety[3];

    I like the idea of the Green New Deal, but I am afraid that it will not make a huge difference if we don’t also address a lot of our wasteful land use policies. I mean, it would be nice to have solar on every home, but would that really offset the impact of building 19,000 units of housing in what should probably remain open space?

    Reply
  8. Bailer Blackford

    Yale’s Nadine Ungar says reforestation will not help reduce climate change.

    “Deforestation accounts for about 20 percent of global emissions of carbon dioxide. The assumption is that planting trees and avoiding further deforestation provides a convenient carbon capture and storage facility on the land.

    That is the conventional wisdom. But the conventional wisdom is wrong.

    In reality, the cycling of carbon, energy and water between the land and the atmosphere is much more complex. Considering all the interactions, large-scale increases in forest cover can actually make global warming worse.”

    New York Times “To Save the Planet, Don’t Plant Trees” (9/19/14).

    https://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/20/opinion/to-save-the-planet-dont-plant-trees.html

    Ungar goes on to explain that more trees darken the surface of the planet. So with the “albedo effect”, more solar heat gets absorbed by the earth than would get reflected back into space had the dark green of the trees’ leaves not been there.

    Further, she says there is a significant lack of scientific consensus on whether our long term deforestation has resulted in a net warming or a net cooling.

    The Figure 4 – Table 2 that Lambert presents in the 11/9/18 NC article on BECCS mentions this as well. Indeed, that table pegs reforestation for its possible *reverse* effects on climate, with albedo cited in the footnotes as the reason. (That is a table of the benefits & drawbacks of various “Negative Emissions Technologies.”).

    Ungar does claim great & unambiguous benefits from avoiding deforestation, such as biodiversity. Just not any help with climate change. She also says more trees in the tropics bring a net cooling. But more trees in colder zones bring a net warming.

    You can read through her article for the fascinating (and I must interject downright upsetting) passage on the importance of something emitted by trees called “Volatile Organic Compounds” (V.O.C.s). Her research “…suggests that changes in tree V.O.C.s affect the climate on a scale similar to changes in the earth’s surface color and carbon storage capacity.” Affect the climate negatively is the implication…..

    She’s an Assistant Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry at Yale

    Let me take this time to wish all of you in the wondrous NC community a new year resonating with promise & discovery.

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Ungar’s study is at best controversial. I’ll post on reforestation as a GND tranche at some point, but from some quick research, tropical forests are to be encouraged, her VOC research isn’t “settled science,” and forests encourage cloud cover, negating at least partially her argument on the albedo effect. See here, here, here, and here. (I should say I’m dubious about plantations, because they’re monocultures. I mean “real” forests.)

      Two points overall. Ungar writes:

      Science says that spending precious dollars for climate change mitigation on forestry is high-risk

      Needless to say, “precious dollars” makes my Spidey sense tingle; it’s resources that matter in GND mobilization, not dollars.

      Second, this perception:

      So what is going on? Why is it so complicated to say scientifically what trees do to climate? The answer lies in the fact that trees have multiple pathways for influencing climate, and the relative importance of these pathways varies depending on where we look on the globe.

      One of the things that terrifies me is that the models may not reflect the biosphere accurately enough for us to analyze the problem, because there are too damn many pathways to account for, not all of which are known. (For example, insect die-off. Surely, if you weigh them all up, that’s a lot of carbon, for good or ill, before you get to the ecological pathways that depended on them. Are system failures like that even in the models?) Ungar’s focus on one node in a single pathway, VOCs, worries me at the level of mindset. So this is decision-making under uncertainty with a vengeance. I realize this could contradict my focus on metrics, if we regard each tranche as an isolated functional pathway…

      Reply
      1. PlutoniumKun

        Ungars article is a classic example of why sometimes even a good scientist can say quite stupid things when they wander outside their (narrow) area of expertise*. Its well established that the link between trees and climate change is not a straightforward linear benefit. Different types of forest, different stages of forestation, and the connection between existing land-use pre-forestation are all important in calculating net benefits. I’ve seen, for example, models for desert forestation (i.e. areas which are now denuded of vegetation) which have suggested that the albedo effect could counteract the absorbtion of carbon dioxide (but again, its complex). There is also the problem that sometimes soil changes due to afforestation can release significant quantities of methane.

        However, the notion that net increases of afforestation on areas previously forested would not significantly benefit the climate (and other issues of course) is not a matter of scientific dispute – at a net global level, planting more trees helps the climate and both a macro and micro level, its that simple.

        *I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt for now that the article wasn’t driven by ulterior motives.

        Reply
  9. Another Scott

    Thanks for this analysis. Looking at the draft concept and the articles, I have a couple of concerns. One is the reliance on “technology.” This terms has been embrace by Democrats, but largely seems to be an attempt to curry favor with the technology industry rather than to address global warming. See also the use of smart grid and renewable electricity.

    I remember taking to someone about the use of thermal storage rather than battery storage to shift demand for cooling. I argued that government should be talking about thermal storage as its proven, often cost-efficient and fewer other environmental costs (mining lithium, disposing of the battery, etc.) He argued that we should subsidize batteries because they’re new technology and we need to encourage innovation, as well as a stronger point about batteries replacing all electricity not simply cooling. I followed-up and the basic answer (in my terms) is that the new technology is good in and of itself.

    Technology needs to be a tool to support the goals of reducing global warming, not the other way around.

    Reply
  10. Roger Smith

    I think the biggest hurdle here is how the NGD answers this question: “Will this make consumers less able to control the climate of their home and/or make it less affordable?” If the NGD can’t answer no then there are going to be problems.

    Reply
    1. PKMKII

      What we need is a series of propaganda cartoons that show the area of a thermostat above 70 degree Fahrenheit in the winter as having Putin hiding behind it, and then others showing the area below 72 in the summer as having ISIS terrorists hiding behind it.

      Reply
  11. rob

    another useful support mechanism is the green party’s “greening the dollar” platform plank. It is about harnessing the power of this country’s power to create our own money, and use that money for good purposes, like AOC and others are suggesting for “the green new deal”. If how to pay for it is the question, then the green party’s “greening the dollar” is the answer.
    AOC talking about raising the income tax percentage on the highest earners will help for wealth disparity, but real streams of capital can be created by greening the dollar. And If we had a few hundred more like ocasio-cortez, then things could happen. The exuberance of youth, people who don’t know what they can’t do….. that is what this country needs now. Because that is what got this human experiment started a couple of hundred years ago….. people who didn’t know it wouldn’t work to claim colonies owned by the most powerful empire on earth as OUR own. IT is still in need of work to make it a better place, a more perfect union.

    Reply
  12. rob

    In the text it talks about funding, but this would dovetail perfectly with the text of the bill proposed by dennis kucinich in 2011 and 2012 HR2990 in the 112th congress, in the house. “the NEED act”.

    People can go and read that bill, the language and the aims were largely the same. The NEED act is how to “pay ” for it. It is the vehicle for how we can change the world, in real time. WE have a need, the world will change for the better or worse…. This is a way to be proactive about it… instead of just passively letting it go to crap and the rest of us just riding the waves.

    Reply
  13. DonCoyote

    I went looking for the original html document too, and couldn’t find it.

    However, this Vox article was written when (I’m pretty sure) that was the extant version (thanks Dave Roberts). So, although I think Lambert did an excellent job of summarizing things, let me cut-n-paste a few things for the tl;dr crowd:

    Here are the goals the resolution sets for the Green New Deal:

    (1) 100% of national power generation from renewable sources;
    (2) Building a national, energy-efficient, “smart” grid;
    (3) Upgrading every residential and industrial building for state-of-the-art energy efficiency, comfort and safety;
    (4) Decarbonizing the manufacturing, agricultural and other industries;
    (5) Decarbonizing, repairing and improving transportation and other infrastructure;
    (6) Funding massive investment in the drawdown and capture of greenhouse gases;
    (7) Making “green” technology, industry, expertise, products and services a major export of the United States, with the aim of becoming the undisputed international leader in helping other countries transition to completely carbon neutral economies and bringing about a global Green New Deal.

    Here’s the full list of equity provisions:

    (i) provide all members of our society, across all regions and all communities, the opportunity, training and education to be a full and equal participant in the transition, including through a job guarantee program to assure every person who wants one, a living wage job;
    (ii) take into account and be responsive to the historical and present-day experiences of low-income communities, communities of color, indigenous communities, rural and urban communities and the front-line communities most affected by climate change, pollution and other environmental harm;
    (iii) mitigate deeply entrenched racial, regional and gender-based inequalities in income and wealth (including, without limitation, ensuring that federal and other investment will be equitably distributed to historically impoverished, low income, deindustrialized or other marginalized communities);
    (iv) include additional measures such as basic income programs, universal health care programs and any others as the select committee may deem appropriate to promote economic security, labor market flexibility and entrepreneurism; and
    (v) deeply involve national and local labor unions to take a leadership role in the process of job training and worker deployment.

    As iv demonstrates, this is about much more than carbon. It doesn’t separate out the climate problem from society’s other ills, as climate wonks have so often advocated. It sees environmental, economic, and social problems as intertwined, with a common set of solutions.

    Reply
  14. XXYY

    Thanks for this excellent and readable analysis, Lambert. Really valuable.

    BTW, I noticed I had a gut reaction when I read:

    upgrading every residential and industrial building for state-of-the-art energy efficiency, comfort and safety;

    My gut reaction was: What an excellent thing!

    In particular, upgrading for *comfort* as part of a massive federal program was so opposite to what we usually associate with climate change remedies that I found the idea electrifying. People in the country should be comfortable! Life should be pleasant! This should be a goal for our society!

    I think the neoliberals and Austerians have so conditioned us to the idea that existence should be a continuous, grim slog that we (or maybe just I) have lost sight of the idea that making life better and more pleasant for everyone is of high importance.

    My point is that the GND effort can and should be sold as something that will leave us *better off*, not just *alive*. Perhaps the parallels with WWII and other wartime situations can be overdrawn: We are not going to be wiped out in weeks or months, we have at least a little time to get this effort right and make sure we come out better on the other side.

    Reply
  15. Nastarana

    It would appear that extending mass transit, so that poor folks don’t have to own and maintain autos, is not included?

    Also off the table is any discussion, much less confrontation, of industrialized agriculture?

    And what about paying for proposed programs with a tax on WS transactions?

    Until those three points are addressed and included, the GND is nothing more than an inadequate good beginning.

    Reply
    1. Mike Mc

      Heh. Trump’s tariffs and climate change are changing industrialized agriculture even as I write this over lunch break at the large Midwestern land grant university where I work

      The commodity ag production treadmill of corn, soy and milo for animal feed/ethanol/high fructose corn syrup and other modern lovelies may well be done. Tariffs are driving even wealthy farm operations to the brink; climate change doing the same (watch the flood/drought cycles in ag areas calendar 2019).

      Mercifully the Farm Bill allowing industrial hemp production gives the Midwest and elsewhere a crop that is costs less to produce and is more resistance to weather related stress. Also more hemp production means fewer trees wasted.

      Reply
  16. Quill

    This is a political slogan, not a plan.

    That’s fine though, because what has been lacking in addressing climate change is political will, not ideas, of which there are plenty.

    Think about this as some version of health care reform in 2008. You will have a Democratic president and hopefully Democratic congress who will view delivering some form of significant climate change legislation as essential. (The Affordable Care Act was far from perfect, but it was a massive improvement nonetheless.)

    Reply
    1. Grumpy Engineer

      I just skimmed through it. Alas, Brown’s “Plan B” is most definitely NOT a ready-made blueprint for a Green New Deal. There’s some good material in there on energy conservation, but he definitely botched his analysis when it comes to powering the electrical grid. He makes the common mistake of focusing on the total GWh that renewable power can deliver without considering whether or not that power will actually be available when it’s required. [Like on a cold winter night, when people need power for their heat pumps.]

      I’ll introduce here “the Grumpy Engineer’s quick-and-dirty litmus test” for determining whether or not a proposal for a renewable energy system is complete. The test is this: If a proposal to power the grid using renewable energy doesn’t provided an EXTENSIVE analysis and description of the energy storage systems that will be required to accompany the renewable power generation assets, then it’s crap. Brown’s proposal fails this test.

      Indeed, his only mention of grid-scale storage is a single sentence describing how concentrated solar power (CSP) stations can provide up to six hours of storage. This isn’t enough to make it through a single windless winter night, much less through an extended period of unfavorable weather.

      It’s not a real plan. Sorry.

      Reply
      1. Grebo

        That’s a valid criticism, but there’s much more to a GND than the energy and the book covers a lot of ground. It’s also 10 years old now, and there have been several interesting developments on storage in that time. He wrote a book concentrating on energy in 2015, though I don’t see any mention of storage in the summary.

        Reply
      2. Ian Ollmann

        I feel like some addendum can be added to cover storage. For example, you can’t get tax incentives for home battery systems without getting a solar system to go with it so that it is a (somewhat?) solar charged system. If you had the reciprocal deal that you can’t get solar tax incentives without a storage system to go with it, then I think that problem will sort itself out. May Tesla get their battery plant moving faster. The number of alternative choices beyond Tesla is disappointing in the US.

        I’m more disappointed that there seems to be no mention of commercial air travel and transitioning that off jet fuel to a greener fuel source. In some ways, it is an ideal candidate. It is the second largest source of green house gasses for my home. We just do one air trip a year. For some people, I’m sure it is 90% and the part they can individually do the least about. The fueling infrastructure is limited to just airports, so does not need to be deployed everywhere like for autos. Hydrogen might be a good choice, or perhaps biodiesel. I read somewhere that batteries were getting close to feasible, which would be nice if it results in a dramatic noise reduction. I can’t imagine that the rapid turn around times would work with today’s batteries, but I’m not a battery engineer. Anyway, it is a big problem and one that needs to be addressed. Perhaps all that is needed here is a carbon tax and dividend program. The airlines are quite sensitive to fuel prices.

        Reply
  17. Jack Parsons

    Here in the Southwest we’ve got a lot of housing stock that is, over the years, slowly becoming uninhabitable due to air conditioning costs. They are all on the grid. My proposal is to start a federal monopoly like AT&T which places solar panels on roofs which power air conditioning during the day, and otherwise put power on the grid. Batteries are pointless and unnecessary- the power grid is very cheap at night because the generators have to keep turning even though nobody wants power. This day-only power source fits perfectly into daily power usage patterns.

    Funding? Bond issues based on tranches of several thousand houses apiece, priced low enough to serve as lower-middle-class investment vehicles similar to US Savings Bonds. I like the name “Sunbonds”.

    Short of this, require that all new roofs be white.

    Reply
    1. rob

      IN the southeast, there are getting to be many small solar fields. Along and near distribution lines already in existence. This seems to be a great idea, since the upkeep is minimal, the size makes them big enough to actually add to the power produced. And the fact is, people’s roofs are a maintenance nightmare. When those roofs leak, and need re-roofing. Having panels on them is a laborious impediment.They should really have grass on them, and build the housing stock in the ground. That is what will work in the future. Just like it did in the past.
      And under the solar arrays, all the animals can live like the land was native.

      Reply
      1. Ian Ollmann

        Part of the point is to get the coal and natural gas power plants off permanently, not leave them on 24/7. Thus, you need storage. Hydroelectric and nuclear are also on 24/7, and that is just fine that they continue to do so IMO. With a few notable exceptions, hydroelectric is not a big thing in the desert southwest.

        Reply
    1. Grebo

      Is there a website bug here? When you reply to the last comment it starts a new thread instead of going where it should. My comment above should be a reply to Jack Parsons.

      Edit: Hmm, didn’t do it this time.

      Reply
  18. Henry

    Great article and as usual amazing comments from which I’ve learned a lot. I would like to add a couple of thoughts that might shift the conversation a bit. I doubt there are many that believe that if given a chance GAIA (nature) wouldn’t quickly bring the system back into balance if we stopped destabilizing it. Therefore in designing our solutions, technical or otherwise, we might look to nature for some answers or at the very least for the constraints that we are operating under. For this I think the Natural Step has done a good job of bringing scientist together to reach a consensus. (https://thenaturalstep.org/approach/) or for a fun introduction to the ideas (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BO9_hQO9nTo). Also I believe as stated in books Cradle to Cradle and Upcycle that this is a design problem and it is way easier and more efficient to change the design at the front end rather than design solutions at the back end to clean up the mess. Here is a good intro (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BO9_hQO9nTo). It is so exciting to see Alexandria taking on this challenge and I will be very impressed if she can make it happen.

    Reply

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