The Green New Deal (GND) is receiving a lot of attention; in part because of the outlandish statements by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or AOC as she is referred to by the media. To paraphrase what Mark Twain is supposed to have observed, it’s not all the things she doesn’t know that bothers me; it’s all the things that she knows that just aren’t so. In her case, she might be excused because of youthful immaturity and her judgment being clouded by her passionate exuberance. Others are just being politically irresponsible.
But she is not alone in her ignorance of how the world works or of the economic consequences of her ideas. The actual size of the Green New Deal Movement is unclear but it is made up of a lot of young activists who have gotten the attention of the progressives in the democrat party who now parrot its ideology.
It’s platform on energy wouldn’t be taken seriously if a lot of progressives were not also promoting Medicare for all at a cost of $32 trillion over 10 years. The GND energy plank calls for zero emissions of CO2 by 2030. To achieve this goal, GND calls for a dramatic expansion of renewable power to achieve 100% of national power demand from renewable sources. According to EIA, fossil fuels provide 63 % of our power needs while renewables, as defined by GND provide 8%. To be clear, its definition of renewables does not include hydroelectric or nuclear power which currently provide 27%.
The cost estimates of converting our power generation system to renewables is staggering. One estimate from NextBigFuture puts the cost at $15 trillion. Other estimates are in the range of $5 trillion but that is just to reach the goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 80% in 2050. All estimates should be taken with a grain of salt because the radical nature of this transformation cannot accurately capture all of the costs of scrapping the current generation system and manufacturing and installing the renewable replacements on a forced timeline.
According to the Edison Electric Institute, the US generated 4,017,555 gigawatts of electric power in 2017. EIA has concluded that generating 1 gigawatt of power would require 3.1 million PV panels or 431 utility scale wind turbines. The math is simple and it demonstrates the foolishness of the GND proposal.
It may be that the socialists and progressives who support the GND know that it would totally wreck the economy and are using it as a tool to move public policy further to the left. Independent of whether GND proponents are being Machiavellian or just economically ignorant, their proposals should be exposed for what they are. Proponents should be pushed to explain the costs and economic consequences of their proposals. Radical ideas just don’t go away.
The opportunity cost of not swatting down foolish and irresponsible proposals is that we are not seriously addressing high priority problems in a bipartisan manner.