Bernie Sanders’ GND Plan Will Nationalize Power Generation in the U.S.

By Thomas Neuburger. Originally published at DownWithTyranny!

“You can’t nibble around the edges any more,” says Sanders in explaining his plan to essentially nationalize electricity production in the U.S. The full interview is here.

Bernie Sanders recently released his plan for implementing the Green New Deal. These include such comprehensive goals as transitioning to 100% renewable energy for electricity and transportation by 2030 and decarbonizing the entire economy by 2050 (full details here).

To get there, Sanders plans a number of ambitious projects, including massive and job-creating infrastucture spending and “declaring climate change a national emergency.” The implications of the latter are not entirely spelled out. A number of candidates have proposals that “declare a national emergency” regarding climate change, but not in the same sense that George W. Bush, for example, may have meant had he declared the 9/11 attacks a national emergency (he didn’t, but he could have).

That kind of national emergency, a Bush-Cheney kind, implies an exercise of presidential power that approaches martial law, something that most pro-climate Democrats don’t contemplate. Does the Sanders plan contemplate a stronger-than-rhetorical response to climate change? It’s not clear yet from Sanders camp messaging.

The subject of emergency federal power does comes up though because of the breadth of the Sanders plan, and in particular, because of one key component:

  • Build enough renewable energy generation capacity for the nation’s growing needs. Currently, four federal Power Marketing Administrations (PMAs) and the Tennessee Valley Authority generate and transmit power to distribution utilities in 33 states.We will create one more PMA to cover the remaining states and territories and expand the existing PMAs to build more than enough wind, solar, energy storage and geothermal power plants. We will spend $1.52 trillion on renewable energy and $852 billion to build energy storage capacity. Together, with an EPA federal renewable energy standard, this will fully drive out non-sustainable generation sources.
  • We will end greed in our energy system. The renewable energy generated by the Green New Deal will be publicly owned, managed by the Federal Power Marketing Administrations, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Tennessee Valley Authority and sold to distribution utilities with a preference for public power districts, municipally- and cooperatively-owned utilities with democratic, public ownership, and other existing utilities that demonstrate a commitment to the public interest. The Department of Energy will provide technical assistance to states and municipalities that would like to establish publicly owned distribution utilities or community choice aggregation programs in their communities. Electricity will be sold at current rates to keep the cost of electricity stable during this transition.

The whole plan (again, I urge everyone to read it) has been called by some a “new Manhattan Project” and likened to FDR’s reshaping of U.S. industrial policy and capacity during World War II. As Juan Cole writes, “Sanders intends to push [fossil fuel] corporations aside and institute a Federal industrial policy that can make things happen. The analogy is what Franklin Delano Roosevelt accomplished during World War II, when US industrial capacity vastly expanded and 16 million men were mobilized and Social Security was implemented.”

The plan has rightly been likened to nationalizing electric power generation. Chris Hayes noted this fact in his recent interview with Sanders, calling the Sanders plan “a federal takeover of the whole thing,” to which Sanders essentially agrees (see video at the top). Other writers have said the same. For example, In These Times, under the headline “Bernie Sanders Calls To Seize the Means of Electricity Production” accurately describes the plan as “moving toward 100% public ownership of power.”

So there really is no doubt. Sanders, if he’s elected, plans to nationalize electricity generation in the U.S.

What are the implications of this proposal? The following seems either likely to occur or obviously true:

1. Bernie Sanders is serious about addressing climate change. Simply speaking, Sanders is right. It’s long past time for tinkering around the edges of the problem. This chart shows CO2 emissions per capita per country:

Yes, the rest of the world bears responsibility as well, but you have to start with what you can directly control, and the U.S. government can directly control U.S. carbon emissions, if it chooses to. (Dealing with the need for global response is also addressed in Sanders’ Green New Deal plan. I’ll take a separate look at how Sanders plans to globalize the U.S. initiative.)

Are the other candidates as serious about addressing and mitigating climate change at the fastest possible rate? I think several other candidates are sincere in wanting to, but don’t see any of them willing to act as forcefully, at least not so far in the campaign. This plan, therefore, lays down a marker for other pro-climate Democrats.

2. The institutional Democratic Party will respond to Sanders’ plan with fear and derision. In addition, their criticism will get widespread and supportive media coverage.

Sanders’ Green New Deal plan allows institutional Democrats to take the charge that Sanders is a “socialist” and part of the “hard left” to eleven, and they will not miss the opportunity to go all out. “Socialism” already smacks of communism, though the connection is usually made in Democratic and mainstream media circles by implication. (This incident, engineered by the producers of the early CNN Town Hall, is a rare counter-example.)

But a planned and federally directed “U.S. industrial policy” can be made to sound very much like a Stalinist “five-year economic plan,” and it wouldn’t be surprising if this comparison is made. It will be especially interesting to hear Elizabeth Warren’s response, since she’s made a point of saying “I’m a capitalist“; I’m almost certain she’ ll be asked to give one.

3. The response on the Right will be “government takeover!” I’ve seen hints already that those who set the agenda for frightened and agitated right-wing base voters are positioning the Green New Deal as a backdoor, left-wing plan for “government takeover” of the economy. In this, their language exactly parallels the language that markets Second Amendment fears to frighten right-wing voters.

The cry on the right will also cranked up to eleven, including by that master of marketing, Donald Trump, who has already started with the “we’re not socialist” rhetoric. Note that the clip at the top is sourced to a YouTube channel called “GOP War Room.” Expect a lot more of the same from sites with “liberty,” “freedom” and “Fox” in the name.

4. Finally, this is a conversation that absolutely must be had. Before the U.S. can begin to address climate change meaningfully, we must be open about what’s actually needed so voters can consider those courses of action, even if they end up rejecting them. Calling any discussion of the breadth of needed reform off-limits — whether done perniciously or with good intention — is like hiding a small elephant under a rug then throwing a cocktail party using the lump as a drinks table; the thing you’re avoiding adds fuel to your blindness.

Put simply, American voters must allowed to choose whether or not to address climate change meaningfully, regardless of the possibility that they may choose not to address it at all. An honest conversation is the least we owe voters whose descendants will ultimately thank them or hate them for what they finally decide. Letting voters choose for themselves is called democracy.

Despite the fears of many though, there are reasons for optimism. If voters are given a realistic discussion of the alternatives and a realistic presentation of the way to get there, they could easily choose well. They certainly chose well under FDR, when war raged in Europe and the Imperial Japanese wolf was at the door. It’s at least even odds they would choose as wisely again, when all of nature seems poised for their demise.

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  1. Mike

    One point that rarely gets raised in these discussions is the national security implications. Currently, nearly every oil producing state is either somebody who doesn’t like us or supports entities (like terrorists groups) that don’t like us). Not only does a transition away from oil enhance our security, but bankrupting the Middle East is probably the cheapest “intervention” to addressing international terrorism. If it weren’t for oil, the Middle East would have the same level of security concerns that Africa projects.

    1. aFrenchGuy

      I have the impression that national security implications go in the other direction. When fighting against global warming means getting rid of petroleum, one can’t help but think of the consequences on the petrodollar system, and thus of the dollar as a reserve currency. This is a clear economic threat to the US that reaches beyond the simple oil and energy producers.
      Also and by extension, the rational for the petrodollar system is a) the protection (as in “Tony will protect your business”) of the governments of oil producing countries, dependent on a US military superiority on the ground, and b) on the protection of oil on the high seas as it transit from producer to consumer, dependent on a superior US Navy. So the MIC will also be negatively affected by an effective fight against global warming, as investment in the military will no longer improve nor maintain the position of the US.
      So here we are, in the strange situation where doing what would be best for the people of the US (who presumably need a true healthcare system more than a mighty military) goes against some of the major pillars of the US society. While doing nothing might have some negative but manageable consequences on parts of the US, but would be no threat to these parts of the economy.

      1. jefemt

        Lest we omit the irony that the MI complex- the end-user arms of the military, demand and use a heck of a lot of fossil fuels. S L I C C.*

        *Self-licking ice cream cone

      2. Ian Perkins

        re “aFrenchGuy”:
        Doing nothing might be no threat to the petrodollar and the military-industrial complex in the short term, but in the longer term?

      3. drumlin woodchuckles

        The PetroDollar Industrial Complex and the United States are two different things. A candidate running on a plan like this will give the American publics a chance to decide on whether they wish to de-couple the PetroDollar Industrial Complex and the United States from eachother . . . or not.

        If America retreats from World Rulership, China will rush in to fill the void of World Rulership.
        As long as we can keep Chinese Hands Off America! . . . . that does not bother me at all.

        Potentially self-protecting areas like EUrope would have to decide very fast whether they wish to be semi-isolated and Free from the New China World Order, or whether they wish to be part of it.
        Hopefully America could isolate itself from the New China World Order so totally that we would not even have to care whether EUrope wanted to do likewise or not.

        1. aFrenchGuy

          I obviously cannot speak in the name of all europeans, but Sanders is often portrayed as the only sane active politician in the sea of madness that is current US politics. My point is exactly in regard to this choice: if Sanders is elected and can apply his program, there will certainly be an improvement in US-EU relations and the possibility to find common policies to assimilate China’s rise. But otherwise, I just pointed out that the “natural tendency” of US institutions will be to continue Trump’s current policies regardless of the damages caused in other parts of the world. In that case, quite a lot of europeans already think that it is better to deal with rational dictatures in Russia and in China than with an imperial-minded US.

      4. Plenue

        Petrodollar isn’t a thing. Reserve currency status is dependent on running constant trade deficits.

        1. Ian Perkins

          Petrodollar isn’t a thing?
          I’ve read in several places that the USA threatened Saudi Arabia with war if they sold their oil in any other currency.

  2. PlutoniumKun

    You have to give credit to Sanders absolute political fearlessness. He is not afraid to give out hostages to fortune. He doesn’t want to be President so he can admire the White House décor. He wants to get things done. Lets hope he has a really good team of people able to ensure that no negative labels ‘stick’.

    The fight between Sanders and Biden/Harris, etc., is quite literally now a fight for the future of the planet, or whether it has a future at all.

    1. Samuel Conner

      I have the sense that Sen. Sanders is also “playing a long game” in the sense of leaning on the Overton Window. Four years ago, who would have thought that M4A would today be as close to a main-stream position as it has become?

      OTOH, I agree that time is of the essence. I guess I had better find one of the recent Bernie2020 emails and follow the link to ActBlue.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Yes, he is doing the exact opposite to most politicians. Instead of trying to occupy the political space with the most potential votes, he is actually creating the policy space and forcing other politicians to join him or be ignored. Its an incredibly daring approach, but its working so far.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          And assuming the Catfood Democrats successfully conspire to deny Sanders the nomination, the millions of SanderBackers will still have a chance to remain organized and get more so.
          And learn learn learn things.

          And work out how to defeat and destroy every Catfood Democrat in every election, from County Drain Commissioner to State Offices to the House to the Senate to the Presidency.

          Until the Catfood Democrats are exterminated from political existence and wiped off the face of the political earth.

      2. Ptb

        It may work to Warren’s advantage in the Dem primary. (She becomes the sensible middle ground out of the 3 leading candidates).

        Also, if Sanders or Warren win or finish a very strong second and have leverage over negotiating the DNC platform, then the presence of mass Dem voter support for another plank the DNC can’t stomach in addition to M4A will make that negotiation go better.

        But it will unfortunately hurt in the state of PA (natgas producer) in the general election, and also make Saudis push even harder for Trump.

        1. lordkoos

          As Biden is fading in the polls, the establishment inevitably is already pivoting to back Warren (the anyone-but-Bernie syndrome). Let’s see how long her principles hold up in the face of all the help from her new friends.

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            As long as the SanderMovement retains its principles in general and in detail, Warren will find herself crushed and smashed flat between a Sanders and a Hard Place.

      3. PlutoniumKun

        And now he’s gone and done the same thing with media reform – calling for radical political action to take corporate control away from the media.

        In a Bernie Sanders administration, we will do the opposite: we will reinstate and strengthen media ownership rules, and we will limit the number of stations that large broadcasting corporations can own in each market and nationwide. We will also direct federal agencies to study the impact of consolidation in print, television, and digital media to determine whether further antitrust action is necessary.
        Additionally, we will pass my Workplace Democracy Plan, which will boost media workers’ laudable efforts to form unions and collectively bargain with their employers. I have publicly supported journalists’ efforts to unionize. Unions not only fight for media workers’ wages and benefits, they can also better protect reporters from corporate policies that aim to prevent journalists from scrutinizing media owners and their advertisers

        He is absolutely determined to set the agenda across the spectrum of policies.

  3. John

    There are no halfway measures that begin to address the impact of climate change. This would be a good first step. The Green New Deal it a concept that presupposes a total mobilization to oppose an existential threat. That is exactly where we are. The rippling effects of Sanders’s plan will profoundly change everything and will upset no end of apple carts, but the choice is stark. Go big or go home.

    1. Michael von Plato

      THE existential threat indeed. Greenland’s glaciers are calving at a rate not expected for another seventy years. From IFLScience: “Temperatures in Markusvinsa, a village in northern Sweden, on the southern edge of the Arctic Circle, hit 34.8°C (94.6°F) on July 26, 2019, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Global Climate Report for July 2019. Unsurprisingly, that sizzling afternoon was the nation’s highest temperature ever recorded within the Arctic Circle.
      The same report additionally highlights a temperature record of 35.6°C (96.1°F) in the Norwegian town of Saltdal, the highest temperature ever recorded north of the Arctic Circle in Norway. Along with other portions of planet Earth’s northerly stretches, Alaska also braced for freakishly high temperatures last month, reaching 32°C (90°F) in Anchorage and shattering the city’s previous record of 29.4 (85°F).”
      And the Antarctic isn’t far behind.

      I’m a 77 year old former meteorologist, saw what was coming, but until a few years ago I never believed I would see this in my own lifetime. And now it’s at our door. Due to self-reinforcing vicious cycles, the acceleration of GW and attendant environmental destruction has been breathtaking, continues to be underestimated, but the worst is yet to come. Read this:

  4. Off The Street

    CalPERS becomes USEnergyPERS, with all the attendant features, bugs and colorful characters now on a national stage? The USPS people might breathe a sigh of relief given that fewer are now asking “Would you want an XYZ run by/like the post office?”. So there is that little bit of progress. Awaiting more detail to show how graft, corruption and incompetence will be engineered out of the proposal.

    1. Ian Perkins

      Are graft, corruption and incompetence more prevalent in the public sector, or just more noticed?

      1. Off The Street

        Different executions by sector, and more noticeable among the public servants as they aren’t as adept at hiding things and have different motivations. That Upton Sinclair saying needs an update.

        Quaint last millennium version: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

        Cool new neo-lib version: “Your salary depends on getting them to understand the somethings that we want them to understand.”

        One side is selling potatoes and the other side is buying po-tah-toes.

      2. Stephen Gardner

        Anyone who thinks government is the most corrupt and inefficient organization has never worked for the phone company. :-)

      3. Beard681

        Worked in both, and government wins the corruption gold medal every time. The fact is that private corruption most often works in tandem with government contracting – a bureaucrat sets rules, makes contracts and then goes and works for companies he has enriched. Look how many senior military officials (e.g. “Mad Dog”) end up working for defense contractors. In the United Scams of America corruption is hidden under a veil of regulations, litigation, special carve outs and bureaucracy. It is how CA spent $800M on “consultants” before a single inch of High speed rail (to nowhere) got built.

        1. bob

          So the unspoken quid pro quo (big bucks after leaving gov) is the fault of the gov?

          The power relationships in your example are unbelievable. Corprate lobby can spend anything they want on any person. There isn’t the same balance – well funded ‘ethics’ inside gov.

          And by the way – The money started with gov and ended up in private hands. Are you trying to say that gov forced those poor, unlobbied free marketeers to take all that money?

          Even Seymour Hersh said that reporting on corporate corruption is many, many times harder than on public corruption. Public entities usually have *some* transparency requirements. Corps? nope

    2. scarn

      You do realize that PERS style corruption requires private profit-driven partners, right? As for incompetence: state granted monopoly holders where I live are torching cities to the ground, and the products of private energy producers are driving human civilization to the edge of ruin. Kinda hard to imagine things getting worse on that front.

      1. Off The Street

        Utilities are a special case as many tend to be kinda public due to regulations, however defined or enforced, even or especially when nominally investor-owned. At least they are dealing mainly in kilowatt hours instead of investing so that helps diminish one investor attraction, even if there is displacement of focus over to getting away with environmental damages to reduce costs.

        When utilities had to present rate cases and demonstrate that they actually earned the notion of public service, there was greater accountability and customer satisfaction. That accountability has been watered down, or burned off as PG&E and others have shown, and there is less satisfaction. I’m afraid that it may take some public shaming of the utilities and their enablers in state capitals around the country to start cleaning things up. How much longer in the wake of the Enron debacles and then fires?

        The feedback loop for the monopoly utilities and their regulators isn’t very efficient (yet, said hopefully) and there isn’t a type of daily market of ideas or valuations with which to grade them. The market, or markets, solution isn’t ideal but does provide a little discipline even with the inherent gaming and manipulation. Restricting lobbyists and tightening rules all around seem like a reasonable start, along with some criminal prosecutions.

  5. Louis Fyne

    I’ll let others get in the mud about out whether it’s the right thing to do—-but nationalization the grid and power generation sure does eliminate a lot of the (negative) externalities that exist in the wholesale power market.

    But I am disappointed that Sanders’ team is buying into the greenwash PR that energy storage will save us. It won’t—barring leap-frog tech breakthroughs within the next decade.

    It’s wind + solar + conservation + fission or bust. just saying

    1. jefemt

      A big part of storage ned is driven by convenience seeking inane demand. IF we engage our brains and manage our time and tasks with the sun (a big part of conservation) our need for energy when the sun is NOT shining could be significantly reduced.

      “We” seem unwilling to make those simple adjustments of literally ‘living with the sun’. Defer laundry, dishwashing until peak solar production, mid-day. Plant shade trees and remove paved surfaces to help mitigate man-made heat sources that create demand for air conditioning. Walk, ride a bike, grow and put your own food ‘by’. Overly used trite terms, but live with intention in the moment. Leave Blythe Living behind (poor old blythe).

      Those types of choices can make incremental differences, which cumulatively are NOT spit in the ocean. We need it all, (EXCEPT nukes– fission and its costs/ waste are dead ends that are a huge looming unresolved existential threat on their own– talk about externalities and unfunded liabilities!!!)

      1. Math is Your Friend

        Oh my.

        Deferring energy using household tasks to when you are 30 km away at work isn’t much use unless you want take a long lunch and drive home to do them.

        The highest power demand is at night in the winter time. At that point there are clouds, ice, and snow. Daylight lasts less than nine hours and the sun is low in the sky, reducing insolation. Undiminished daylight averages less than 2.5 hours a day at that time. Such times can be very still, thus no wind power, or very windy, thus no wind power. What is left is hydro, gas, and nuclear, all of which are far more reliable and useful than the first two. Gas has the advantage of fast response to load, hydro is also good that way. Nuclear is your always on base load, and produces over 60% of the electricity, at a very reasonable cost.

        Pavement is essential, but I do advocate turning it white. Shade trees are very good. On the other hand, walking and riding a bike are totally inadequate forms of transportation, and not safe for a significant part of the year.

        Furthermore, if one lives in a city with more than 4,000 people/km^2, an insignificant number can grow their own food.

        The real chance for cutting carbon emissions for electricity is putting in a new generation of fast response reactors. Without nuclear power, eliminating carbon based electricity would be all but impossible. Add to that the fact that nuclear power is by far the safest form of base load generation, and the correct course is obvious.

        The only way we will work through this is with sound analysis. And that demonstrates that a lot of proposals are either ineffective virtue signalling or impractical, or sometimes, with far too interesting additional consequences.

        I work and play with a number of very bright people. For example, not one of them thinks the answer to low carbon transportation across the Atlantic is a huge fleet of 60 foot polymer racing sailboats. Yet a lot of people seem to think using such a boat is an effective example of fighting climate change…. when the low carbon answer was probably to go on a large, fossil fuel powered ship. What is the incremental fuel used to push that ship across the Atlantic with a couple more people on board? And how does that compare to the carbon dioxide generated in creating a 60 foot ultra high tech racing yacht?

        Pay attention to the numbers – the scales involved in this are sufficiently out of our daily routine, that very few people have an intuitive feel for relative magnitudes and effects. Anecdotes are noise. Accurate data is where the truth will be found.

        1. inode_buddha

          Some of the least energy using people I know are 20 miles outside of town FWIW. They had 60 amps of 110 service (for the entire place) up until 5 years ago, the rest was propane, and conservation.

    2. polecat

      Conservation, as you noted, including a big reduction in energy usage across the board, AND a turnaround from the current iron-clad idea that Progress ONLY moves forward and upward .. being holy and good, to be attained at All Costs, is definately warrented.
      I don’t see how we can get to where Sanders and Co. want to take us .. without admitting that we Americans have to change How We Live (insatiable want of STUFF !!) and the riddance of the idea that we humans are omnipotent, omniscient beings, where Nature is of secondary importance, if even thought of at all … and learn too live within limits so we will still have a via life-giving environment !! How many plebians, let alone the pantheon of Congressional Gods that reside in the clouds of D.C., will agree to a voluntary reduction in their consumption habits ?? .. because That will have to be a sizable part of the basket of ‘solutions’. Also, doesn’t the implimentation of this plan make implicit that these are the very same industial processes that got us where we are today ?? The New Deal was not of benign effect upon the land, environmentally speaking. If all we’re doing is substituting one resource grabfest party for a different one, what have we gained, besides doing ever more environmental damage, however greenishly cool and noble ?

    3. greenerpastures

      There is no technical reason that energy storage won’t work. You can also ‘do’ energy storage with more ways than batteries. the old water up an incline trick, molten salt, compressed air, flywheels, etc etc. Are they ‘cost-effective’ in a world where carbon pollution has no price, fossil fuels are subsidized, and you have to compete against coal and NG plants? probably not. Would they be cost effective if you could build them to massive scale, they had the subsidies, and you were in the world of building out solar, wind, geothermal, hydro? (and yes, I am a proponent of building a few new fission plants and maintaining existing ones as long as you can, and I think we should think about pouring more money into thorium, as long as it’s only money above the minimum for a net neutral energy emission scheme). Regardless, the world of the future is one where ‘consumer’ energy is more expensive but you require less of it. How? Building plans to take advantage of passive solar design, super insulating structures, using the latest window tech. Investing in mass transit and redensifying cities so personal car use drops. Modest reduction in eating meat, especially beef. Raising efficiency requirements for consumer electronics and home appliances. Farmers plant cover crops and practice best soil health practices to enhance soil carbon sequestration. And longer term industry takes advantage of circular economies to locate where there are abundant renewable resources and where one plant’s waste is the feedstock of another, we start to design cities from the ground up to serve as energy generators/waste disposers, we allow rewilding to take place.

      1. Ian Perkins

        “Pumped Hydro Energy Storage (PHES) constitutes 97% of electricity storage worldwide because of its low cost. We found about 616,000 potentially feasible PHES sites with storage potential of about 23 million Gigawatt-hours (GWh) [23 thousand TWh] by using geographic information system (GIS) analysis. This is about one hundred times greater than required to support a 100% global renewable electricity system.” – Global pumped hydro atlas, Australian National University.
        Of course that doesn’t detract from Grumpy Engineer’s comment about the costs, but the potential’s there.

    4. Grumpy Engineer

      @Louis Fyne: You mentioned “buying into the greenwash PR that energy storage will save us…

      Your criticism is very much on target. Sanders’ plan calls for “$852 billion to build energy storage capacity”. At a rather optimistic $100/kWh, $852 billion is enough to purchase 8.52 TWh of energy storage capability. Most energy storage assessments I’ve read put the requirement at nearly 100 TWh, and that’s just to support today’s grid. If we fully electrify all homes that “still use dirty oil, propane, and fracked natural gas for heating and cooling”, the grid will need to be significantly larger. Mark Jacobson’s much-referenced 100% WWS plan (which also planned to eliminate direct combustion of fuels inside people’s homes) put the energy storage requirement at 541 TWh.

      Sanders’ plan is likely short by a factor of 50+.

      1. Tom Pfotzer

        G. E. : what is driving all that storage requirement? It’s the timing of the generation .vs. the timing of the consumption, correct? So, pricing should be able to help the market adapt, just like (extra-cost) toll-lanes on congested areas work.

        We may not actually have to design for increasing electrical loads, either. It’s possible to (very effectively) redesign one’s life to use less – a lot less – energy tomorrow than today.

        Things like heavy cars, commutes, inefficient lights, poor insulation, excess lighting, offices that can’t double as homes…these are all examples of heavy energy-cost behaviors that can be altered, and altered quickly.

        The impact of automation on the work place may actually speed up (make more immediately necessary) these sorts of changes.

        I appreciate the value of engineering. I’m wondering if engineering can be applied to how people think, also. For example, to solve probs we must generate solution sets. E.Musk is great at generating solution-sets outside the realm of conventional thinking (“what’s practical”). If this trait could be trained, we might move the envelope faster, and might also apply engineering to different areas of the problem-space.

        1. Grumpy Engineer

          Yes. The intermittent generation provided by wind and solar and it’s poor synchronization with times of peak electrical demand are what drive the need for energy storage. Most significantly, people still need to be able to heat their homes in the middle of a windless winter night. If you prohibit the direct combustion of natural gas, propane, and fuel oil for that purpose, the only thing left is heat pumps backed by an enormous amount of energy storage.

          For example, running a heat pump (with a 3kW compressor) through a 14-hour winter night would require 42 kWh of energy. That would require a little over three of Telsa’s 13.5 kWh Powerwall 2 battery systems. If it’s cold enough that the emergency heat (usually a 15kW resistive heater) has to kick in, you’re looking at needing 210 kWh of energy and nearly sixteen (!!) Powerwall 2 systems. That’s $120k in battery system for a single-family home at current Powerwall 2 prices. Can people really afford this?

          Battery systems are nice for smoothing out post-sunset demand in hot climates, but they’re woefully inadequate for handling heating demand in cold climates. And cold weather doesn’t give a damn about market-based incentives intended to shift demand to another time.

          1. Tom Pfotzer

            Respectfully, what I heard above was “Can’t solve the current problem with the currently-proposed solutions”.

            What I did not hear, and was looking for was, for example, “the problem is pumping heat costs more energy than the storage system can economically achieve” and then some solution-sets like “create a building envelope that doesn’t leak so much heat” or “capture heat directly from the sun and store it in a water tanks (insulated thermal bank) so the heat pump can operate less time and more efficiently because of the high heat content of the thermal banks (water tanks, for ex).

            As Einstein suggested, we’re not getting out of this mess using the same sort of thinking that got us into it. We need some fundamental rules-remaking, like:
            * no moving 1.5 ton car around to get a 150lb human from point a to b.
            * house functions as workplace unless you’re a steel foundry-worker (not many, right?) 20th century: bring worker to work. 21st century: bring work bit-stream to worker
            * Economy 1.0: every job directly or indirectly degrades the planet; E2.0: every job directly or indirectly heals the planet. Make your living fixing what’s busted.


            1. deplorado

              * no moving 1.5 ton car around to get a 150lb human from point a to b.
              * house functions as workplace unless you’re a steel foundry-worker (not many, right?) 20th century: bring worker to work. 21st century: bring work bit-stream to worker

              These would be a good start. Especially the 1st one. The insanity of transporting 1 person per car as a principal mode of transportation in modern society is astounding – once I saw it, I could never unsee it. So cities and transport have to be completely redesigned.
              Or else.

              1. baldski

                More like a 2.5 ton pickup truck transporting a 150 lb. person. Ford raised prices on the F-150 $8000 this year to see what would happen, still selling like hotcakes. Crazy Americans.

          2. Ian Perkins

            re Grumpy Engineer:
            You seem to be assuming that home electrical battery systems are the only method of energy storage.

            1. Grumpy Engineer

              That was the particular example I chose, but my argument holds for all of them. Whether it’s household batteries or utility-scale batteries or pumped storage stations or compressed air stations or hoisted weight systems or whatever, the total amount of storage required for a 100% renewable grid is prohibitive. It would cost too much. It would cause too much environmental damage during manufacture. It would exceed our ability to produce enough raw materials for it. It would take FAR longer than 10 years to deploy.

              541 TWh is a stupendous number. Even if we went hog-wild on conservation efforts (which is probably worth doing regardless), we’d still be looking at over 300 TWh. It’s too much. We’re currently deploying storage at a pace under 0.1 TWh per year. Can we really ramp up by a factor of 300 to get it all done in a decade? I very much doubt it.

          3. inode_buddha

            Where I live a major portion of February is -25c. You’re not gonna do that without combustion, sorry. Wood stove and or kerosene is your friends, big time. Also, hang your clothes on a line, no need for a dryer. Electric water heaters should be banned.

            Oddly enough, I live within a few miles of one of the 3 largest pump hydro plants in the USA. We also have one of the 3 highest utility rates in the USA. Can’t afford our own electricity because the PTB in Albany claimed jurdistiction for themselves, and then sold our electricity to NYC. We get 500 mil out of a 30 year deal thats worth a LOT more than that….

    5. Elspeth

      Actually, if storage = water pumped up – as in up hill, then released down to spin turbines, storage works.

  6. p, fitzsimon

    How about a nuclear energy program where the only fuel permitted would come from decommissioned nuclear weapons?

    1. Synoia

      We have NO solution to disposal of spent nuclear fuel.

      Nor of decommissioning old nuclear power stations.

      1. John Rose

        Actually there is a solution. Those fracking wells go down as much as two miles, far below conceivable disturbances in the time of nuclear decay. And they can be drilled on the site of the generating plant, so no transport needed either.

  7. Donna

    So at the time I am posting this, MSNBC has removed the full interview of Bernie with Chris Hayes. Can I speculate that it has generated too much interest?

    1. Grant

      MSNBC was probably like, crap, did Warren do something we can report on positively today? Biden is shaky at best and there is no one in the minor leagues that can help us, so we are set to be Warren TV soon. No offense to Warren, I think she has some good ideas and is much better than Biden, but she is likely to be the anti-Bernie weapon that many thought Harris was going to be, even if that isn’t her intention.

  8. Grant

    The thing is, the Democrats are in a bind. They acknowledge the science of what we are facing (they think they deserve tons of credit for this alone), and carbon emissions (while a huge part) is not the entirety of the environmental crisis. Deforestation is a huge issue, beyond carbon sequestration. Soil erosion, dead zones in places like the Gulf here and the Baltic Sea, the species extinction rate being thousands of times the natural rate and the collapse in biodiversity, the potential dying off of phytoplankton (who produce most of our oxygen), plastic waste and nuclear pollution, and the huge number of pollutants we have thrown into ecosystems since the industrial revolution that don’t occur naturally in the environment, among other things. The non-market nature of the crisis is apparent, as are the limits to growth in throughput and pollution generation.

    For anyone that wants to argue against Bernie’s plan, pointing out that it is radical is not an argument. You first have to look at the science, look at how our economy works, and ask if the thing can be addressed without radical changes. If these people want to pretend that proposing radical changes is not on the table, let them then show how this system can deal with a massive non-market crisis and limits to growth within the existing system as is. They can’t, and them denying the radical changes is not mature or realistic. If the only thing that has any chance to save us is radical changes, then the adults in the room acknowledge this and put forward well thought out radical changes. Per usual, most Democrats have nothing to offer. They want to acknowledge the science very broadly but then deny that the science calls for radical economic changes because of their corruption, as well as their ideological and class biases.

    We need pretty comprehensive economic planning, and I think it is unrealistic to plan accordingly without nationalizing the energy sector. Again, if people disagree with this, fine, but they have to get into the weeds as far as the argument. Pointing out that nationalization is radical is not an argument, it is like pointing out that the sky is blue. Is nationalization needed? Let’s have that debate, and thank you Bernie for forcing it on us. For anyone arguing that there is little difference between Bernie and Warren, that is laughable, and this is a good illustration as to why.

    1. Tom Pfotzer

      Grant: Everything you said is right, accurate and true in my estimation.

      So here’s a question for you: “Do you think the vast majority of us are ready to do the work required to avoid these trajedies?”

      Nations, political parties et. al. are just extensions of, aggregations of individuals. The work that needs to be done cannot be done top-down, by policy. It must be done bottom-up, with individual effort and personal comfort/std-of-living sacrifice. That is why it’s not done yet.

      To get the behaviors you want, you’re going to have to alter human nature. It’s do-able, been done many times before (ex: religion, socialization, etc….it’s what “institutions” do). The alteration is imperfect, doesn’t last that long, etc. but it can be done.

      See my comments above to Grumpy Engineer, re: identifiying high-yield portions of the problem-space, not just the ones we’re currently comfortable dealing with.

      We are going to need some vast, thorough, durable behavior modification, and it’s got to come bottom-up, not top-down (or it will be bitterly fought, right?).

      We need new human motiviation engineering (design) tools that are used by individuals, on themselves. As a survival tool, not a neutering/constraining agent. Bottom up, not top-down.

      For those that are dismayed with the notion of re-programming oneself, please vent your rage and revulsion here, among friendlies. The sooner we get going with what needs doing, the better chance of success we have.

      To re-iterate: acknowledging these problems is the easy part, even tho many of us haven’t even got that done yet. Doing the work is way, way, way harder. Gonna require some serious re-tooling to get that done. We have to unload one set of socialization, and install another, and in pretty short order.

      1. Grant

        Well, I have been helping to lead discussions on economic planning, the socialist/economic calculation debate, the problems of monetizing these impacts, public and cooperative ownership, etc., in my neck of the woods. Have been involved in activism my whole life, have written a bit on this stuff too. So, I am doing more than pointing to problems, I am trying to get people to imagine and realize alternatives.

        But it is not entirely true that it has never happened. Elinor Ostrom wrote a lot about the cooperative management of common pool resources, she showed that many of these resources were managed well without privatization for centuries. Socialist and many social democratic countries did construct economic systems (however flawed they sometimes were) that utilized planning and relied far less on markets. We here in the US did not do that nearly as much, but a good first step is to study those that did and to try to make those systems far more participatory and democratic. We can learn from their successes and failures.

        I am heavily influenced by Howard Zinn, and realize the need of movement building. Can we get people to get involved on a scale needed? Who knows, but I will try to do my part and if we fail, we are toast. Right now though, I do not see many connecting the dots, and I expect the discussion in the corporate media on Bernie’s plan to be maddening, if they cover it at all.

        1. Tom Pfotzer

          Grant: first, my comments are in no way a criticism or suggesting any sort of insufficiency of your efforts. You are clearly way ahead on every count.

          I’m pot-stirring. I’m saying we need some new, powerful tools that a person can use to change his own thinking about:

          a. the freight each of us carries in the form of our socialization. Church, news programs, school training, friends, community all exert range-setting influence on what is achievable. Want a beautiful wife and lovely home? Status in church (big giver)? Gotta focus on here-and-now-makin-money, gotta spend your time being “productive”. Be a honey-bee, not an Einstein.

          b. how to be an innovator. Our era needs a galaxy of new inventions. Tools, equipment, systems, products and services which make money as they fix the planet. It’s not easy to do this, and we need mind-sets and attitudes and motivations aimed toward these sort of inventions. We have to re-invent an entire, global economy in the next 20-30 yrs, or we’re not making this turn. We may not even have that long

          Innovation cannot be done top-down; it happens bottom-up by individuals, and the greatest innovations seem to come from the people that are most capable of suspending the fit-in-with-others impulse long enough to think of really new stuff.

          I’m saying “we need new tools that change a person’s self-awareness and innovative capacity”, and if we had those new tools, you’d be the perfect person to operate them and show others what they can do.

          1. Beard681

            Well, this is a good exercise in why Democratic Socialism is a failure. People will always vote for less work for themselves and more money for themselves.

            Here everybody is talking that Socialism will solve CO2 emissions. It should be obvious that whatever boondogle program is instituted will increase costs and unless it drastically impacts people enough to cause them to give upon suburbia, their cars and live in smaller spaces WON”T WORK. (Anyone remember Nuclear Power – electricity too cheap to meter?)

            I guess Democratic Capitalism doesn’t work either since a CO2 tax which would work would never be instituted anyway.

            Totalitarian state anyone?

  9. Ian Perkins

    The word radical used to be quite a compliment, at least in what might be called progressive circles.
    It’s my guess the words radicalisation and deradicalisation were carefully and deliberately selected as part of the War on (of?) Terror so as to make the word radical sound super-scary, ready to be thrown at the likes of Sanders.

  10. Cal2

    Whatever the merits or problems of Bernie’s plan, around here,
    “PG&E” is a four letter word.
    Many hundreds, if not at least a thousand people, are directly and indirectly dead because of their CEO’s greed, corporate and Wall Street mismanagement. So much for the “efficiency” of investor owned utilities.

    Reassuring to know that in light of this adjudicated corporate felon barbecuing a neighborhood in San Bruno, being found guilty in court of starting multiple fires with hundreds of deaths, that the corporate it, is “maintaining” several nuclear reactors atop earthquake faults on the coastline, upwind of San Luis Obispo, Los Angeles or San Francisco, depending on which way the winds blow–with the most productive farmland in America in the way to be Chernobyled.

    “Had Friday’s 7.1 earthquake and other ongoing seismic shocks hit less than 200 miles northwest of Ridgecrest/China Lake, [At Diablo Canyon] ten million people in Los Angeles would now be under an apocalyptic cloud, their lives and those of the state and nation in radioactive ruin. The likely human death toll would be in the millions. The likely property loss would be in the trillions.”

    Meanwhile, “Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed creating a $21 billion fund to pay for future wildfire costs Friday, with the costs split “evenly” between ratepayers and shareholders of PG&E Corp. and California’s two other major utilities.

    If this is what we get with the private sector, bring on the nationalization!

  11. ckimball

    This is a feeling I had to write I don’t have any other expertise
    but I think most of us feel this way.
    Aug 27 at 10:17 AM
    This is it! Bernie has issued
    the clarion call to every human
    to feel the truth of an opportunity
    to change direction and work for
    humanity and all of nature.
    If we can agree to implement this
    transformative plan the benefits will
    spill over to the rest of the world and
    we may face our children and grandchildren
    and the world with optimism for a future to be in.
    It is what we have been wanting
    to leave a better way for our children
    and those who follow and
    show that we can begin again and
    that we can respond and learn.
    I read this and my heart felt like
    it would burst with joy.
    I believe it is a call like this that
    will bring forward the creativity
    and genius and love
    of our human species which will
    find the way forward.
    We must say yes to the big idea and
    step off the cliff to endure both
    physically and psychologically.

    1. Oh

      And the rest of the Medical-Industrial-Complex .
      The book “Code Blue” by Mike McGee details how all the actors in the medical system are so corrupt and greedy.
      Nationalization will get rid of a lot of these outfits.

  12. Kurtismayfield

    You don’t have to subsidize wind. Wind power is now cheaper than the cost of just the natural gas

    This week, the US Department of Energy released a report that looks back on the state of wind power in the US by running the numbers on 2018. The analysis shows that wind hardware prices are dropping, even as new turbine designs are increasing the typical power generated by each turbine. As a result, recent wind farms have gotten so cheap that you can build and operate them for less than the expected cost of buying fuel for an equivalent natural gas plant.

    You read that right.. it costs less to build a wind power plant than it does just to purchase and procure the fuel for Natural gas. We should be building only windmills and switching all natural gas to when wind falls off immediately.

  13. Jeremy Grimm

    “The plan [Bernie’s GND] has rightly been likened to nationalizing electric power generation.”

    Based on this characterization of Bernie’s GND[I haven’t read the detailed plan] — Bernie’s GND seems very strange. Why isn’t the distribution of electric power also nationalized — at least the backbone of the GRID?

    The concern for how radical it is to nationalize electric power generation I distinctly recall taking a class in ‘classical’ economics where electric power generation and distribution was used as an example of a good/service which could be most efficiently provided by a public utility. And the reason ‘public utility’ instead of public-owned was chiefly related to the haphazard way electric power originated as many small private concerns providing for their own power needs.

    Privatizing public utilities is the radical idea — an idea tried, tested, and proven disastrous.

  14. vox

    That’s how you lose an election.

    You can campaign about one major reform. Too many of those and you’ll send the voters running for the hill.

    1. eg

      Which voters? Because about only half of the US electorate votes in presidential elections.

      I think Bernie’s after a bunch that never have.

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