Down in Washington, a certain New Yorker has proposed a sweeping blueprint to attack climate change and transition to a clean-energy economy by weaning America off fossil fuels. Its name evokes the ambitious agenda put forward by another New Yorker in the depths of the Great Depression.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s acolytes are pressuring members of Congress to jump on board her “10-year national mobilization,” so far outlined in 14 legislative pages, without delay. A number of Democratic 2020 presidential candidates have already hopped on the high-speed train.
The planet is warming. The consequences are dire. Inaction is not an option. But we have a few wee questions about the bill.
Ocasio-Cortez’s materials call for meeting all the power demand in the United States through zero-emission energy sources. But the Green New Deal leaves out any mention of nuclear power. Why? That source produces a great deal of energy with no greenhouse gas pollution. When Vermont tried to make a hard turn toward renewables while leaving nuclear behind, the state saw its emissions grow.
Supporting documents since removed from Ocasio-Cortez’s website called for expanding high-speed rail to “a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary”; the resolution makes no such commitment.
Clearly, even if rail can and should replace many plane trips, Seattle-to-Miami flights are going nowhere. And jet fuel-enabled flying is an economic and cultural imperative, and will be for generations to come, to connect our global community to the wider world.
The Green New Deal says the entire American power grid can go carbon-neutral within a decade. Many who agree with the goal think even doing so many years later would itself be an immensely heavy, economy-consuming lift.
And while we have no qualms whatsoever about the goal of delivering a job with “a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations and retirement security” to every American, it’s exceedingly easy to do so in a nonbinding resolution, which is what this is. And exceedingly hard to get from here to there through concrete legislation that costs… — oh yeah, we have no idea how much.