The Morning Jolt

Energy & Environment

Just How Many Versions of the Green New Deal Are There?

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey (at right) hold a news conference for their proposed “Green New Deal” on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., February 7, 2019. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Everything you need to know about the multiple versions of the Green New Deal, Virginia’s state government continues its streak of beginning the day with embarrassing headlines, a new podcast, and a look at one of the most soft-spoken and mundane men to ever become a lightning rod of controversy.

The Bait-and-Switch on the Green New Deal

How does a political movement make a radical plan sound not quite so radical? Offer several versions of the plan and let political figures be vague about what version they support.

Just what is “the Green New Deal”? It depends upon which one you mean.

There was the 2008 proposal from the U.K’s New Economic Foundation, which called for making “‘every building a power station,” praised “rapidly rising carbon taxes” and explicitly declared, “at the heart of a successful programme to tackle climate change will be ever-rising fuel costs per unit of economic activity.” It also referred to “the imminence of peak oil.”

(Can we take a moment to laugh at the “peak oil” discussion of a decade ago? According to 2018 BP Statistical Review of World Energy, the world achieved a new oil-production record of 92.6 million barrels per day, which is the eighth straight year global-oil production has increased. New estimates of worldwide proven-oil reserves are at about 1.67 trillion barrels. At this pace, we would exhaust the current reserves in about 50 years, and that’s assuming we make no discoveries of additional supplies and make no innovations in improving efficiency in oil usage.)

There’s the Data for Progress plan, which at least left the door open to nuclear power. But that plan also wanted “100 percent of [automobile] sales [to be] zero emission passenger and light duty vehicles by 2030, followed with a swift phase out of internal combustion engines.” That’s now less than eleven years from now.

Then there’s the Green Party’s “Green New Deal” which I discussed earlier this year. I found it pretty infuriating that there had been no real public discussion of proposals like “cut military spending by at least half,” withdrawing all U.S. troops from overseas, replacing about 88 percent of America’s current energy sources (nuclear power, coal, natural gas, liquid natural gas, and oil), banning all internal-combustion engine cars and “replacing non-essential individual means of transport with high-quality and modern mass transit” — which is another way of saying banning the private ownership of cars.

So Thursday Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and several other Congressional Democrats introduced the legislative text of a resolution calling for the Green New Deal. Keep in mind, this resolution wouldn’t do anything, even if it passed both the House and Senate. The resolution simply declares that “it is the sense of the House of Representatives that it is the duty of the federal government to create a Green New Deal.” Passage would be a symbolic victory, but it wouldn’t change current policies.

Vast chunks of the resolution are vague, like the call to “promote justice and equity by stopping current, preventing future, and repairing historic oppression of indigenous communities, communities of color, migrant communities, deindustrialized communities, depopulated rural, the poor, low-income workers, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities, and youth.” What does that mean in terms of policy? They’ll tell you later, apparently.

Where the resolution does get slightly more specific, it gets expensive. It calls for “upgrading all existing buildings in the United States and building new buildings to achieve maximal energy efficiency, water efficiency, safety, affordability, comfort, and durability, including through electrification.” All existing buildings in the United States!

It calls for “providing resources, training, and high-quality education, including higher education, to all people of the United States.” Roughly one-third of Americans have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

But while the resolution was vague, an overview of the proposal released by supporters in Congress had more details. It began with declaring that the United States would transition to entirely renewable energy within ten years. Again, this requires the country to replace roughly 88 percent of its current energy production.

Many mocked the proposal for “economic security for all who are unable or unwilling to work.” (Finally, someone is willing to stand up for the country’s Indolent-American communities.) The overview was clearly rushed, with sentences like, “When JFK said we’d go to the by the end of the decade, people said impossible.” Someone forgot the word “moon.” The overview is written in an oddly casual language, including declarations “we set a goal to get to net-zero, rather than zero emissions, in 10 years because we aren’t sure that we’ll be able to fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes that fast.”

(You notice the casual admittance that “fully getting rid of airplanes” is an eventual goal.)

The overview says that the plan is to completely eliminate nuclear power, even though nuclear plants do not emit direct carbon-dioxide emissions.

In terms of paying for it all, the overview declares, “The Federal Reserve can extend credit to power these projects and investments and new public banks can be created to extend credit.” (Extending credit is a loan. The unspoken argument is that all of these new programs could generate so much money in the long run that the government would be able to pay back the loans.)

The proposal of creating public banks — that is, government-run banks — is an increasingly popular idea on the left these days. We’ve had various federal-government-run and state-run banks throughout American history, although most of them had their charters expire after a few decades. The state government of North Dakota still runs the Bank of North Dakota, created in 1919. In November, Los Angeles voters considered a referendum to create a public bank, but only 42 percent of voters supported it. Critics argue that creating a public bank to deal with a revenue shortfall doesn’t make sense, as it takes a lot of money to start up the bank in the first place, and that government-run banks are likely to become politically driven banks, and make bad financial decisions based upon pressure from government officials. If a state or locality has a lot of money lying around, creating a bank is one way to create a long-term revenue stream . . . but how many governments want to spend a surplus that way? And if you’re a federal government with close to $22 trillion in debt . . . does borrowing more to set up a bank really alleviate your financial problem?

The overview insists, “92 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans support the Green New Deal.” The survey the overview cited found 82 percent of Americans had never heard of it before the survey.

How do you make the Green New Deal sound less controversial? You just leave out the details until you have the political power to enact the plan.

Democrats know that nothing resembling the Green New Deal is getting enacted while Trump is in the White House or the GOP controls the Senate. The plan is to get the Democratic presidential candidates to sign on to the general idea, win the presidency and both houses of Congress . . . and then, as Nancy Pelosi once said, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”

Oh, Come On, Virginia!

Just when you thought you wouldn’t see more Virginia politicians get embroiled in blackface scandals . . . now a Republican figure is getting tough questions about old yearbook photos:

Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment, R-James City, served as one of the leading editors of the 1968 Virginia Military Institute yearbook that features at least one image of people in blackface and some racially offensive language.

The yearbook includes several instances of derogatory terms for Asian-Americans, and one reference to a student as the “Barracks Jew.” An editor in chief served over Norment, who was managing editor of The Bomb.

Norment said in a statement Thursday afternoon: “The use of blackface is abhorrent in our society and I emphatically condemn it. As one of seven working on a 359-page yearbook, I cannot endorse or associate myself with every photo, entry, or word on each page.”

And really . . . what the heck was going on in these campuses?

University of Richmond President Ronald Crutcher released a statement Thursday calling a racist photo from the school’s 1980 yearbook “repulsive” and “antithetical to the values of the University today.”

The photo depicts five people dressed in Ku Klux Klan costumes surrounding a smiling African-American man holding a drink and pretending to be hanged by a noose.

The African-American man is Michael Kizzie, who played basketball at Henrico High School and for the Richmond Spiders. In a phone interview Thursday night, he said he was unaware of the photo until he was contacted by a reporter for The Collegian, UR’s student newspaper.

“I’m just getting over the shock and embarrassment of it right now, and that’s going to take a while,” said Kizzie, who now lives in suburban Washington.

We discussed blackface yesterday. But how was dressing up as a Klansman considered just another joke back then?

ADDENDA: Mickey and I found time to tape a podcast yesterday, with a lot more politics than usual, because our mutual home state has suddenly become a flaming tire fire of political scandal, and we’ve got a lot of frustration to vent. A warning, this week’s episode was broken into three parts because of technical issues.

NRPlus readers, you can check out my profile of Howard Schultz, potential independent presidential candidate.

Schultz’s flirtation with an independent bid shows, in spectacularly vivid fashion, how quickly the Democratic-media-entertainment complex will turn on a person who up until a moment ago had been one of its celebrated heroes. The Daily Beast suddenly discovered that the music selection at Starbucks featured too many white artists. Think­Progress editor Ian Millhiser called for a boycott of Starbucks even though Schultz has left the company. Late-night host Stephen Colbert joked, “Who hasn’t been in a Starbucks bathroom and thought, ‘The guy in charge of this should be in charge of everything’?” Mika Brzezinski demanded of Schultz in his Morning Joe interview, “How much does an 18-ounce box of Cheerios cost?” (He didn’t know.)

A week ago, none of these people had any gripe with Schultz or Starbucks. He hasn’t officially announced a bid yet, and no polling has hinted at his level of support. But overnight, the well-regarded liberal former CEO became progressives’ enemy No. 1. Dozens of left-leaning public voices took to print, social media, and the airwaves to destroy him, like a shoal of piranhas.

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