A Serious Green New Deal Would Take Up One-Third of the Economy—Are We Ready for That?

Yves here. I have to confess to being not keen about various Green New Deal proposals. They feed the idea that we can largely preserve our lifestyles and still make a big enough reduction in greenhouse gas output soon enough to ward off catastrophic outcomes.

There are in my mind, three fallacies here:

1. The fastest and most effective way to reduce greenhouse gas output is radical conservation. The urgency of the challenge means this approach needs to be top of the list. Every year more of status quo or not much different is more greenhouse gases pumped into the atmosphere. No one is proposing that we even take measures of the sort imposed in the oil crisis, like lowering speed limits and requiring businesses to set their thermostats to 67 in the winter and 77 in the summer. If we were serious, we’d have to be willing to bankrupt the airlines by forcing 90% reductions in flight levels and outlaw private jets.

2. Building green infrastructure has an energy cost, and those costs are seldom incorporated (like the greenhouse gas cost of mining and delivering materials for production of various inputs). They are also not factoring in that some of the materials that are important in current “green” technologies don’t exist in sufficient quantity to satisfy anticipated needs (Jack Lifton has written extensively about lithium). And some materials are costly in environmental terms. See, for example:

Critical minerals scarcity could threaten renewable energy future

We may face a huge shortage of essential raw materials stiffling green energy if governments don’t step up their game ZME Science

3. While Green New Deal approaches would be valuable in conjunction with radical conservation, they aren’t sufficient on their own, if nothing else because they will take too long to be implemented when time is of the essence. And they have a tendency to perpetuate the idea that there will be no or little sacrifice needed in cutting carbon output levels.

People accepted rationing and other forms of sacrifice at times of war. I’d take the Green New Deal people a lot more seriously if they firmly opposed US military activity as a source of greenhouse gases and also opposed non-esssential, energy costly technology planned obsolescence schemes like 5G.

By Marshall Auerback is a market analyst and commentator. Produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute

Even though the issue of environmental sustainability has finally broken beyond the policy think tanks, and is now reaching critical mass with the public as a whole, there is still profound disagreement as to how one tethers environmental sustainability to economic growth in a manner where the costs are borne equitably. Or asan early thinker on these questions, BrianKohler, onceframed it, the means by which the solutions gain political legitimacy rest on “how society will make decisions about sustainability, and who will pay the price of those decisions. Will it be those who have the deepest pockets or will it be those who can get the best press?”

There’s no question that deep pockets will be needed, given the scale of the task at hand. Multi-trillion-dollar levels of spending, in fact, will be necessary if we want to follow what the science is telling us needs to be done. The increasingly dire warningsfrom the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (a group that, if anything, has consistently underplayed the scale of the threat)and countless other scientific findings haveintroduced a new sense of realism in terms of the policy response required. Democrats in particular are embracing proposals that would require running the entire American economy on renewable electricity within a few decades, although they have yet to coalesce around a single policy proposal.The most comprehensive is this one, which calls for the federal government to spend around 10 percent of GDP per year—close to $2 trillion—in order to directly build a green infrastructure that will guaranteethat in 20 years the United States will be virtually greenhouse-gas-free. An ambitious plan predicated on FDR’s original New Deal, it calls for a Full Employment Program (not unlike the “Job Guarantee” program) that will purportedly create about 25 million new jobs, via a revived manufacturing sector (assuming that most of the manufacturing is done in the United States, not abroad). It also calls for the establishment of an Interstate Renewable Electricity System, modeled after the Interstate Highway System, that would replace all of the coal, oil, and natural gas that currently generate electricity as the U.S. transitions to a fossil fuel-free economy.

The scale of government involvement marks a decided break from the market-driven proposals that have hitherto characterized most earlier green proposals (most controversially, it advocates a 50 percent cut in defense spending to fund these future expenditures, which is almost certainly politically impossible, given the scale of existing militarization in the U.S. economy today, along with the Pentagon’s iron grip over policy-making). On the other hand, if the problem is as dire as much of the science suggests, the policies must match the rhetoric. If that seems like an insurmountable challenge, it is worth recalling that during World War II a much less technologically advanced society managed to survive quite nicely while allocating about one-third of national output for the war effort. If the political class is serious about a Green New Deal, they must also be honest about the scale of the challenges and the question of a “just transition” for those most affected by the resultant displacement and disruption. Former California governor Jerry Brown, for one, has likened the threat to fighting the Nazis in World War II.

Perhaps this document(most readily associated with the Green Party) won’t be the finished product offered up by our political class, but its very detail highlights the scale of the challenges that match Governor Brown’s analogy, if we’re going to transition to a post-fossil fuels economy. Among the questions raised are the following.

It envisions more than a 40-fold increase in renewables within a decade. But the United States no longer has any significant capacity to produce solar panels or wind turbines and only has an insignificant capacity for batteries, notwithstanding Tesla’s ambitious plans. That means in the first years, all the increase will be supplied by China, Korea, Taiwan and other overseas producers, unless production is re-domiciled (which will take time—a problem given the urgency of the threat).

Seymour Melman and other advocates of what came to be known as “economic conversion” proposed a similar concept for potentially moving workers and engineers from military factories to civilian work. The idea is to set up what Melman called “alternative use” committees in each facility, which would draw up plans for a two-year transition to other lines of work. In the case of the Green New Deal, this should entail plans to facilitate fossil fuel industry workers shifting to specific new renewable energy factories, such as for wind turbines, or in new industrial machinery factories.From a practical standpoint, it would make sense to offer parallel incentives to the fossil fuel investor class; rather than have them drag their heels, why not entice them into a profitable line of business?

Absent this alternative use, the source of the demand will be met by the Far East, and the Green New Deal will become a job creation program for Asia, not the United States (as well as creating huge unemployment). We will therefore face a very difficult trade-off between heavy protectionism (at much higher prices) to stimulate investment in productive capacity in the United States or much larger trade deficits.

The viability of making this green transition is questionable if it doesn’t also include a degree of nuclear power, geothermal, or fossil fuel plant alternatives, at least for a time, as the environmentalists Jesse Jenkins and Samuel Thernstrom argued in a recent New York Times op-ed:

“The Green New Deal will be no deal if all it buys us is solar and wind power… So-called firm low-carbon technologiessuch as nuclear, carbon capture, or reliable but often overlooked renewables like geothermal or hydro dams with large reservoirs… makes them a critical complement to weather-dependent wind and solar, as well as resources like batteries or strategies like demand flexibility (which permits consumers to reduce their electricity use in periods when supplies are strained) that are best suited to fast bursts of use.”

A related problem is that over the past decade, the oil and gas industry has accounted for a disproportionately large percentage of economic, business investment and middle-class jobs, precisely the kinds of highly paid, highly skilled jobs that are rapidly being shipped overseas as U.S. manufacturing is increasingly eviscerated. And consider what share of U.S. military spending concerns the price and supply of oil. These jobs are located in the American heartland, which (given the realities of the Electoral College), the Democrats will have to win back, if they are to have any chance of securing power, and implementing their proposals. How exactly is the plan going to offset this huge loss, especially if much of the demand for renewables leaks out to overseas producers?

The increase in oil and gas production has led to a dramatic improvement in the trade balance (whose deficit would have grown much larger had it not been for the improvement in energy). Additionally, the low cost of energy over the past decade has led to an improvement in U.S. competitiveness in a number of industries. It has also created a significant consumer stimulus by allowing households to reallocate spending on heating/cooling and transportation to other consumer purchases.  Relative low energy costs are a major consideration in German and European companies relocating production to the United States. This is a comparative advantage that should not be disposed of without offsetting benefits.

Speaking of cheap power, it is also worth recalling that in the original New Deal, many political leaders pushed for rural electrification to decentralize power—take it away from the utility holding companies and distribute it to rural areas.

They did just that, and today the United States has the most diffused ownership of any electric grid on the planet. There are some 900 rural co-ops in the United States. By decentralizing the economic and political power that comes along with electrification, they also assured low-cost electricity for generations. The Green New Deal risks doing the opposite if the main incentives to encourage transition are carbon taxes (see the French “yellow vest” protests), or trading carbon credits (which amounts to a “privatization” of the atmosphere).

Related to this, the potential increase in the cost of electricity and transportation will disproportionately impact lower- and middle-income Americans who do not live in the few urban areas with decent public transportation. Absent significant increases in this area, it will take more than a decade for alternative transportation networks to develop to serve this large population in those places where alternative transportation is economically feasible. Otherwise, the Green New Deal risks raising both energy costs and existing forms of transport.

Ironically, as Jon Rynn, a fellow at the CUNY Institute for Urban Systems, notesin his book, Manufacturing Green Prosperity: The Power to Rebuild the American Middle Class, “suburban sprawl” came about by virtue of hundreds of billions of dollars of federal government spending via Eisenhower’s Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, and the G.I. Billthat provided loans to millions of returning soldiers to buy homes (and make builders like Fred Trump rich), the build-out of suburban water and road infrastructure. An infrastructure bill therefore cannot simply modernize existing structures, but can and must help to reverse these trends by featuring more public transport and more public housing in densely populated areas.

Above all else, labor must not simply be treated as a rounding error in this process. As Brian Kohlerput it, if environmentalists and politicians aiming for a sustainable economy “fail to understand the jobs issue, you will create a confrontation that you cannot win. You will force us into an alliance with our employers and you, we, society and the environment will all be the losers.”

Likewise, with business leaders, Kohler continues, “if you continue to treat us as commodities instead of human beings, if you continue to shed jobs at every opportunity using the excuses of globalization, automation, downsizing, mergers, and contracting out; if you continue to poison our bodies and then fight our attempts to obtain even workers’ compensation in return, you will have to forgive us for being somewhat skeptical when you promise to save our jobs.”

Although the term “Green New Deal” has great historic resonance, it is a bit of a misnomer: FDR proposed aggressive fiscal stimulus to address the problem of existing excess capacity (labor and capital) created by the Great Depression. The New Deal involved very little displacement of existing technologies. By contrast, much of the Green New Deal is about displacement of existing technologies, which threatens existing jobs and livelihoods, as Kohler eloquently points out.

Thus, the choice cannot be framed in a manner that forces workers to choose between saving the environment vs. safeguarding their economic livelihood. Kohler is right: workers will vote for jobs every time. We cannot simply dismiss these protesters as retrograde “deplorables.” Recall that we are looking at a technologically disruptive program that will substantially alter historic patterns of industry output, employment and the consumption patterns of households and firms.

The government, therefore, be it Democratic, or Republican, cannot afford to play “small ball” here, a characteristically timid knee-jerk reaction of both parties afflicted by years of deficit hysteria and the corresponding desire to shrink the state. Nor can it rely on “the market” as the optimal means of organizing allocation, the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman’s nonsensical notions to let “Father Greed,” as he puts it, solve the problem, to the contrary. Similarly, economist Paul Krugmanwants to provide “positive incentives like tax credits or not-too-onerous regulations,” but those market centered ideas are too late. Or, as Rynn argues, “the government ‘doing something’ should not mean that the government does something to help the marketto do something.” After all, we didn’t subcontract World War II to “the market.”

FDR understood and had the requisite political will and courage when he ushered in his New Deal and shaped the Democrats political legacy for generations. Likewise, in the spirit of JFK’s famous “Moon Speech,” the United States must choose to recognize and embrace the challenges of the Green New Deal “not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills.” Kennedy was frank enough to admit that attaining the moon landing was hard, and a comparable degree of honesty is required from today’s leaders. The goals are not simply ones of relief and recovery (as was the case in the original New Deal), but a wholesale transformation of the U.S. economy, and a reconfiguration of the government’s role in a manner not unlike what occurred during World War II. This will require a permanently larger government role in the economy for many years, not simply as a regulator, “umpire,” or redistributor, but as a builder.

Certainly, it would mark a significant break from the market fundamentalism that has grown to dominate the existing policy framework of the past 40 years. But if the crisis is as great as the science suggests, then the actions must match that degree of urgency, both in terms of scale and equity. The critics might well say it’s pie in the sky. At times, however, leaders need to be aspirational rather than “reasonable” to get anything remotely close to what is required. “Reasonable,” after all, is what got us Obamacare rather than Medicare for All. We need to do better this time. It might be our last chance.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. kimyo

    radical conservation

    to me, that’s the first and only test necessary to determine if a politician or climate activist groks the nature of the problem.

    if radical conservation is not first on their list, they don’t understand the options available to us. such people should not be put in a position to ‘lead the fight against climate change’.

    nothing holds a candle to radical conservation. nothing compares to it in terms of scope, deployability and immediate positive effect.

    1. human

      In our current oil-fueled delerium “economic growth” and “environmental sustainability” are mutually exclusive.

    2. Grumpy Engineer

      Um, how exactly does one deploy “radical conservation” to “immediate positive effect”? People still need to drive to work and to the grocery store and other places that their lives required. And people still need to run their furnaces to avoid freezing to death during the winter. [Esp. during weather events like our recent “polar vortex”.]

      In the short term, there is very little an average citizen can do to reduce their energy consumption by 80%, which is the amount that scientists are talking about.

      Sure, people can adjust their thermostats and driving habits to reduce their consumption by 15% or so, but that’s about all you can realistically expect from short-term lifestyle adjustments. For a bigger difference, people will have to abandon their 3500-sq.ft. McMansions and scrap their SUVs and move into well-insulated block housing in the city where they can use public transportation.

      And how many people will be willing to downgrade their lifestyles like that? Very few, I suspect. To make it happen on a large scale in a short time frame, you’d have to force people to do it. And you’d have to force existing urban residents to “move over” and “squeeze in” to make room for the 150 million people who’d be abandoning single-family homes, as there isn’t enough available housing in cities to host them at present anyway.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Help me. You ignored that I mentioned flying. In the oil crisis, people car pooled. How many trips to the store are necessary? Rationing fuel as in the 1970s would force car-users to be more efficient about their car use. And I personally know people in cold climate who would live only in part of their enormous houses in the winter and not heat the rest.

        “Radical conservation” would have to go way beyond individual choices. I specifically mentioned the military. There would also need to be a concerted push on extended supply chains, since IIRC ocean shipment amounts to >10% of greenhouse gas use.

        1. GF

          Conservation is the number one way to immediately see results. That will plateau quickly so I would advocate incentivizing the billionaire class. Offer them a choice of 90% tax on all types of income over $5 million or instead investing maybe 50% over the $5 million in “green” public infrastructure now – which could also be tax deductible. Start with the projects currently being proposed to get things moving. We have been sitting around dissecting each individual green proposal and finding every excuse possible not to proceed resulting in nothing getting done. Time to get off our asses and get going.

        2. Grumpy Engineer

          Remember that the IPCC is currently recommending an 80% reduction in global CO2 emissions. And since we produce more than our fair share here in the US, we probably need to aim for an 85% reduction. Can we get there with the conservation efforts you describe? Unfortunately, we cannot.

          Air transportation accounts for only 11% of the transportation sector’s emissions, which in turn are less than 30% of total US emissions. Eliminating air travel entirely would only yield a 3% improvement in total. This isn’t enough. Fuel rationing and carpooling in the 1970s reduced US petroleum consumption by less than 10%. This again works out to less than a 3% reduction in total emissions. It isn’t enough. The US military currently produces a little over 3% of US emissions. Shutting down the entire DoD wouldn’t be enough. And unless your friends who closed off portions of their house in the winter closed off 85% and let it freeze solid (pipes included) and also reduced use of hot water, electronics, and appliances by 85%, their actions aren’t enough.

          That’s the problem with the conservation-based plans. Despite requiring significant (and unpleasant) lifestyle adjustments, they won’t take us far enough. People acting on their own might get us a 15% improvement. With additional “radical” intervention by government we might get to 30%. But it’s still far short of 85%.

          Conservation won’t get us there. It won’t even get us halfway. We must improve things on the energy supply side as well. That’s why I keep pushing for nuclear.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            First, you are straw manning my remark. I said we need radical conservation in addition to other approaches. We can’t sit around for approaches that will take a decade to have any effect. Just the construction of a nuclear plant takes 3.5 to 5 years, as in from the pouring of concrete to completion. Siting, bidding out, design will easily take 2-4 years given how controversial nuclear is. The problem is made worse by how many plants would be needed.

            And the trend, as you ought to know, is to nuclear phase-out not more nuclear plants. From Wikipedia:

            As of 2016, countries including Australia, Austria, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, and Portugal have no nuclear power stations and remain opposed to nuclear power. Belgium, Germany, Spain and Switzerland are phasing-out nuclear power. Globally, more nuclear power reactors have closed than opened in recent years but overall capacity has increased.

            Italy is the only country that has permanently closed all of its functioning nuclear plants. Lithuania and Kazakhstan have shut down their only nuclear plants, but plan to build new ones to replace them, while Armenia shut down its only nuclear plant but subsequently restarted it. Austria never used its first nuclear plant that was completely built. Due to financial, political and technical reasons Cuba, Libya, North Korea and Poland never completed the construction of their first nuclear plants (although North Korea and Poland plan to). Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ghana, Ireland, Kuwait, Oman, Peru, Singapore, Venezuela have planned, but not constructed their first nuclear plants. Between 2005 and 2015 the global production of nuclear power declined by 0.7%.


            Given that global power production increased during that period, the decline in nuclear as a share of the total is even greater.

          2. Lambert Strether

            > This isn’t enough

            Obama got it right with “all of the above.” He just applied the principle to fossil fuels. Oops.

            Seriously, 3% is a tranche, one hopes of many. So to say 3% “isn’t enough” is to say… “a tranche is a tranche.”

          3. John Wright

            I understand the push for nuclear, but it is a false hope if the pushback from interest groups is as intense as I expect.

            For example, if a number of new nuclear plants would be located near valuable real estate, one might expect pushback from homeowners (right and left leaning), the financial industry (maintain positive equity homes with mortgages) and the real estate industry.

            Then throw in the environmentalists into this mix.

            NIMBYism may be a force more powerful than nuclear.

            As I have mentioned before, the US government, through its own careless management of its nuclear weapons producing plants, leaving an estimated $1 Trillion clean-up bill (assuming the clean up technology works), has perhaps fatally killed the possibility of much additional nuclear power in the USA.

            How will the government pitch the “Ignore the past, trust me this time with nuclear power” message?

        3. frank

          Keep in mind that even if we do launch a Green New Deal we will have to spend money to cope with the encroachment of the oceans, droughts, wildfires, people on
          the move (make room for the Venezuelans after the Bolton/Abrams invasion) and all the other consequences of climate change already laid on.

          1. JEHR

            I have a vision of how individual families will have to live and it goes back to the 1950s before electricity, before indoor plumbing, before mcMansions, before malls, before two-car garages, etc. People planted their own food and stored it for the winter–no strawberries in winter unless they were canned. Oh yeah, canning would be “in” again. It is that picture of living within one’s means that scares me silly! But, of course, I will be dead and gone before that occurs.

            1. Ignacio

              These days I am working with one client whose new house will be part of a small development (8 units) buildt in a village not far from Madrid. This client found me via internet because he has concerns on how the future of energy will be and what are the best solutions to implement now. Clever if you are supposed to live there the following 50 years and there are many uncertainties on the future.

              I am making a proposal that will result in the house connected to the grid and rely on electricity for everything (heating, cooling, hot water and vent). So forget about Ntl. gas for heating and hot water. I didn’t told him but one of my fears is that in the next 50 years something “funny” migth occur to gas supplies. Of course, such funny thing could also occur to the grid and electricity supply but I believe that the electric grid is more reliable than the gas supply. Besides, he could instal solar-PV just in case (this is something that I will offer). Although I have not made all the calculations I am quite sure that with current technology and knowing the roof surface as set in the project, he could rely exclusively in solar-PV. Madrid is well above EU average regarding solar irradiation. For comparison I think that very similar to Sacramento in CA.

              1. Anon

                If you’re going to use electricity for residential heating then simply use incandescent light bulbs (90% of the electrical energy is given off as heat). Heating with high quality electrical energy is not ideal, though.

                Look into high efficiency hydronic heating systems that are powered by natural gas or propane. (Careful with propane; it’s heavier than air and pools.)

                As Yves indicates, Conservation first! That means high insulation levels, air-to-air heat exchanger, and an efficient floor plan.

                1. Shonde

                  Whatever happened to earth bermed passive solar home design?

                  A friend built one in Minnesota back in the early 80’s. It has held up well with time. After she was living in it for a time, a rep from the local utility company “visited” to make sure she wasn’t stealing energy from them since she used so little. Must have scared the you know what out of him when he found out she was legit.

                  1. rob

                    If you can’t find a cave, make one.
                    The earth is the best place to build. As long as local contours of land can protect you from flooding, the energy saved by building in the ground trumps all other designs. It will protect from fire,wind, and heat and cold.
                    Everyone with a house built into a hill knows the buried portion stays cool in the summer and warm in the winter. And now we have the experience to ward of drainage and condensation/moisture issues. Again, don’t build in a flood plain. As long as there is drainage in the event of local flooding, it is the way to go.

                    Couple that with a heat pump, and use the electricity derived from renewable resources like solar fields placed along distribution lines. The air conditioning in the summer is also a dehumidifier. Very comfortable, and can be quite efficient. And if the electricity is being produced in a sane way, without creating toxic waste and all…. why not?

                    1. polecat

                      With a national .. and to a large extent state influenced .. conservative ( in otber words, absolutely NO long-term foresight or imagination) building and contruction lobby to call the shots, it’s no wonder that build construction remains inefficient and inflexible, and without true benefit to the public AND the environment ! There are just too many institutional builder ricebowls that would have to be broken to allow any real positive change to happen …
                      When you add to the above the national building code, as it is currently enshrined into law, anyone who hopes to see large-scale changes in home construction … such as viable earthen bermed habitats … will be found wanting !

                2. oliverks

                  They should use geothermal. It is much more efficient than light bulbs. It is pretty standard in Europe, so I suspect that is already going to be used.

                  1. Ignacio

                    To say the least heating with bulbs (joule effect heating) is crazy. In this particular house in january that would mean about 90 bulbs on, and several less but yet many during sleeping hours if you like to sleep with a few bulbs on. Another problem is confort: heating from the ceiling is not to be recommended and you should put the bulbs below windows to have better results and avoid radiating “coolness” from those.

                    Although conversion of electricity in heat is quite efficient the problem comes in the generation and transport of such electricity to your home with heavy losses.

                    Nobody likes joule effect although there are applications with highly specific zonification that apparently work well.

                    As you say geothermal and other thermal exchangers are far more efficient because they can move 2-8 kW of heat with 1 kW of electric power. The inverter system has helped to increase the coefficient of performance of such machines.

                    1. oliverks

                      Ignacio you may love my microwave heating idea. This just uses microwaves to heat you. It’s super efficient, because it just heats the humans and pets!

                      It does have a few downsides. You need to put screens on all your windows, and you need to but foil on all the walls, and you may want to stick with plastic furniture.

                      Oh, yes I forgot. Remember to turn it down before you go out, otherwise you might boil the cat alive.

              2. Robert Dannin

                Ignacio, You are right. Something funny is already happening to the gas supply. Ten thousand residents of Newport, Rhode Island were left without heat for almost a week during sub-zero weather in late January. National Grid, a registered UK corporation and gas & electricity monopoly for Rhode Island, Massachusetts & Connecticut, is blaming the supplier, Algonquin/Enrbridge, a Canadian corp. The natural gas itself comes from the Gulf of Mexico and is pumped into residential low-pressure lines that are 100 years old. Zero accountablilty while the state governor provides public relations cover by throwing money and free meals. Historically the region depended on a 50-50 mix of natural gas and home heating oil. Originally we used #2 grade oil but since 1980 it was possible to upgrade the burners to cleaner #4 or #6 oil. It was reliably delivered even during extreme winter conditions by local retailers. Beginning in 2010 National Grid addressed the competition by offering tens of millions of dollars in subsidies to lure the oil-consumers onto the grid. As a result most New Englanders are now at the mercy of foreign controlled corporations and their shareholders. Getting off the grid won’t be easy and will likely be an option for homeowners wealthy enough to purchase secondary backup systems. Ultimately the most efficient and cleanest option is wood-pellet heating but conversion would require total commitment by consumers and local government to resist the grid. Very unlikely. https://www.utilitydive.com/news/gas-outages-hit-10k-in-rhode-island-after-issue-on-algonquin-pipeline/546556/

            2. Amfortas the Hippie

              that’s pretty much how me and mine live, now….circa 1935 with internet.
              or we’re at least firmly on the path to that end.
              (ie: the gardening has been neglected for several years due to my body and other circumstances beyond my control)
              tax return next month will totally pay off the balance at the hardware store…meaning that my house is paid for.
              if there’s still EITC next year, I intend to finally get wind power(maybe solar, too, depending)
              we’ve already collected decades worth of canning supplies, and other assorted amish-like things, and infrastructure like the big smokehouse and abattoir are done.
              so slowly but surely, I’m seceding from the machine….and approaching the lifestyle lived by my great granddad on the homestead.
              It’s not a bad way to go…especially given what i’ve seen of how other people live–from the projects to my dad’s nice neighborhood–one can do just fine without talking refrigerators and even tv.
              the biggest obstacle, aside from my lack of capital, is labor….and also the lack of a broader network of folks doing similar things(including things like market access for produce, or a way to sell lambchops or dressed geese that doesn’t necessarily put me afoul of the law)

              all that said, I would definitely add some strong language to any Green New Deal regarding Localism and small, organic/sustainable agriculture.
              an end to parasitical Big Ag would go a long way towards accomplishing the stated goals.
              a whole lot of what folks take for granted will hafta change…

              1. Frank

                About wind power. My wife and I erected the first wind turbine in our little town. Our site looked perfect. We’re situated at 2100 feet and plenty of wind. However the wind is very turbulent and the power generation of the turbine was up and down. The blades turned out of the wind to slow itself down and the power generation slowed and generation resumed as the blades slowed down enough.
                The turbine finally did develop enough mechanical problems that we decided to ditch that and go the solar route.
                We are grid connected and the solar goes to offset our monthly bill and to keep our backup batteries ( also have an inverter that kicks in when we have an electrical outage.
                And a word about batteries. What I’m going to recommend is pretty pricey at the outset, but over the long haul they are cheaper as they can be discharged down to zero thousands of times. Here’s a link to the ones I bought:
                These don’t gas off and can actually be located in your living space.
                Besides all those features I don’t have to bump my balding head while going into the basement to top up the water in the old lead-acid ones.

                1. Amfortas the Hippie

                  aye. we always have wind, here…”normal” is 5-20 mph.
                  we also get crazy wind storms…usually out of the west(built my house to account for that)…gusts to 50-60, steady at 40.
                  these seem to be becoming more frequent of late, but I have only my memory to go on.
                  money is always the issue…and my hard headed mom,lol…she wants a one and done system installed to run the whole place as is.
                  that’s prolly doable for my house and environs, since we’re naturally and habitually frugal…but it would take acres of solar to power her habits.
                  I’m after fridges, freezers and water well to begin with(by my subtle machinations, all these are more or less together). the battries and do-dads will have their own addition to the pumphouse.
                  I’ve got the needs and usages and such worked out, but will hafta wait til the $$$ is in hand to do any actual shopping around.
                  your link goes in the big file supporting this endeavor.
                  being energy independent is a lifelong dream.

        4. RepubAnon

          Lost in all the economic arguments is a discussion of the physical laws of the universe – notably the first two laws of thermodynamics: (1) Matter/energy cannot be created or destroyed, only its form can be changed; (2) Entropy increases in a closed system. The economist version: (1) You can’t win; (2) you can’t break even.

          The current economic models of endless, unlimited growth ignore these simple realities. They are similar to trust fund kids who think that there’ll alway be money in the fund regardless of how much of the capital they spend. Sooner or later, they run out of money.

          If they stop the spending spree and start conserving their assets by living off the income earned through investing the capital, the money lasts a long. If they don’t conserve, and start arguing among themselves over who should start dialing back spending, the money will run out quickly and with little warning. It comes as a shock when the checks start bouncing – and the trust fund kids will have long forgotten other ways of living.

          This is the problem – and it won’t be solved by the ultra-rich flying to Davos in their private jets to hear lectures on sustainable lifestyles. It also won’t be solved by pushing the sacrifices onto those with the least political power – or by leaders who feel they’ll be dead before the resources run out.

        5. Brooklin Bridge

          I would see massive gov. subsidies for production of residential energy conservation materials (insulation -in the right places- being top) and for installing in homes around the country basically for free. It’s expensive and difficult to retrofit older homes with truly super efficient thermal barriers, but that still leaves a lot of room for major improvements that could result in huge reductions of energy consumption. Back in the 80’s there was a program of that sort at least here in Massachusetts that seemed to have just withered away as gas became cheap again.

          Similar subsidies for business, as well as for business converting to renewable or more sustainable forms of energy.

          It is of course likely that truly major changes in life-styles are in our future.

          1. b

            Got caught in trying to add a bit. While indeed major changes are coming to our lifestyles and our entire social, economic and political environment, it is probably still worth the herculean effort to go as far as we possibly can in conservation of energy since it is an achievable relatively short term goal that will provide significant reduction in carbon emissions and other harmful effects of current energy consumption.

          2. Brooklin Bridge

            The strong possibility that such massive government investments would become essentially socialism for business that would extract rent for such improvements – such as the solar panel rental schemes, is unfortunately very real and would be very destructive both for the consumer and for the environment.

        6. jonboinAR

          I think you’d have to tax the you-know-what out of consumption. For example, you said “flying”. Some way or other, double the price of airline tickets. Presto! Instant overall reduction in miles flown. I don’t know what all that does to the economy. It certainly reduces GDP, for whatever that means in reality. Just barely considering, maybe you start the GND, having the government subsidize the you-know-what out of solar panels, etc., cause an oncoming labor shortage, then start taxing consumption of everything but GND oriented stuff. I don’t know if that would ameliorate the recessionary effects of forcing down anti-Green consumption, or not.

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            Hansen’s “fee-and-dividend plan” was designed to tax the you-know-what out of fossil carbon specifically. And it is to be charged at the very first stage of sale, so that the coal, gas and oil companies can indeed pass the entire cost of the fee-for-permission-to-sell down and along to every downstream buyer of any and every good and/or service which involved fossil carbon in its existence.

            The purpose of the “dividend” in this plan is twofold. First, to visibly demonstrate that this is not a gambit by a disliked and distrusted government to raise more money for itself from people. And second, so that people at the very bottom of the money-class ladder will get the most counter-regressive effect from receiving their exactly equal-size dividend and also so that their ( as well as everyone else’s fee-derived dividend money) would go further buying things with less fossil carbon involvement, hence less of a passed-along primary-fee-cost in the price, thereby incentivizing more purchase and hence more production of things involving less fossil carbon in their existence. That is Hansen’s stated hope.

            The Hansen fee would keep rising until the price of fossil-carbon-based whatever got so high that fossil carbon was tortured to death from most of the economy. Hansen’s goal is NOT to “raise money”. His goal is to EXTERMINATE the fossil carbon energy industry with fees rising from inconvenient . . . to burdensome . . . to onerous . . . to torturous . . . and finally to lethal.

            EX TER MI NATE fossil carbon from the energy portfolio. Anything less would be uncivilized. And anything less would be too weak a surrounding grid matrix forcefield for a New Green Deal to ever survive in.

        7. Bonnie

          Bravo Yves—but without a radical downsizing of our monoculture industrial food system none of this will work. We need to return to an economic system based on sustainability principles and that means living as “local” as we can. Humans are tribal. Globalization is a disaster. It relies on financial capitalism and consolidation of money, power and opportunity. Food/farming is where we start to put people back to work—physical work. To restore health to our air, and, water and human health too. Any system based on consumption without consideration given to how the production part happens will always derail.

      2. Susan the Other

        I agree that the military could make a significant dent in greenhouse gases – they could adjust almost everything they do. Grounding 90% of the airline flights and all private flights is probably the most benign first step for civilians; build train lines; outlawing all combustion engine cars should follow and it will need to be subsidized because people are so dependent on their cars – but that can be done with public transit and delivery and working from home on a computer. Even Uber will come in handy but they’ll all have to have electric cars. Radical conservation is the end of market economics but not the end of the market – we’ll still need to buy stuff – green stuff. Does anybody care? Not me. As long as government provides transition and safety nets. Thinking about it is a relief.

        1. Brooklin Bridge

          It strikes me we would end up paying dearly for a wink and a nod to companies like Uber simply because they line up somewhat with green efforts toward public transportation. Their ultimate goal and business model is monopoly which by in large is antithetical to conservation.

        2. rd

          The US military are actually leaders in alternative energy for remote operations. They figured out in Afghanistan and Iraq that a very high percentage of their casualties were IEDs targeting fuel convoys. So they focused on increasing the energy independence of their forward posts. It usually takes a decade or more for military technologies to make their way into the general public.

          The military is also quite focused on impacts of climate change as many of their bases are in locations being impacted. They also recognize that it will a source of conflict in the coming decades. They quietly put it into reports and start to take counter-measures while the civilian leadership denies it is occurring.

      3. drumlin woodchuckles

        Here is an article called . . . The Age Of Speed:How to reduce global fuel consumption by 75 per cent.

        ( I assume the writer is referring strictly to transport-related fuel consumption).
        I see no need for extensive reprise or restatement of the article because the article already states its own case. It is about how if we force lower speed limits on all the transport we have now, we can sharply reduce fuel use for all that transport over the very same distances travelled as now. The tradeoff is: take more time to use less fuel.


        And “75% reduction” is very close to “80% reduction” right there, just by slowing every transport vehicle down.

        1. scoff

          Another way to lower energy consumption of cars is to drastically reduce their weight and power. (Think of a 4-wheeled bicycle with a small (10-12 HP) electric motor and lightweight canopy for protection from weather.)

          A 4-5 thousand pound car with a 200 HP engine (or more) to carry a couple of people and a few pounds of cargo is insane. Reduce the weight and power and you reduce the destructive forces involved in collisions between two vehicles. 2.5 tons of impact force compared with a few hundred pounds makes a very big difference.

          Also, for long distance travel, equip all vehicles with tow hitch type connections on front and back that would allow multiple vehicles to connect to each other and operate from a single engine. Lead car would drive the train (yes, just like a locomotive on a railroad) and could rotate to the back of the line periodically. Next in line could take over, and so on. Everyone else throttles down to idle speed (or completely off) and shifts to neutral to conserve fuel.

          I know this would take cooperation, which seems to be in extremely short supply these days, but I think it would be (could be) doable.

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            Combining your longer range ideas of actual redesign of transport with that article’s ideas of speed limiting the transport we already have would achieve fuel-use reduction of even MORE than 75% of current fuel use for transport.

            Other fuel-for-transport savings could be achieved by rebuilding some of America’s missing trains, trolleys and streetcars; and making them consistently and reliably user-friendly. Perhaps even make them linked-in with other modes of transportation. For example , large-to-huge bicycle parking lots right next to key crucial train stations in medium density areas. Systems of bus and mini-bus shuttles from lower-density areas to certain train stations. etc.

            Doing all that together might even get us to the 80% reduction of fuel use in transport that Grumpy Engineer says we have to achieve in every sector, sector by sector.

      4. Adam Eran

        Completely overlooked in this put down of radical conservation is New Urbanism (and New Urbanism sprawl retrofits). This would mean a return to older-style neighborhoods that are mixed income (apartments among the single-family homes) and mixed use. In mixed use neighborhoods, offices, homes and commerce, even light industry coexist. Sprawl is determined to be single-use (all residences, all commerce, etc.) connected only by an auto trip. The requirement that every driving age adult own an auto is the most regressive “tax” sprawl imposes.

        Sprawl retrofits can include building housing in shopping centers (or putting housing above current centers), and adding multiple units, small commerce, etc. to existing residential areas.

        “Lifestyle” centers that include housing among the shops may be a way to save brick-and-mortar shopping. They also are more profitable than centers that are solely commerce.

        Market acceptance for New Urbanism is so good, buyers pay premiums to live in such places. Pedestrian- and transit-friendly streetscapes insure people can walk places and experience being members of society rather than just read about it on their computers.

        What would the effect be on CO2? New Urbanist neighborhoods regularly cut vehicle miles traveled by 1/3 – 2/3.

        Couple that with the kinds of insulation currently available (Germans’ passivehaus can be energy positive), and you have a start. And yes, you can retrofit insulation.

        Let’s not dismiss these proposals because the alternatives are less familiar. Besides, the “do nothing because people won’t like it” alternative means the terrorists win.

  2. Code Name D

    As comprehensive as this essay is, I suspect it only scratches at the surface of the sort of changes it will demand. I would even argue that the Wall Street Investment/Profit model of enterprise will have to be jettisoned as well.

    As noted, a full conversion to green energy makes the economy dependent on the availability of free energy, something critics are quick to point out is not reliable or predictable. This is not entirely true; the energy is there and it is reliable. What it isn’t is there on demand and constant enough to fit Wall Street’s typical fiscal schedules. Nor can we pretend that energy sources are infinite. Running up one plant to 100% may involve throttling back manufacturing elsewhere. And building new factories will now involve calculations on available energy sources.

    On high-energy days, manufacturing can go at full tilt. Workers then come in to work long hours to take advantage of the free energy. Then throttle back or even go idle on low-energy days. Workers go home and enjoy time off. The normal work week becomes a thing of the past, and work schedules become contingent on energy forecasts. Workers may even have multiple jobs; one job for high-energy days, and another for low-energy days that might involve manufacturing which are less energy intensive.

    This would mean production schedules are contingent on energy inputs, rather than arbitrary production quotas set to meat quarterly profit margins. That is not to mean that profits could no longer be made, or even that regulated capitalism could not still function in this environment. But the free-market FOR PROFIT system, which insists on short term profits (usually at the expense of long-term planning) would become obsolete. Not to say that the for-profit model isn’t already incompatible to a healthy culture or society.

    Something else that will have to be tackled will be the post-consumer economy. Goods can no longer be manufactured for the sake of consumption itself (which is the primary means of acquiring profits in the current pyridine.) This goes beyond built-in-obsolescence, but must include what we might call a disposable culture, one built on fleeting trends and excessive consumerization.

    Toys are one example that come to mind. Christmas and birthdays, our kids expected to be showered with the latest offerings, built off of that years Disney or Marvel movies. Toys that rapidly become obsolete as trends move on. Even if these toys are well built, there is a strong tendency to just throw them away to make way for new toys, or when the child out grows them. Rather than passing them on to the next generation to minimize the need for constant replacements. This is an avenue for change the public will likely find to be the most jarring; transitioning from a disposable culture – to a recycle-able culture. Where toys (and other goods) could be retained for generations, and replaced only when they become defective.

    1. Ptb

      Manufacturing will move to places with low electric cost or low labor cost, depending on the work. The electric cost can be determined by availability of transmission capacity too. The northern manufacturing zone, along us-canada border & great lakes, will still be well positioned. wind + hydro + natgas is a plausible alternative to nuke + coal + natgas + hydro. The southern zone (us-Mexico border), I’m not sure. 50/50 Solar + natgas, realistically.

      OTOH, home heating along the northern border of the US (and in all of Canada) is a top carbon consumer. These areas would need to radically alter housing patterns, in a low carbon / low energy (non-nuke) future.

      1. D

        I suspect that some one would make it mandatory that houses be built like they are in Germany (I was there decades ago, and they have very thick walls). But then some one would have to pay to do that

        1. rob

          One way to make thick walls is with” aerated autoclaved concrete “. AAC.
          It goes up fast, and is a concrete block that has air bubbles inside. so much so that you can take a 30 lb block and throw it in water and it will float. It can also be made out of fly ash, or waste from coal fired power plants.
          The walls of my house are 14” thick, and it is very comfortable, and the energy efficiency coupled with an electric heatpump keeps the energy usage low. 10 years on and I would say it is a great product. And the block itself is soft enough to be chiseld and cut with wood blades, so electric conduit and pipes can just be put in notches in the walls. EASY and FAST. I built mine with blocks, But the other way to go is to order panels that get put together with the aid of heavy equipment, but then a whole house could be put together in a couple of weeks. they make floor and roof assemblies too.
          All fire proof, termite proof, and the block don’t get hurt by water….. This is a hundred year old technology, and highly underutilized.

      2. Code Name D

        Ah, no, and yes. I am always skeptical of the term “cost”; do you mean cost as in money? Or cost as in KWh or calories? With free market thinking, the two are treated as equivalent. High energy costs equate to high fiscal costs – accept for when it doesn’t. And when it doesn’t, the markets always prefer the fiscal dimension.

        I believe the so called “tight oil revolution” exists on paper only. It has a low net energy output, with mot of its energy production being cycled back to feed its own operation. In some cases, shale oil is likely even an energy sink, meaning it consumes more energy than it produces. Yet some how these operations remain profitable, though mostly due to cheap credit and government subsidies. But “cost” also perverts the market. Most of the fraking wells produce natural gas as a buy product. But because its too expensive to capture this NG, its simply flared (burned) off into the atmosphere. It’s bad enough this burning becomes a significant source of CO2, but we don’t even get the benefit of using the energy.

        There is also something else. Free energy tends to be distributed geographically. Meaning that you need large “farms” that cover lots of surface area to obtain usable amounts of free energy. This means a large electrical grid just to collect this energy. This is the largest technical barrier to a green energy structure, and come with its own costs. Regardless of where you put a high energy demand plant (such as refineries and forges), you will need a large collection grid to deliver it the power it needs. And because these operations also have high start-ups and shut-down costs, the grid will need to be even larger to provide for sufficiently constant and reliable power. So, moving the plant closer to the energy source may not be as practical as one might assume. Even if the plant is placed smack in the middle of an energy farm, you will still need significant infrastructure to collect the needed energy.

        And keep in mind this runs counter to consuming locally, which argues that manufacturing needs to be placed where the people are. Rather than what we are proposing where manufacturing is placed where the energy is, and people move to where the manufacturing is located.

        With all that said and considered, you’re point still stands. The argument here is that our economy needs to be responsive and adaptive to the offerings and costs to the environment. The current system where raw resources are shipped halfway around the world, and then finished goods shipped the other halfway around the world is not sustainable. We don’t need to move manufacturing to the door step of our energy source to see massive efficiency improvements over the current system.

        Indeed, the more flexible economy may no longer support the hyper-consolidation that is globalization. Instead of one giant planet, use hundreds of smaller planets distributed closer to points of consumption and closer to smaller energy sources.

        1. Ptb

          I meant $ cost, sadly.

          I get that tight oil may go up in price, or increases NG export infrastructure
          may finally bring US NG prices up to world levels. (And liquifecation for intercontinental shipment is also a questionable use of calories and thus carbon, but not $ … provided a price difference exists between continents).

          And I think it’s safe to say NG demand stays high worldwide. Because of retiring the greater coal electric in China etc, and NGCC is the immediate workable improvement (i.e. can drop in without major change to grid, and payback time is shorter too).

          Finally, NGCC beats nuke for $$ even with NG price increase vs current US levels. That’s where I was going.

          And yes, w/ big changes to grid. Over my head, but I suppose the path of least resistance is follow existing transmission networks (if mass storage, place at existing nexus), making parts reversible as necessary.

          Re: manufacturing locally … for automated situations, I don’t think this would happen. (Not that it couldn’t… but I think if a company has let’s say 100 identical automated production lines, each making 10 million widgets a year, their natural inclination is to have 4-5 large global sites worth 20-25 lines at each one, rather than 100 sites. (For very good operational reasons.) Moreover, these sites would be clustered near other similar ones for other companies/ products, rather than spread out evenly.

          Unless we live in an energy starved world, this doesn’t change.

  3. Isotope_C14

    “We need to do better this time. It might be our last chance.”

    It *is* our last chance.

    The capitalists will not change course, there is no profit in that. I suspect everyone should be getting ready for a mad-max situation essentially globally. When the summer sea-ice is gone, we are going to heat very rapidly. Famine will come shortly after. Nature bats last.

    The 0.001% have their bunkers all ready. Of course they are going to have a tough time ever coming out again since all the coastal nuke plants will go Fukushima.

    The Davos crowd doesn’t even know how to address income inequality. How would they even be able to understand climate and associated feedback loops? Heck, they all fly around in private jets.


    Looks like we have a bit more ice than 2018, but only time will tell what year we lose the arctic. Once that hemispheric A/C goes down, our goose is cooked.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Maybe a few bitter-enders from among the lower 99.99% will devote their lives to staying alive and armed just long enough to catch and kill every single 0.001% when it emerges from its bunker.

      1. jpj

        That sounds like a great plot for a film; only problem is Hollywood would undoubtedly frame the wrong side as protagonists.

  4. Linden S.

    This is good, thank you. It is incredible to see so much discussion of “how much action is enough?” Even six months ago we would mostly have seen bipartisan op-eds about how only a carbon tax can save us. I am curious to know what will happen when *sacrifice,* as Yves talked about, starts to hit the mainstream discussion.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I agree and should have said it is a positive sign that climate change concerns and the need for action are going mainstream. It’s a tragedy that denialism was so effective at muddying the debate and encouraging complacency.

      This is where the Marie Kondo fad may be a plus: more people may accept that a lot of what would have been seen as sacrifice 10 years ago is doing without things that aren’t essential, and even as luxuries, aren’t that gratifying. But Lambert wonders if this is a precursor to “sacrifice for you, not for me” but the top rich. One thing that enabled Japan to get through its post crisis years so well is the cohesion of its society, and that people at the top also took pay cuts to help preserve employment. We see nothing of the sort from the Davos crowd. Their idea of sacrifice seems to be setting up a foundation where they and family members are involved (including traveling and having offices on the foundation’s dime).

      1. coboarts

        “sacrifice for you, not for me” of course
        and what about concerns over “austerity” > “sacrifice” is austerity on steroids
        hype ’em up, make ’em crazy, and take ’em for the ride
        do you really think anyone playing isn’t a player, even our own AOC -?

        1. Shonde

          Someone needs to clue AOC into the optics of hopping on a plane to go back and forth from New York to Washington. Even if it seems “Bidenish”, as a thought leader on the Green New Deal, she needs to think through how her actions promote the idea or say “sacrifice for you, not for me”.

          The InstaGram of her applying fake nails on a train turned my stomach. She was only on the train because she couldn’t catch a flight from LaGuardia!

    2. Ignacio

      This was exactly my first reaction. This is positive, there is debate. At least at NC fighting climate change has become lately the main theme. In links, news and analyses about climate change come first and are increasingly abundant and more recently discussions on the Green New Deal are bringing a focus on policy that is very much needed. This post in particular goes well beyond the “let markets deal with it” –idiocy– that has been prevalent in most discussions.

      Now we are starting to become aware that this is an overwhelming problem that will require a large effort involving the whole society and one can safely predict that big changes will occur regardless the problem is being treated sensibly or not. Where I live, I can see it everyday. Just imagine those atolons in the Pacific or the caribbean that face a vital menace. Awareness in this places must be rapidly becoming fear. It seems to me that this is precisely the next stage in climate change figth: turning awareness into fear. Very much as the world wars and fear of nazi exansion helped to push for FDR’s new deal. How to encourage this transition without waiting for the next catastrophe is, I believe, the main objective now. We should even try to overplay it if it is posible to overplay climate change fear (i think not).

      On the side of policies and institutions I have noticed a change in the EU in the last years. The EU faces the same issues as the US but there is a socioeconomical incentive that is pushing faster in the correct direction. This incentive is increasing dependence on coal, gas and oil imports while in the US the opposite has occured lately. While the US has invested a lot in shale gas and oil the EU, more densely populated has with few exceptions hesitated (I thing almost surely dismissed) the exploitation of these resources. From the very beginning it was recognized that a transition from fossil fuels to renewables would require development and deploy such renewable sources AND a very large reduction in effective energy consumptiom because it was recognized that current energy consumption levels cannot be met with renewables even if reneable performance increases by much. Initially, reduction of energy consumption has been left to 1) demand and energy waste reduction without sacrifice and 2) efficiency gains. “Sacrifice” has not yet been played but it is recognized it will be necessary. A first step of sacrifice would be to reduce economic output by means of ending with planned obsolescence. There are plans to begin with this and I believe that by 2020 new regulations on this issue migth have been passed although I tend to be too optimistic. Anyway, what I have been seen is that in the EU the regulatory framework has entered a “dynamic stage” by which in very short periods new restrictions and obligations are put in place. One instance is the building code. In Spain the first more or less comprehensive building code reform was approved in 1979 after the roaring 60s. we had to wait to 2007 to have a completely new code that included a comprehensive description and limits on energy demand in buildings (obliged by EU directives). In 2013 important amedments resulted in a whole new building code as well as regulatory framework of HVAC instalations (independent but related with). Meanwhile, ErP directive for manufacturers introduced new limitations on energy efficiency and it is expected that this year or in 2020 a new version of the building code will be released. Well I stop this is becoming too long!

      1. coboarts

        Yes, we do well when acting in fear
        I’m looking forward to relying on the swarm of frightened, enraged, aggrieved, entitled, wokesters to find some vision and sense of value to organize around… actually, I’m being way to generous – I’m sure it’s already been worked out and the plans are sitting in a drawer on top of the Agenda 21, Report from Iron Mountain, etc. etc.

        1. John Wright

          This is the top secret “Soylent Green New Deal”.

          I am now on the government’s watch list for mentioning it.

  5. Foomarks

    Maybe the Green New Deal should include everyone lighting up a J and relaxing—for the benefit of themselves as well as the planet. While we’re kicking it, we should be revisiting the question why we need all this profit & output.

    1. Chris Cosmos`

      I have to say this is the best solution I’ve read about so far. The problem is spiritual, in the sense that we should just relax–once we do that our minds will clear, once our minds clear the solutions really just emerge out of the shadows to the extent we care about the planet. Profit, “growth”, “jobs” (mainly bullshit jobs), and so on are just means to take our humanity away–we’ve done that up the wazoo and are now done with that–that phase of history once relatively benign is over.

    2. rob

      Many people will think this is just some glib remark, but really, I think it is key.

      After all, aren’t we talking about the shift in the paradigm that is needed is too much for people to take in, in this non stop world we live in.
      Only after people really take the time to “grok” what we are really talking about as an alternative, can we really think rationally about what we must have, and what we want. And there really isn’t anything better to expand our consciousness; than the psychoactive wonders of the world.

  6. Brooklin Bridge

    Parallel incentives?,

    In the case of the Green New Deal, this should entail plans to facilitate fossil fuel industry workers shifting to specific new renewable energy factories, such as for wind turbines, or in new industrial machinery factories.From a practical standpoint, it would make sense to offer parallel incentives to the fossil fuel investor class; rather than have them drag their heels, why not entice them into a profitable line of business?

    What’s not to like about bribery? Still, parallel incentives? They look more like a horizontal line (the worker) next to a verticle line (investor class) to me. Gotta let the rich keep getting richer. And keep the class structure the class structure. After all, these grifters generate at least 1000 times more intelligence and innovative output than the worker, maybe even 10,000 times. Right?

    I gave up reading there, not to mention that Yves’s introduction takes the wind out of this article’s sails.

  7. Livius Drusus

    Great post. This is something I have been thinking about lately. I don’t think Americans will accept any reduction in their consumption habits unless some catastrophe happens and they have no choice. More people are buying SUVs, more people are buying gadgets that require mining for rare earth metals and more people want to take vacations that require air travel which is also environmentally destructive.

    In theory I support a Green New Deal but sometimes I wonder if it is an example of wanting to have your cake and eat it too. More Americans demand an upper middle-class lifestyle because it looks like everyone else on social media is living it up so I want to as well. I have never seen status anxiety as bad as it is today.

    We definitely need a cultural shift as well as better economic policy but the problem with sacrifice is that people think that it will not be applied fairly. That is where you get the “Al Gore flies around in a private jet” argument against doing anything about climate change. People will only accept sacrifice if they feel it is being applied fairly to everyone and not just ordinary working people.

    1. David H

      “Everyone wants an upper middle class lifestyle” – This is genius! How about we throw open our borders and let everyone outside the U.S. into the country so they too can enjoy the energy intensive lifestyle that goes along with living in America? Why should only U.S. citizens get to burn up all the worlds fossile fuels?

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        I agree! As long as we are also letting everyone into Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and all of Europe as well.

        1. polecat

          Honestly, I’d take living in a Japanese neighborhood over the American version any day ! Their ideas regarding the design of private and public spaces seem much more holistic in their approach then the scatter-shot environmentally destructive and mind-numbing Western version.

  8. upstater

    I have come to view climate solutions as hopeless. Capitalism is incapable of responding to climate in any meaningful way because pollution is dumped into the commons and the sources and production of fossil fuels are private property that must be burned as quickly as possible to insure maximum short term profits. There is nothing in economic policy of OECD countries that changes that.

    Driving home the point:

    A climate problem even California can’t fix: tailpipe pollution

    CO2 is increasing, it seems to be driven by the automobile. There is nothing on the horizon that will reduce automobile miles driven; it only increases. EV’s fueled by fossil electricity that loses 50-60% with generation and transmission are no solution; only public transit changes this picture. It is all baked into the cake that Macron (and all neoliberals) tell us to eat.

    1. Ptb

      Yes! The “easy-way” solution to the emissions created by smth like 50% of person-miles used for suburban-urban commute, is increase vehicle occupancy. No technology can beat a bus for that. (And the bus can be hybrid etc, which is mature and cheap tech). Oh it also drastically reduces road congestion and associated resource use. And it saves money.

      But around here, we don’t do things the easy way…

    2. Petter

      Cruise ships are another problem.

      Daily emissions of cruise ships same as one million cars. Cruise ships can emit as much particulate matter as a million cars every day and the air quality on deck can be as bad as the world’s most polluted cities, according to a new investigation.

      The increasing popularity of cruise ships in Norwegian fjords is leading to protests. Here was one man’s reaction.

      Norwegian politician mounts naked protest against cruise ships:

    3. Oh

      Transmission and distribution losses average around 5%

      Plug in hybrids are far from ideal from the standpoint of CO2 emission since they still depend on power plant that emit CO2; EV’s charge with solar generated photovoltaics will had zero CO2 emissions (not taking into account the emissions from mining, processing, transportation and manufacturing of the batteries).

      The article you linked to did not break out categories of vehicles (Gas, diesel, EV). It’s possible emission may be increasing because higher usage of fossil fueled vehicles.

    4. Oh

      Transmission and distribution losses average around 5%

      Plug in hybrids are far from ideal from the standpoint of CO2 emission since they still depend on power plant that emit CO2; EV’s charge with solar generated photovoltaics will had zero CO2 emissions (not taking into account the emissions from mining, processing, transportation and manufacturing of the batteries).

      The article you linked to did not break out categories of vehicles (Gas, diesel, EV). It’s possible emission may be increasing because higher usage of fossil fueled vehicles.

  9. Keith Newman

    Sadly I have concluded that our species is incapable of dealing with climate change in any significant way. As Yves points out the airplane industry would largely disappear, so no more fun travel for the top 10% and others. But that barely scratches the surface. Many other industries would also largely vanish: oil, gas, petrochemicals, automobiles, much tourism. The military around the world, and associated industries, would need to be scaled way, way back and let’s face it, the population of the wealthy countries would need to decline a lot. Does anyone really believe even one of those things is likely to happen? How likely are countries that are unable to deal with simple, no-brainer issues like medicare for all in the U.S., leaving the E.U. by the U.K., the legitimate grievances of the lower classes in Germany and France, etc., to declare a war-time emergency to counter climate change and crush the economic and political interests of those affected? Certainly my country, Canada, despite its vast wealth is nowhere close to even beginning to deal with climate change, or the real grievances of the down-trodden, and many above that level.
    I don’t advocate partying until doomsday as in On the Beach by Nevil Shute. I believe dealing with climate change would much improve most people’s lives through clean air, a clean environment, much more livable cities, less crowding and more close-knit communities. While I do believe we must do everything possible to reduce the effects of climate change, it is clear now that only collective war-time measures enforced by government will make it happen on a large enough scale to change our current course.

    1. Anarcissie

      collective war-time measures enforced by government

      One of the things I notice in this discussion is a constant reference to war as a way of getting things done. World War 2 is a favorite. But, in fact, the war model is the problem: not only conventional war, but the war against Nature and all the metaphorical wars — the war against poverty, the war against drugs, the war against crime, the war against terror, the war against this disease or that, and so on. War necessitates a hierarchical organization of the society, and all the ills that follow it: domination, exploitation, propaganda, ignorance, atomization. The upper layers of the social order quickly find that they don’t need to sacrifice; the lower orders can be employed (actually compelled) to do it for them. The lower orders realize that nothing they can produce won’t be stolen/taxed/extracted from them, develop hopelessness and lassitude as a defensive posture.

      So, as humans usually do, you’re going about things in exactly the wrong way. The only reasonable, constructive suggestion here was Foomark’s. Light up, question the ideology, rot the system from below, prepare to lose and keep on losing. Some of us may survive.

      1. Keith Newman

        A, you are taking this too literally. War time effort is short hand for total mobilisation of society at all levels to overcome a very serious problem. Nonetheless I take your point. Perhaps it would be better way to put it the way I just wrote.

    2. coboarts

      “collective war-time measures enforced by government”

      1. Keith Newman

        Indeed! That’s why I don’t think anything serious will be done until it’s too late and then there’ll be no point anyway.

  10. Chris Cosmos

    Of course there are all kinds of practical problems involved here but this is kind of bass ackwards. Without addressing the issue of purpose and meaning, i.e., why are we alive? What do we want as individual and collective beings? No truly practical solution to these problems can emerge. The entire structure of our society is based on growth, jobs, consumption, and the culture of narcissism. But it is the narcissism that is the problem and until we begin to work on that, certainly while reducing carbon emissions, no substantial change can emerge.

    Once we begin to move towards connecting with others and becoming more altruistic as is our natural tendency we’ll have the clarity of mind individually and collectively to solve this existential problem–because that’s what it is.

    I believe the solutions that would emerge, if our minds weren’t so filled with ourselves, would aid in our goals in life which are reflected in the results of “happiness studie” but happiness is not part of our cultural and personal goals–when it is we’ll solve the carbon problem because the mentality behind “mass-quantities” has to do with the misery that results from narcissism which was C.S. Lewis’ description of Hell in his book *The Great Divorce.*

    1. Amfortas the Hippie

      ^^^”…The entire structure of our society is based on growth….”^^^

      one could argue that humans have never learned how to contract,or even just be satisfied… that all of human history(and prehistory) is all about expansion…more, more, more…
      If this is the case(and I definitely think it is) then we have a long hard row to hoe, indeed.
      it will take a fundamental re-writing of the basecode in our lizard brains.
      possible, I guess…but not at all easy.(especially when the PTB are so adept at screwing with our minds to engender the exact opposite)
      This is one of the reasons(aside from being a NASA kid) that I don’t think human colonisation of space is a waste of time or resources…it’s an outlet for that rapaciousness.

      1. Carla

        El que mas tiene, mas quiere.

        (The more one has, the more one wants).

        (I don’t know how to make the proper accent marks for “mas”)

      2. jonboinAR

        This has been true of our culture, others, I’m sure, but I don’t know if all have been so rapacious. Maybe there’s a chance. Hi Carla!

  11. Ptb

    Politically, I think this quote from ther article sums it up for me.

    “Thus, the choice cannot be framed in a manner that forces workers to choose between saving the environment vs. safeguarding their economic livelihood”

    Notwithstanding the problems, mainly that we as a society are still far from “taking the problem seriously”, the slogan-level concept of GND — subsidies for domestically buildt low-carbon-use infrastructure — is a better alternative than having “fight climate change” as a completely standalone policy item. The standalone item,
    voters will rank as maybe a #4 or #5 priority. GND would combine infrastructure, jobs, climate, and made-in-usa. Actually, it’s there polling that shows GND higher?

    Also comparing matters more politically, is that with employment levels recovering, “jobs” is slipping a bit among the top issue, so maybe better spun as “well paying/benefit-having jobs”. Otherwise it would be just a subsidy. The made in America part is big.

    Finally, but perhaps for the last time, the 2020 election will, again, be all about Trump.

  12. Pelham

    Good points all, and I fully agree that conservation must be the first big step. A couple of questions, though:

    1) What about nuclear energy? The way things stand, it takes much too long to bring new nuclear plants online. But in such an emergency, could the process be sped up? There are some promising, much safer and more efficient nuclear technologies in prospect — such as thorium-powered molten salt reactors and wave reactors — but, sadly, we haven’t developed these sufficiently. So I suppose we’re now stuck with old technology, which does have its dangers. However, the scale of such perils is minor by comparison with the consequences of global warming.

    2) And what about bio-engineering by seeding the ocean with iron filings to greatly increase CO2 uptake? I understand this poses risks. But wouldn’t it be comparable to planting millions of acres of new trees, also a bio-engineering solution that no one objects to?

    1. Ptb

      Nuke electric is, for the moment, pretty dead in the US market. In recent years, it took 3 massive hits: Fukushima (liability), dirt cheap natgas via fracking (for the short term anyway), and big subsidies to solar and wind, which then have nearly zero marginal cost (for their installation lifetime, same as nuke.)

      If we want nuke electric, we have to subsidize it now. With Westinghouse, the nuke plant manufacturer, bought by Japan, its no longer a domestic biz going to bat for this subsidy in Congress.

      Thorium? Yes, you’d think.

      1. Skip Intro

        Nuclear power subsidies are already nearly infinite, when you consider the Price-Anderson liability cap, the ability of utilities to charge rate payers for construction long before the reactor is even started, and the always-ignored externality of waste storage for millennia. In addition, they are anything but carbon-free. With the time and money it takes to build even marginally safe plants, we could do much more with renewable sources like solar, wind, and waves.

      2. heresy101

        Conventional nuclear reactors are dead, dead. The ones being built in Georgia and South Carolina are 2-3 times over budget and probably won’t be finished. They are extremely expensive and have an unsolvable waste problem. Proponents of fission nuclear reactors are either uninformed or lackeys of the fission industry.

        Thorium reactors were built and operating in the 50’s but were shut down for fission reactors because they produced the waste products that the military wanted for nuclear bombs. We may not be having the issue with coal plants today if the MIC had not gotten its way.

        Thorium reactors are currently being developed by the Chinese and South Koreans. It is likely in the future that we will be getting electricity from imported thorium reactors built by Hyundai and Huawei!

        If you want to dig into thorium reactors, search: “Captain Kirk Thorium” as well as looking for the thorium energy society.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          If the cost of those never-to-be-finished reactors can be charged to the ratepayers of the relevant utilities, perhaps the price of their electricity will rise high enough to nudge them into using less of it.

  13. rd

    Radical change in the economy is something that we are never prepared for but happens anyway. This is a useful visualization of this for the non-agricultural part of the economy, since historically most agriculture was family farms and not publicly traded: https://www.visualcapitalist.com/200-years-u-s-stock-market-sectors/

    The good news is that many areas at the heart of climate change denial are among the first to get hit hard by its effects, which will likely accelerate acceptance. “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth” – Mike Tyson.

    At that point, hopefully things like the rollbacks of the CAFE standards for vehicles will become politically unpalatable. Those are things that can make a significant difference with little lifestyle cost. Once we reach that threshold, then other measures will become possible. At that point, hopefully the man on the street will be talking about climate change instead of people flying to conferences.

  14. Jon Paul

    Will family size/population also be discussed? How much less carbon would there be if we went from 7 billion to 6 billion people? I’ve seen estimates over 55 tons of CO2 per year for a person, but I imagine it varies based on levels of economic development? Still, on the surface, it looks like having a billion less humans would balance out the burning of fossil fuels.

    I’m not at all saying a family shouldn’t have a child or two. But when middle/high middle class families choose to have 4/5/6 kids, isn’t that a selfish/irresponsible act in terms of the environment? I’m doubtful that a family of 5 could do any amount of conservation that would eliminate the C02 created annually by child number 4.

    1. Anarcissie

      I have read that the reproduction rate among native-born US citizens is already below replacement rate — that our population growth depends on immigration. So that’s done. What to you plan to do about the rest of the world, though?

      1. Skip Intro

        There are three classic solutions to the population problem: war, famine, and pestilence. I think we’re already on top of it, ask anyone in Yemen.

      2. rob

        First thing that needs to happen to address the population problem is we have to abolish religion. Or at least start teaching in school that all the deistic religions are fairy tales. Then start educating people that having access to contraception isn’t evil, or against god. And that having too many kids doesn’t make sense on any level.
        The non first worlders who continue staggering family sizes are generally a very religious folk. They adhere to the religious propaganda as to how to make your church/god “bigger”, is to have a lot of kids.

        Getting rid of the myths of these religions is a necessary step if humanity is to even begin to get their collective act together. Then, chances are they would begin to make similar decisions as other places and peoples do who become less religious. And decrease their family size.

        1. d

          not sure that its religion thats doing that. since the US is already shrinking with it. sams has happened to Japan, with the possibility of Japan even disappearing all together..

          the real problem is the time frame. while many developed countries arent growing organically (most are growing because of immigration. those developing are still growing populations.

          so unless some is going to suggest a world war, i dont see shrinking the population is going to happen

    2. David in Santa Cruz

      Population is the real issue here, not consumption patterns. By the way, it’s not 7 billion people any more — the correct count rounds-up to 8 billion.

      We can all sit in our tipis smoking organic marijuana and subsisting on vegetables from our night-soil gardens — while our malnourished bodies choke to death from tuberculosis and unvaccinated smallpox and measles — but it will make little difference. About a year ago I attended a talk by the renowned climate scientist Prof. Veerabhadran Ramanathan, who has studied the massive pollution of the Ganges Valley caused by hundreds of millions of poverty-stricken women living in hovels and cooking over dung fires. They consume very little in the way of fossil fuels, but their impact on the environment has been staggering.

      This being said, I do like that the Green New Deal has stimulated a serious discussion that “market-based” solutions will not work to reduce consumption — they will only serve to encourage rationing and hoarding by the (relatively) wealthy.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Its population AND consumption. In other words, its “populumption”. We need to figure out how to craft a “populumption” index.

  15. William Hunter Duncan

    If GDP is 20 trillion, give or take, and about 90 trillion globally, that is about 90 trillion of motive to maintain the status quo. That said, the force wielded by such entrenched interests must be addressed. The violence perpetrated against the earth is but a shadow of the violence against people, the banking, military and fossil fuel industries will be willing to perpetrate to maintain control. Never mind all that capital controlled by billionaires.

    That said, there is only one way to counteract that, and that is providing a few ten million meaningful, dignified, well compensated jobs making America a better place. That alone will change public opinion. Empowering Americans to feel like they have control over their future again. Empowering them to remake this nation. Wresting control over agriculture, the fields and woods, would be a place to start, taking land away from multinational, globalist control.

    If a Green New Deal is just austerity by another name, impoverishing most people, and Bezos et al can continue to flaunt their control over the culture, the American people will stick with the status quo no matter what the consequences. The demon they know better than the demon they don’t.

  16. Govt Sachs

    Evolution is the refinement of consciousness. When something once unquestioned is suddenly viewed as repulsive, riddled with fraud, mentally unsound, it dissipates into the ethers. Such is the case with neoliberalism and “the billionaire”. Big change begins when long held assumptions are plucked from our fertile imaginations and new seeds are planted in their place.

    Simplicity, authenticity, honesty, locality… these are the new seeds. The race to accrue 25 houses now seems like the pathology that it is. Living well does not mean living large. A supersized life is a super-souled life, not a super-sold out life.

    The first step forward has already been taken… in our minds. We should go to people like Marko Rodin for some answers about free energy and get hemp in our lives big time. Stop manufacturing with planned obsolescence in the engineering design, restore the health of our soil, water and air by ending the Big Ag era. Clean up the planet for the sake of it, regardless of the climate debate, which is a non-sequitur, similar to just using fiscal policy, regardless of the ‘rich should pay their fair share in taxes’ debate. Though important, one is not dependent on the other.

    1. coboarts

      Simplicity, authenticity, honesty, locality
      Whew – thank you!

      and maybe then support a high-tech concentration for exploration, and if deemed acceptable as a value add to the above, implementation

  17. Skip Intro

    I think the problem of lithium supply is something of a red herring. Li-ion battery technology is great for portable applications like mobile devices, drones, and even cars, where weight and size are critical aspects of the battery performance. I know uncle Elon is selling such batteries for fixed installations in homes, and striving to bring down the price of the technology through volume, mostly, IMHO, to benefit his car business. This has led to some utility-scale installations which only make sense due to the aforementioned ‘market distortion’. For the sort of large-scale, fixed installations that will be necessary to get the best use of intermittent sources (wind, solar), there are many better technologies, from old-school iron-air batteries, to newfangled flow batteries. Once the Li crunch hits, people will scavenge their power walls to get car batteries.
    Now of course e-cars may become unaffordable, but the current car ownership model is unsustainable for so many other reasons as well, that that shouldn’t really be a factor in any honest GND, which will probably require hydrogen-based mass transit.

    The article’s de rigeur nod to nuclear energy tends to undermine the credibility of the analysis, as the cost, delay, and up-front carbon burden of building more plutonium factories makes them a dangerous distraction from immediate solutions which really are low-carbon and renewable.

    Yesterday’s landfills are tomorrow’s gold (and Li) mines.

  18. rob

    Another thing that may be needed is that “good ideas” shouldn’t necessarily be kept to oneself until they can be patented and scaled up to make a profit. We need an “open source”, space for the good ideas. Open to others who can help turn these ideas into realistic fruition. This is really where a body that operates as does our “we the people” government, does. If “we” is us;in this democratic form of a republic, is open to the imagination of some.It can improve.

    I know many can’t see that this experiment of self-rule is actually an improvement from the days of royalty and nobility,or from empire and kingdoms, because it has been so thoroughly disgraced by our political class for so long, since it’s inception. The reality is, even though we haven’t made it work yet, it is still a direction to go. As there is no better.

    If there was a stream of people who could inform the gov’t in a positive direction, and it was totally transparent, so that people could see what it was doing, and what it is getting right and getting wrong. The money created by our gov’t could pay for these useful infrastructure improvements, that would belong to the people. Like energy production facilities. Like agricultural cooperative hubs, for local trade. and all sorts of things the gov’t can carry forward, with expertise of the masses. And unlike the gov’t of today, this open source of ideas, is also open to open source of oversight.

    1. Prudent Lemming

      “good ideas” shouldn’t necessarily be kept to oneself until they can be patented and scaled up to make a profit

      Absolutely. I’ve been reading about storage solutions that didn’t work out (batteries mostly) and they all tried to follow the startup pattern, protect the IP, get tens of millions in venture capital, make the founders rich. When they failed, not only did the VC money evaporate, but they never publish anything, so nobody gets to benefit from what they learned along the way.

      Any serious attack on the climate problem will require a level of “Socialism!!1!” that has been unthinkable in America since Reagan (though rather ho-hum before that).

  19. JEHR

    When all the things suggested in these comments becomes reality, then we have taken care of the problem of climate change, short-term profits and everything else. Some future to look forward to!

  20. John k

    A little defeatist here…
    India, going on 1.5B, is subsidizing the search for new coal mines because they have 1B that want modern lifestyle, complete with air travel… and why not?
    China, AFAIK, is still building new coal plants in spite of pushing renewables because hundreds millions want modern lifestyle, and why not?
    Africa and ME women still having six kids.
    Brazil will shortly raze tha Amazon for gold and cash crops.
    So, maybe think warmer world a given and work on that basis. Planet has been here before. Humanity will survive if we avoid nuclear war, albeit a (much?) smaller population, anyway a given.

  21. anon y'mouse

    How about paying people to stay at home and take up subsistence farming? Most jobs are garbage hoop jumping to justify management “analysis” and redirection anyway.
    Would probably require land co-ops, but this isn’t any more radical than anything else thus far proposed.
    I am heavily sceptical on this whole “green new deal” because it may not be “green” and it seems to involve building a newer, greener MIC. It sounds like a way to buy off the classes enamored of tech solutions, and promises to makr them wealthy with “smart” investments.

    But that is just an impression i kerp getting.

  22. McGardner

    Multi-trillion dollar fix. We’re going to end human progress and force by the point of a gun a New Deal Own Goal upon ourselves. That’s never going to happen. Without a doubt, the United States will be broken up into smaller nations if we ever tried such malarkey. Might not be a bad idea anyways. We can have three big countries. Left Coast, Right Coast and Floverlandia.
    These are existential opposing positions, there’s no other solution.
    The Green doomsday cult has seeded our discourse with falsity and fear. We’re talking about dismantling humanity as we know it, based solely upon the reports of government paid climate researchers? The UN needs global governance to stay relevant, as it too can see the writing on the wall. Wake up Americans,
    John Lennon is dead.

  23. Chauncey Gardiner

    Shorter: “Oh, Master, make me chaste, but not just yet!” —Saint Augustine of Hippo in Confessions

    Coping with environmental change is not a new issue for humanity, nor is denial by elites intent on trying to preserve a status quo that is key to their power and wealth. Particularly difficult for a society to give up an addiction that has literally fueled the emergence and advances of our civilization, population growth, and our standard of living.

    Not to diminish the scope or seriousness of the problem or related sacrifices that will be required, but perhaps looking at this issue in a context of how people typically respond emotionally to a terminal illness would be useful. We collectively seem to be emerging from a denial stage, but it would be beneficial to skip a counterproductive anger stage and move toward constructive solutions. In this regard, the conversation about a “Green New Deal” is a very positive step IMO, despite the clearly enormous economic and social costs of the related policy proposals.

  24. Anthony K Wikrent

    Why the angst over protectionist measures? What, for example, are the lost opportunity costs of NOT rebuilding the USA industrial base if protectionist measures are not used?

    Our crappification – has anyone tried to calculate what the cost of crappification is?

    Protectionism WORKS to build national economies. Free trade does not. The historical record is crystal clear, which is why free trade proponents ignore it .

  25. VietnamVet

    The Yellow Vests revolt is the direct result of carbon taxes and speed cameras. Donald Trump and Brexit are due to the decline of the western middle class. People are already taking punches from rising debt, lowered wages and climate disasters. MMT is doing a great job in increasing inequality and keeping Boeing and military contractors profitable. Addressing climate change means dismantling industrial farming, smothering the petroleum producers, switching to public transportation, and cutting long distance supply chains and vacations. This requires the ending the global wars and going back to upgraded 17th century technology and solar energy. This is the exact opposite of corporate propaganda that the world’s economy is roaring ahead into the future. The Southern border wall is delusional attempt to keep Suburbia and the Others outside the guarded gates for one more generation. The fundamental problem is acknowledging the coming catastrophes and the draconian measures needed for humans and civilization to survive. The population must be reduced without war and plagues. Equality, education and modernity are quite successful at reducing the birth rate.

    1. The Rev Kev

      I never thought about it until your comment but would Trump’s wall be all about turning America into a gated community?

      1. John k

        It already is one, but there are a few gaps… and loopholes, for the rich, of course.
        Personally I’d rather the military blow a bit of their budget on a wall than stuff that really blows up.

    2. John k

      …must be…
      It will be reduced, and likely at a much faster rate than might be achieved with Ed etc.
      Consider China, still well over 1B after draconian one child policy for a generation. Or India, at 1.5 and growing fast… or Africa, ME…
      How long before a world 4C warmer loses large areas currently used for cereals to hot droughts? Imagine that a hot world can only support one or two.
      Plagues so far much more efficient than wars…

    3. Parker Dooley

      “Equality, education and modernity are quite successful at reducing the birth rate.”
      Amen. Much more effective than the horsemen!

  26. Sound of the Suburbs

    Once upon a time.

    The US decided to put a man on the moon and just threw money at it until it was done.

    These things can be done, let’s look more closely at MMT, I think that is where the secret lies.

  27. Jon Rynn

    Jon Rynn here. I just wanted to make a couple of corrections to Marshall’s article. He says that the Green Party has the most comprehensive plan, with 10% GDP and an Interstate Renewable Electricity System. Those were actually my figures and names, although I usually call it an Interstate Wind System, as you can see at GreenNewDealPlan.com, and in my published book chapter, http://economicreconstruction.org/sites/economicreconstruction.com/static/JonRynn/JonRynnAGreenEnergyManufacturingStimulusStrategy.pdf



  28. Heliopause

    This Green New Deal, or even some small fraction of it, is not happening. It’s just not. And even if some portion of it does happen it will be far, far too little and late. I’m not saying this to be glib, it’s just the simple reality of how human societies do things.

    Absent an actual military invasion human societies simply do not make 80% changes in lifestyle in the space of ten years (and that’s hoping significant tipping points haven’t already been surpassed). They do not make 70%, 60%, 50%, or even 10% changes. Not for an abstract threat that is far in the future.

    The sacrifices of WWII have been mentioned. My parents, still living, were teenagers at the time. Other than a few consumer goods sometimes being difficult to find their lives went on completely normally, they did all the things that teenagers of the time liked to do. In other words, in an actual, existential shooting war against fascists and militarists rampaging across large swathes of the globe, the sacrifices of the folks at home were not substantial. And as for the 70s oil crises I can tell you that neither my family nor anybody I knew altered their driving habits one iota.

    Massively scale back the military in the space of ten years? In case nobody has noticed, the center-left party in the US is currently screeching their heads off over so much as tiny withdrawals from Syria and Korea and wants to launch a new Cold War with Russia. Let me emphasize that so it sinks in; the center-left party in the US wants a war with Russia. THE CENTER-LEFT PARTY. The one that the right-wing party finds indistinguishable from communism. And that’s not to mention that the right-wing party wants renewed cold (or hot) wars with Iran and Venezuela.

    And what about the rest of the world? Take a look at France, currently led by a centrist technocrat who is the supposed world leader in the climate fight. He imposed a small, top-down energy sacrifice on the population. It nearly precipitated a revolution. Yes, this massive change in lifestyle not only has to be imposed by friendly-faced technocrats with microscopic approval ratings on the people of France but simultaneously in every corner of the globe, including the most gluttonous society that has ever infested this planet, namely us.

    Folks, it nearly tore this country to pieces when, with the Official Left Party completely in charge, there was an attempt to impose modest changes on the health care system, leaving all the underlying private enterprises intact and affecting only 10-20% of the population at any given time. That was easy compared to any of the gargantuan changes that are being proposed here. And we have to get it done in ten years, twenty tops. Hoo-kay.

    My advice? It’s fine to dream of policies and technologies that might stem the tide over the coming decades, it’s a good thing to do what you can and hope for the best. But now is the time to be spending much, much more time thinking and actively planning for the consequences that appear inevitable at this point. Build the 30 foot seawall around Miami or move all those people to Idaho? Important choices to be made.

  29. Joe Well

    How to sell massive conservation:

    No more commutes! (Telecommuting and work from home)

    No more airport hassles (end to business travel)

    Tastier steaks with no threat of food poisoning! (Impossible-style meat replacements)

    Save thousands of dollars a year on your car ( better public transportation, bike share, sensibly run car share e.g. not Uber).

    Save on utilities! (Obvious)

    Declutter your home (obvious)

    And if Disney and the all inclusive resorts stop advertising there goes that demand. It’s mostly generated by advertising.

    Most of the sacrifice would be by the top 5% of the population. Except for family visits and easily replaced package vacations, the vast majority of Americans rarely set foot on an airplane.

    1. Altandmain

      Problem is, the top 5% of the population have the most political clout and would do everything in their power to prevent this from being implemented.

      Let’s face it, the problem is capitalism. The problem is a system that is very unequal.

  30. Altandmain

    Absent this alternative use, the source of the demand will be met by the Far East, and the Green New Deal will become a job creation program for Asia, not the United States (as well as creating huge unemployment). We will therefore face a very difficult trade-off between heavy protectionism (at much higher prices) to stimulate investment in productive capacity in the United States or much larger trade deficits.


    The US will need to demand transfer of technology for this to work. This is not too different than what China did for its auto industry, which was to demand that a Chinese firm be given 50% of the work or what they did for building their high speed rail.

  31. Henry

    While I’m not an advocate of a Green New Deal solely focused on reducing CO2 as it ignores all the ecosystems in collapse (insects, frogs, fish, birds, bats, large mammals, coral reefs, the list goes on and on and it is too depressing to fill up the whole page with details) all of which are critical in maintaining our environment, including the climate. That said if you are looking at reducing CO2, Paul Hawking’s Draw Down, seems like it would be a good place to start as he has crunched the numbers and listed the top 100 solutions based bang for the buck. Here is an interview discussing the book: https://e360.yale.edu/features/paul-hawken-on-one-hundred-solutions-to-the-climate-crisis
    and since it was a best seller I’m sure you can find a used copy to read if you haven’t already.

  32. ckimball

    We have someone in our community who has written and performed a play “The Cyclone Line”. She wrote it after her father died. Her father as a child experienced the dust bowl. Screens on either side of the stage project slides of
    him as a boy and the dust bowl while the play is set in a nursing home where her father reminisces about his life and she sings back to him songs she has
    written expressing his experience.
    With three actors, two screens, two chairs, and a kitchen table, I left that evening moved and thinking that for those who deny climate change it would be likely that they would have to question their perspectives.
    There was no manipulation. The reality of the dust bowl came through so
    powerfully that the link to what is happening now is unavoidable. I’d heard
    about the dust bowl, read about the dust bowl but I’d never felt it as I did coming
    through this medium of a child’s eyes and told through the a relationship of love.
    I think a piece of this is that besides analysis and debate we must also enlist our creative talent to reach past the defense of our fears. I remember hearing
    we are the world, we are its children….

    1. The Rev Kev

      I’ve often thought that there is more than enough material to make a new great Dust Bowl film, especially with the state of digital effects these days. Maybe even remake “Grapes of Wrath” again as it would be a change from giant robots destroying things or giant monsters destroying things. Then again, with monsters or robots they are a fantasy which the audience knows at heart but a Dust Bowl film would maybe a little to close to a possibility of being repeated.

  33. RGHicks

    Here’s on thought on this issue. Yes, Americans drive and we drive A LOT. But much of that driving time is spent in our daily commute to and from work. Now there are some fields of work where it is absolutely essential for an employee to be physically in an office. However, many jobs could be easily be done from home. Corporate America has been particularly resistant to telecommuting and has actually taken away the telecommuting option for older workers (IBM is notorious for this) hoping they could force those with more health issues to retire early.

    Perhaps this is something that we need to apply strong pressure on corporate America to change.

    From a basic online search – I got the following numbers. Americans drive an average of 16 miles each way to and from work. That’s 32 miles a day or 160 miles/week. Now, the average number of miles driven each year by Americans is 13,476.

    Of course, this is very dirty but figure 48 weeks of work per year That’s 7,680 miles or about 57% of the average number of miles driven. Now, some people work from home. Others don’t work at all. But the point is that commuting is taking up a large percentage of the average Americans time on the road. And prime commuting time creates more pollution due to the density of the traffic at peak times.

    Increasing the ability to work from home would help people limited by medical conditions to work full time and be more self-sufficient. Further, pushing corporate America to be more open to telecommuting would be a giant step in reducing our carbon footprint.

Comments are closed.