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Seriously, how about that Green New Deal?

Given that President Trump doesn't have any principles or morality, there was part of me that was holding out hope in the weeks following his election that he would end up governing like a non-ideological centrist, doing whatever he thought was popular.

Maybe, since he talked about providing a health care program that would "cover everyone," he would ditch the GOP's preoccupation with repealing Obamacare once he realized that doing so would help nobody and be unpopular. And maybe, since he talked so much about building great things and improving U.S. infrastructure, he could be convinced to get the country building all kinds of stuff that it really needs, like public transportation and renewable energy. 

Suffice it to say, those hopes were quickly dashed. While Trump's personal conduct has defied political norms, his policies are predictably reactionary, with not so much as a hint of the years he spent as a Democrat and independent. In the wake of alarming climate news, I'd like to think that the country could unite behind an aggressive agenda to wean ourselves off fossil fuels. Instead, Trump and other Republicans are doubling down on climate change denial.

As tragic as this is, we can't get discouraged. Instead, Democrats need to come up with messaging on climate change that resonates with the American public. They need to couple messaging about the dire consequences of doing nothing about global warming with messaging about the enormous benefits we will reap by aggressively investing in renewable energy. 

I think, above all else, Democrats need to reframe the discussion of global warming from an environmental crisis to an economic, public health and national security crisis. Indeed, the military itself has begun planning in anticipation of a crisis that the commander-in-chief refuses to acknowledge. If the crisis is explained in the right way, voters of all political stripes will get behind a major commitment from the government. 

Climate change threatens every aspect of the quality of life that we currently enjoy. It's time for the government to step up and make the kinds of big investments in green technology and green infrastructure that we demand they make every year on national security. So I'm glad to see Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and other new leaders in the party make a big stink about this. It's not just the right thing to do. It's good politics. 

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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on December 7, 2018

Jack - investing in "renewable energy" is investing in failure.

Talk to a physicist, to an engineer, anyone who understands the scale of the challenge we face. Renewable electricity is hype, a drop in the bucket. We've been investing in renewables for 50 years and they've disappointed from the start - not because we haven't invested enough, not because of fossil fuel subsidies, not because of a lack of commitment. Simply because they don't work very well. Seriously.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on December 10, 2018

I don't think it's fair to say that anyone who understands the scale of the challenge would cast renewable energy as all hype. There are vast networks of scientists and engineers working on renewable energy because they do truly believe in the ability of the technology to move us in the right direction. If people want to dismiss the notion of 100% renewable energy because of the intermittency and efficiency problems that exist, that's more than fair, as the first 80% penetration of renewables will be a very different challenge than the remaining 20%, for example. But to cast aside renewables because the last 20% will be quite expensive or difficult is, in my opinion, a short-sighted view of the challenge that we are facing. Renewables are a part of the solution to reducing emissions in the energy sector. So is nuclear, So is natural gas as a lower emission bridge away from coal. So are demand side practices. There's no silver bullet, but calling renewables all hype is a bit of an oversimplification of the situation too. 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on December 11, 2018

Matt, I stand by my assertion considering renewables a significant contributor to the fight against climate change is hype. And I'll challenge the idea there are "vast networks of scientists and engineers" who truly understand how the limitations of renewable energy might be overcome. For example: what's the basis for your assumption "the first 80%" of renewables penetration is remotely possible, when it overstates achievements to date by a factor of six (Germany/Energiewende)?

Germany's Failed Climate Goals: A Wake-Up Call for Governments Everywhere

I've heard much about natural gas as a "bridge fuel", but little about where the bridge is supposed to end. Do you believe oil companies, one day, will walk away from $billions of wells, pipelines, and LNG exports because it would be good for the environment?

Nearly all of the literature in support of renewables comes not from peer-reviewed academic studies or from climate scientists, but from investment banks with skin in the game - Lazard, Deutsche Bank, et al - and NREL. Scientists at DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory are prevented from questioning the value of renewable energy by their very mission statement: 

"NREL advances the science and engineering of energy efficiency, sustainable transportation, and renewable power technologies and provides the knowledge to integrate and optimize energy systems."

Translation: NREL scientists are paid to promote renewable energy. If one were to publish compelling evidence renewables will never be capable of putting the brakes on climate change, that considering them any kind of solution is folly, what would be his opportunities for advancement?

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."- Upton Sinclair

 

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on December 10, 2018

I think, above all else, Democrats need to reframe the discussion of global warming from an environmental crisis to an economic, public health and national security crisis. Indeed, the military itself has begun planning in anticipation of a crisis that the commander-in-chief refuses to acknowledge. If the crisis is explained in the right way, voters of all political stripes will get behind a major commitment from the government. 

This is the most crucial part of what you wrote, I think. There are people who simply don't want to hear or talk about climate change as the problem or the reason why an energy transition should take place. Given there's 12 years left to act, according to the IPCC report, climate fighters must stop spending their efforts in trying to convince the people who don't want to be convinced of climate change. Instead-- push the economic benefits. Push the national security benefits. Push the green jobs. There are so many reasons why this change must happen, it's important to find the ones that connect with people for whom the climate discussion unfortunately doesn't resonate. 

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