The Green New Deal

    Source Sunrise Movement

    The Green New Deal

    Nope, it's not the latest Netflix Original to make waves (haven't heard of anyone doing the "Green New Deal Challenge" yet), but the term is hot right now. And chances are you'll be hearing more and more about it as Democrats hop on the bandwagon when they announce their candidacy for the 2020 Presidential Election (see Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren). But when someone says "Green New Deal", what are they actually talking about?

    Google Trend Google searches for Green New Deal have exploded.

    A Brief History

    The term was coined separately on both sides of the pond around 2007. Thomas Friedeman, a New York Times columnist who calls himself a "free-market guy" and a staunch activist for globalism, coined the term in the US. In the UK, the economist Richard Murphy founded the Green New Deal Group. The general idea — of decarbonizing the economy, ending fossil fuel subsidies (for reference, the US hands out $20 billion to oil, gas, and coal companies every year), and incentivizing renewables — seemed poised to take hold in both governments. But then the conservative parties (the Tories in 2009, Republicans in 2010) rose to power and it fizzled out.

    So it's not an especially new idea — it's even been a part of the Green Party's official platform since 2012. But only recently has interest in the Green New Deal really taken off, spearheaded by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Sunrise Movement, a group that has held multiple sit-ins in Nancy Pelosi's office to demand the Democrats drop the empty rhetoric on environmental issues and actually do something.

    So What Does It Actually Mean?

    At this stage, it's still vague. But there are some generally accepted principles:

    1. Rapidly decarbonizing the economy.

    2. Transforming the economy through massive public investment and a federal jobs guarantee.

    3. Making the system more equitable.

    There's a lot of leeway within those core points, and moving beyond high-level idealism into policy specifics is one of the big challenges to come — especially as different political power sources try to take the idea and brand it as their own

    So Break Down Those Big Challenges For Me...

    1. Paying for it.

      This question will obviously be a big one, but perhaps the easiest to counter. For starters, the consequences of climate change will likely cost more than investment in fighting it. Parts of the plan will also raise money — like a carbon tax, no longer subsidizing fossil fuels, and possibly raising taxes on the super-wealthy. And ultimately it's a question of priorities and resources rather than dollars — public deficits do not necessarily lead to inflation. People don't question military spending because it seems to be existentially necessary — but according to the IPCC, climate change is an existential threat in itself.

    2. Preventing the idea from becoming polarized.

      "New Deal" sounds progressive, but there are many aspects of it that everyone can agree on — "green jobs" are overwhelmingly popular with voters in general. But those opposing the concept will likely try to turn it into a partisan issue.

    3. Pushing establishment Democrats to back the idea without neutering it.

      It's a radical plan that shakes up the status quo. People in power dislike when that happens. Not to mention that the Senate's Energy and Natural Resources Committee leader actually shot the last climate bill...

    4. Agreement on the particulars.

      The key disagreement at this stage is how to decarbonize. The only official language drafted (by Ocasio-Cortez with Sunrise) states that the plan should meet “100% of national power demand through renewable sources” — and 600 environmental groups signed a letter to Congress last week defining renewable sources of energy even more rigidly. Many scientists think excluding other carbon-neutral energy sources (like nuclear) is foolish and impractical.

    So What's Next?

    The IPCC says that reigning in climate change will require "rapid and far-reaching transitions" that are "unprecedented in scale" in all aspects of society. If there was ever a time for proposing radical and ambitious public policy, now is it. Regardless of the obstacles to come for the Green New Deal, it seems to represent a galvanizing force and a rallying cry, and an inspiration that some people in office plan to do more than hem and haw while collecting a fat industry paycheck.

    For more, check out this comprehensive guide.

    Sparks Flying For PG&E

    What's Going On?

    This week, PG&E announced that it would file for bankruptcy in the face of a $30 billion liability for the wildfires in Northern California in 2017 and 2018. Experts are worried that this will slow California's goal of switching to 100% renewable energy by 2045.

    How's That Connected?

    Utility companies like PG&E play a big role in bolstering the renewable energy sector by investing in solar and wind projects, large-scale batteries, and other storage technologies across the state (much of this by government mandate). Renewable energy projects need stable clients like utility companies to buy their electricity under long-term contracts, and PG&E likely won't be able to continue with these contracts once it files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Some solar projects have already seen a dip in their credit rating this week.

    How Will It All Turn Out?

    It's a sticky situation. Critics are calling on state leaders to break up PG&E, while renewable energy developers want to stabilize PG&E quickly. California is a national leader in clean energy and all eyes are on the state to see how they deal with the market's financial instability.

    Weekly Scraps

    Is sunscreen the new margarine?

    EPA nominee Andrew Wheeler not prepared for Senate's questions on climate change.

    California monarch butterfly population drops by 86%.

    How Hoboken redesigned for climate change after Hurricane Sandy.

    Maui Brewing invests $9 million to become grid-independent.

    The Earth's magnetic field is acting up.

    The shutdown has impacted important scientific research.

    Stay Informed...

    Subscribe to get the latest environmental news delivered weekly to your inbox.