What a 'Green New Deal' Will Look Like
And what it will mean for the everyday lives of Americans.
In light of the strong probability that a Biden administration will soon take office in the White House, Americans must prepare for the cold reality that one of Joe Biden’s foremost objectives will be to fulfill his party’s pledge to “decarbonize the power sector” by implementing “all zero-carbon technologies.” Toward that end, the Democrats will seek to enact a “Green New Deal,” the highly prized centerpiece of their environmental agenda. What, exactly, will that mean for the everyday lives of Americans.
The origins of the term “Green New Deal” — an idea founded on the premise that the greenhouse gas emissions (especially carbon dioxide) associated with human industrial activity are responsible for potentially catastrophic “climate change” — can be traced back to Richard Murphy, a British tax scholar and political economy professor, who in 2007 collaborated with a number of newspaper editors, economists, and environmentalists to form a “Green New Deal Group.” This group proposed massive public expenditures to fund: (a) the development of a zero-carbon-emission transportation infrastructure wholly reliant on renewable (wind, water, and solar) energy sources; (b) the wide-scale insulation of homes to make them more energy-efficient; and (c) the establishment of training programs to develop a national corps of workers to carry out these objectives. To raise the money required in order to enact this initiative, Murphy advocated a combination of tax hikes on wealthy people and corporations, “straightforward deficit spending,” and the implementation of quantitative easing – a strategy whereby the government would establish a green infrastructure bank that would issue bonds which the government, in turn, could buy back. On July 21, 2008, Murphy’s “Green New Deal Group” published a report detailing its specific recommendations.
In a similar spirit, on October 22, 2008, the United Nations Environment Programme’s executive director, Achim Steiner, unveiled a “Global Green New Deal” initiative designed to simultaneously strengthen the world economy and curb climate change by creating jobs in a wide array of “green” industries. The following year, the United Nations drafted a report explicitly calling for a “Global Green New Deal” to promote government stimulus spending on renewable energy projects.
In 2008 as well, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama added a Green New Deal to his campaign platform. Obama’s ally, the self-identified revolutionary communist Van Jones — who in 2009 would become President Obama’s “Green Jobs Czar” — made clear his desire to incrementally socialize, by stealth, the U.S. economy: “Right now we say we want to move from suicidal gray capitalism to something eco-capitalism where at least we’re not fast-tracking the destruction of the whole planet. Will that be enough? No, it won’t be enough. We want to go beyond the systems of exploitation and oppression altogether … until [the green economy] becomes the engine for transforming the whole society.”
In 2012 and again in 2016, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein revived the idea by making a Green New Deal a central part of her campaigns. Moreover, the Green New Deal became part of the Green Party’s official platform.
In an October 2018 campaign appearance, Democratic congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made reference to a “Green New Deal” that would aim to make the U.S. 100 percent reliant on renewable energy sources (wind, water, solar) by the year 2035. “There’s no debate as to whether we should continue producing fossil fuels,” she said. “There’s no debate. We should not. Every single scientific consensus points to that.” In another campaign speech that same month, Ocasio-Cortez likened the fight against climate change to America’s battle against Nazi Germany. She also said that “the Green New Deal we are proposing will be similar in scale to the mobilization efforts seen in World War II or the Marshall Plan,” and would thus “require the investment of trillions of dollars.”
Employing yet another metaphor, Ocasio-Cortez said at a December 2018 climate-change town hall meeting that the Green New Deal “is going to be the Great Society, the moonshot, the civil rights movement of our generation.”
Operationally, the Green New Deal, as originally described by Ocasio-Cortez, would eliminate all fossil fuels from the U.S. electric grid by 2030, thereby forcing Americans to use much more expensive and much less reliable energy sources such as wind and solar. The plan would also mandate trillions of dollars in public expenditures on government-approved “upgrades” and “retrofits” of all existing homes and businesses in the United States — e.g., installing insulation, weather stripping, thermal windows, and storm doors to make the buildings more “energy efficient” — and implementing zero-carbon standards for all new building construction.
It is noteworthy that although Ocasio-Cortez and some other Democrats began promoting a “Green New Deal” during the 2018 campaign season in the United States, it was not until December 2018 – well after Election Day – that their plan was actually fleshed out in the form of a tangible document. Remarkably, their Green New Deal was drafted during a single December weekend by young millennial staffers employed by Ocasio-Cortez and three like-minded progressive organizations – the Sunrise Movement, Justice Democrats, and the New Consensus. According to Saikat Chakrabarti, Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff: “We spent the weekend learning how to put laws together. We looked up how to write resolutions.”
Within a matter of weeks, more than 100 congressional Democrats had officially signed on as co-sponsors of the Green New Deal.
In a January 2019 analysis of the Green New Deal’s call for the elimination of fossil fuels, the Heartland Institute points out that “when there is more carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, plants generally grow faster, which means there’s more food available to feed the world’s growing population of people and animals.” Aside from that, adds the Institute, “regardless of what we do in the United States, the rest of the world is going to continue increasing its fossil fuel use, more than offsetting any CO2 reductions we might make. Even if we were to commit economic suicide and pass the radical Green New Deal, total global CO2 emissions would still increase by billions of tons by 2030.” In short, any carbon-cutting measures taken by the United States would be doomed to irrelevance.
In addition to doing away with fossil fuels, the Green New Deal would seek to raise the living standards of low-income people by guaranteeing that they could be trained and hired for federal “green jobs” paying them at least $15-per-hour to implement the aforementioned upgrades, retrofits, and construction projects, thereby helping those people make a “just transition” from their previous occupations to the new “green economy.” The premise underlying these training/hiring policies is that some form of economic reparations or wealth transfer should be put in place to counteract America’s historical discrimination against “low-income communities, communities of color, indigenous communities, [and] the front-line communities most affected by climate change, pollution, and other environmental harm.”
And the Green New Deal’s redistributionist measures would not stop there. Scholar Tim Huelskamp, who describes the plan as “the most radical socialist proposal in modern congressional history,” explains that its provisions extend far beyond matters that are even remotely associated with energy efficiency, the environment, and climate. That is, the Green New Deal seeks to remake the entire American economy:
“[T]heir real desire is to accomplish the Left’s longtime goal of moving the United States toward full adoption of socialism. This isn’t just a theory. Significant provisions of the Green New Deal reveal its true purpose of imposing socialism on an unprecedented scale. The plan would create a ‘basic income program’ and federal jobs guarantee providing a ‘living wage’ to everybody who says they want one. It would impose a federal-government-run, single-payer health care system with bureaucrats and liberal politicians in Washington, D.C. in charge of every American’s health care. It would encourage the Federal Reserve to unleash inflation and create a system of government-owned banks to ‘create’ tens of trillions of dollars needed to fund these immense programs. None of these proposals has anything at all to do with climate change.”
On February 5, 2019 — two days prior to formally unveiling her Green New Deal Resolution — Ocasio-Cortez released a backgrounder that laid out all the major provisions of the Resolution. It included a subtle but enormously consequential change from previous descriptions of the Green New Deal. Instead of seeking to entirely eliminate fossil-fuel use in America by 2030, the goal would now be to develop a “net-zero greenhouse gas emissions” economy by that point in time. As the climate activist website Generation Yes explains, this means “reducing the volume of greenhouse gas emissions that human activity releases into the atmosphere until our total output is no greater than the emissions we remove, through activities like planting carbon forests, reducing deforestation and using technologies like carbon capture and storage.” “We set a goal to get to net-zero, rather than zero emissions, in 10 years,” said Ocasio-Cortez’s backgrounder, “because we aren’t sure that we’ll be able to fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes that fast.” The long-term objective, however, was to “transition off of nuclear and all fossil fuels as soon as possible.”
Ocasio-Cortez’s Resolution was replete with additional ambitious goals, as the backgrounder made plain:
- “Create millions of family supporting-wage, union jobs” in the so-called green energy sector, funded by public money;
- “Repair and upgrade U.S. infrastructure” at a cost of “$4.6 trillion at minimum”;
- “Upgrade or replace every building in [the] U.S. for state-of-the-art energy efficiency”;
- “Totally overhaul transportation by massively expanding electric vehicle manufacturing, build charging stations everywhere, build out high-speed rail at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary, [and] create affordable public transit available to all, with goal to replace every combustion-engine vehicle”; and
- “Plant lots of trees” in order to reduce deforestation.
In addition to environmental and energy matters, the Green New Deal would “build on FDR’s second bill of rights by guaranteeing” a number of major benefits:
- “economic security for all who are unable or unwilling to work”;
- “a [federal] job with a family-sustaining wage” for those who are in fact able and willing to work;
- “family and medical leave, vacations, and retirement security” for all workers;
- “high-quality education, including higher education and trade schools,” with all tuition costs covered by the government;
- “access to nature”;
- “healthy food”;
- “high-quality health care”; and
- “safe, affordable, adequate housing.”
In a Washington Post interview in July 2019, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s chief-of-staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, acknowledged that the Green New Deal had not been devised to protect the environment, but rather to implement socialism. “The interesting thing about the Green New Deal,” he said, “is it wasn’t originally a climate thing at all. Do you guys [reporters] think of it as a climate thing? Because we really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.”
And so, in an unguarded moment of honesty, a key figure in the Green New Deal’s creation let the proverbial cat out of the bag. It isn’t about the environment at all. It’s about implementing socialism in a stealth, deceptive manner, on the fraudulent pretext of “saving the planet.”