Appraising the Green New Deal

The purpose of this blog is not to praise or bury the Green New Deal. We have tried here to show how it could work in practice and provide order of magnitude costs (in practice, shooting for the right number of zeros) for the listed elements of it.

Unsurprisingly, the process of this analysis has left us with some opinions, which we share in this post.

As currently described, the GND is imprecise enough to force us into giving ranges of the costs rather than precise estimates. The fact that the GND does not prioritize specific elements makes it impossible to determine any level of path dependency. To take just one example, if the government takes steps to spur infrastructure improvements and a build-out of green energy–solar panels, charging stations, domestic electric vehicles, etc.–prior to implementing a universal basic income that kicks in at $61K household income, the resulting increased employment will undoubtedly reduce the number of households receiving the UBI. There are many other aspects of the initiative that have path dependency impacts.

The vagueness of the various descriptions of the Green New Deal does more than make life difficult for analysts. It allows for suggestions for improving and listing our own priorities.

If we take as a given that we share the goals of the Green New Deal–an uplifting of living standards for the poorer fifth of Americans and an overall quality of life matching or exceeding those found in Northern Europe, as well as a dramatic decrease in our impact on the environment and our contributions to climate change in a short time frame, then perhaps our suggested changes can be welcomed as well as challenged.

To start, let’s divide the Green New Deal into the obvious two categories–economic uplift and environmental remediation.

We feel strongly that the economic part of the Green New Deal needs to be the top priority. The poor in America need help now, and some of what we do to help them can also help the environment. The converse is not true. Much of what we do to address our environmental deficit of care will divert resources from helping the disadvantaged unless great care is used in implementation. Furthermore, a number of high profile economic elements of the GND are actually inexpensive–$50 billion a year (which we guess is now considered chump change) would address homelessness, housing upgrades, education for all and access to healthy food and nature. And there are existing programs that could take that money from day one and use it effectively.

Providing jobs for all Americans, perhaps through a federal works program, can be directed at the poor and those jobs can include installation of solar panels and charging stations and retrofitting or manufacturing electric vehicles. The training and education needed can be considered as higher education credits leading to re-entry into tertiary (and for some, secondary) education. The poor can be employed in building or renovating social housing, or in environmental remediation of soil and water.

Addressing environmental concerns needs to first consider the elephant in the room. The Green New Deal has no provision for using nuclear power to reduce emissions. The hostility of environmentalists towards nuclear power is as old as nuclear power itself and much of it has been validated by negligent or criminal behavior at certain sites. But the technology of providing nuclear power has advanced considerably and adopting best of breed modular reactors, perhaps sited on federally owned land with federal guarantees for liability, would ease the burden on other strategies to arrive at net zero emissions.

Much of the environmental agenda put forward by the Green New Deal can be achieved by getting out of the way of current trends. Solar power has historically grown at a rate sufficient to meet the needs of the GND, although practically speaking we should shoot for 30% of electricity provision from solar and wind. Continuing policies put in place during the Obama administration would actually get us there. Removing some of the bureaucratic holdups for permitting and licensing would speed it up. Removing tariffs on international providers of solar panels would decrease costs. This is all very low-hanging fruit.

Encouraging the take-up of electric vehicles would again be easy. Provide incentives for both consumers and manufacturers–carrots for electric vehicles and sticks to discourage gas or diesel vehicles. Remember that half the electric cars in the U.S. were purchased in the past two years. That’s a good beginning to build on.

Reversing some of the current administration’s efforts to revive coal would help. Encouraging the decommissioning of the dwindling number of coal-fired energy plants would help more.

These ‘nudge’ type initiatives could be implemented quickly and inexpensively, relative to the overall costs of the entire GND. They would have a noticeable impact and hopefully would pave the way for the more ambitious elements later on.

Imposing a carbon tax at a low level (perhaps $20 per ton) and rebating it to consumers would influence behavior at the margins. Evaluating the correct level of tax every ten years, based on climate and economic metrics, would help shape behaviors while financing parts of the GND. Adding an increased royalty on fuel production and imports and instituting a sovereign wealth fund can provide a capital base for financing the infrastructure of the future.

Or, as they put it back in the halcyon days when Silicon Valley actually was innovative and fun, ‘Start small. Succeed quickly. Scale fast.’

Costing the G vs. the ND

A couple of posts previously I tried to ballpark the costs of the entire Green New Deal.

I wrote, ” The (rough) annual cost estimates of implementing the Green New Deal to range from $2.65 trillion to $5.88 trillion. Almost all of the variance is due to the differences in estimates for healthcare.”

Today I would like to split out the costs, showing what the annual costs are for the environmental portion vs. the economic part. I’ll do it with the high end estimate of $5.88 trillion.

Medicare for All: $3.2 trillion

Affordable, safe, and adequate housing (solving homelessness): $9.3 billion

Upgrading schools and public housing: $6.8 billion

Economic security (universal basic income to those earning less than $61K/year): $768 billion

Providing resources, training, and high-quality education, including higher education, to all people of the United States: $32.5 billion

Total annual spend on non-environmental aspects of Green New Deal, high range estimates: $4.016 trillion.

68% of the annual cost of the Green New Deal is non-environmental.

A Climate Survey! (Not mine…)

The previous post was really, really tough and really, really long. This one is much shorter and much easier!

Please share your views on climate change and reading blogs by filling out this survey. The data will be used for getting to know the readers of climate change blogs.

What’s in it for you?

  • You have a chance on winning a $20 gift card of Amazon;
  • You will get a sneak preview of the preliminary results;
  • You will contribute to research on climate change blogs.

Participation is anonymous, and your answers will be handled confidentially. The data is only used for research purposes.

Your input is highly valued! Please fill out the survey by following this link.

Rough Look at Overall Costs of the Green New Deal

Since Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ed Markey introduced their resolution for a Green New Deal, a number of people and institutions have tried to put a price tag on it.

The prices they come up with seem to reflect their political orientation more than an objective evaluation of the costs, with conservatives who would naturally oppose the Green New Deal saying it would cost a lot, while progressive Democrats who favor some or all of the elements of a Green New Deal insisting it would not cost very much at all. Before we provide our own estimates, here are some of the costs put forward by others.

Let’s start at the high end. Mises Wire, named in honor of the Austrian School economist Ludwig von Mises, says it would cost $93 trillion[1]—and they say that their estimate is conservative. The estimate relies on other work done by the American Action Forum (whose founder actually estimates a range from $52 trillion to $93 trillion[2]) and does not analyze the whole of the Green New Deal in great detail—from the article accompanying the estimate it would seem they threw up their hands in despair after arriving at such a high figure. They do note that some elements of the Green New Deal are redundant—for example, if the energy grid is powered by 100% renewable sources, why does the Green New Deal call for improving the energy efficiency of every building in America? That’s potentially helpful criticism. But in other places, they estimate a range of costs for elements of the Green New Deal and present the highest end of the range for each.

Defenders of the Green New Deal have been much fuzzier about costs, with Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez merely remarking that it would probably cost at least $10 trillion[3], with other vague estimates from various sources at ‘around $2 trillion.’

Somewhere in between lies the real number—or numbers, as many elements must be estimated within a range.

Continue reading “Rough Look at Overall Costs of the Green New Deal”

High Speed Rail and the Green New Deal

Governments that try and pick a winning technological solution don’t have a great track record. However, the Green New Deal as advertised calls for one. Why? Well, a number of studies suggest it can save energy–under the right circumstances.

Of course, the source of the electricity powering a high speed train counts. If a high speed train is ultimately getting its energy from a coal powered generating plant, it isn’t much help. And although natural gas would be better, it still emits a lot of CO2. But it would take a lot of wind and solar to push a train down the track. But let’s set that aside for a second.

Continue reading “High Speed Rail and the Green New Deal”

The Good Earth and The Green New Deal

One element of the Green New Deal reads, “Working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible.”

We’ve only recently begun talking about it, but modern agriculture emits a lot of CO2. About 9% of US emissions stem from agriculture. About half of those emissions are from crop production, 40% from livestock (and are actually as much methane as CO2) and the remaining 10% is attributed to the business of farming–transportation, storage and the like.

Continue reading “The Good Earth and The Green New Deal”

Successful Uses of a Carbon Tax and a Sovereign Wealth Fund

We’re back from a lovely vacation in France and are ready to resume our exploration of the Green New Deal from a practical point of view.

Those who have read earlier posts can be forgiven if they start shaking their heads at the amount of money each individual portion of the GND seems to cost. The Green New Deal will cost a lot of money, although much of it will be obvious investments with an expected and forecast-able return.

But housing half a million homeless and offering tax subsidies for solar panels and electric cars doesn’t come cheap. And that’s just two of the initiatives we’ve discussed.

Continue reading “Successful Uses of a Carbon Tax and a Sovereign Wealth Fund”

The Green New Deal And A Universal Basic Income

The average rent for a one bedroom apartment is $1,405 a month, or $16,860 a year. Twenty percent (20%) of Americans declared income of less than that last year. America does some of the things needed to compensate for that–food stamps, HUD allowances, etc.–but few would argue we are doing enough.

The nature of work is set to change fairly dramatically over the next few decades, with AI, robotics and other forms of automation quite likely to take on the jobs that people are doing now. And although the care and feeding of these new systems will create new jobs, in all likelihood there will be a permanent net loss of positions, especially for lower income workers.

One of the primary premises of The Green New Deal is “Guaranteeing a job with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security to all people of the United States.”

Continue reading “The Green New Deal And A Universal Basic Income”

The GND and Solar From The Rest Of Us

We talked earlier about the potential of solar–with 70 million single family homes in this country, that’s a lot of roof space. Of course, there are a lot of homes in regions that are not best fits for solar, but the idea of 70 million rooftops is enough to spark our interest.

Remember that our interest is sparked by potential ways of reducing emissions without much in the way of government investment. This is based on the idea that the current administration is not committed to a Green New Deal, and it’s not guaranteed that the next one will be either.

Continue reading “The GND and Solar From The Rest Of Us”

The Green New Deal and 100% clean, renewable and zero-emission energy sources. Gulp. Phase 1–2021-2030

We have written posts that were shorter than the title of this one. Sorry.

We talked about America’s energy consumption in this earlier post. The U.S. currently consumes about 100 quadrillion British Thermal Units a year. This is not expected to change much over the next few decades. Which is easy for calculations, being one hundred. Of that 100 ‘quads,’ at the moment about 11% is renewable (but this includes hydro-electric power) and a further 9% is nuclear. The rest of our fuel portfolio consists of oil (37% of the total), natural gas (29%) and coal (14%).

It’s a lot of energy–about 15% of all the world’s energy consumption happens here.

Of our current renewable energy, a quarter of it is provided by hydroelectric facilities (25%), 21% by wind, 6% by solar and a whopping 45% by the various types of biomass–waste, biofuels and burning wood.

It’s a tall order–hence the use of the word ‘gulp’ in the title of this post.

Continue reading “The Green New Deal and 100% clean, renewable and zero-emission energy sources. Gulp. Phase 1–2021-2030”

Residential Solar Power And The Green New Deal

20% of all US energy consumption happens at home. While we will need laws and politics (and lots of both) to deal with the other 80%, we as individual can make a real difference. And really, nobody is going to take care of that 20% for us. If it’s going to get done, we’re going to have to do it.

The idyllic solution of course would be solar panels on every roof with a tracking mount to follow the sun, feeding not only the immediate electricity needs of the house below it, but charging the standalone battery that will be used to recharge the electric car when it gets home. And there are a lot of homes that could do this. But not enough, sadly.

Continue reading “Residential Solar Power And The Green New Deal”

The Green New Deal And Education

The Green New Deal proposes “Providing resources, training, and high-quality education, including higher education, to all people of the United States.”

At present there are about 5,300 universities and colleges in the U.S. In addition, there are about 1,132 community colleges and 8,063 trade or vocational schools. There are a bit more than 28,348,600 people aged 19-25 in the United States.

Continue reading “The Green New Deal And Education”

Access to Nature and the Green New Deal

There are 59 national parks in the U.S. and 8,565 state parks and a lot of local and city parks. The map looks full:

So at first glance, you might wonder why access to nature is part of the Green New Deal. And once again, the answer is equal parts poverty and inequality.

Continue reading “Access to Nature and the Green New Deal”

The Green New Deal: Healthy and Affordable Food

Availability of good food is a problem for the poor in America. It is not a problem for middle class and richer Americans. However Americans of all incomes frequently make poor choices about food.

The Green New Deal proposes to make healthy and affordable food available to all Americans. There are a number of established programs to draw from, ranging from proposed changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which helps get food to poor people, to templates for local planning departments trying to fight food insecurity and hunger.

People have been talking about getting more nutritious food into inner city grocery stores for a generation, though, without much in the way of results. As poverty is just as real and just as pervasive in rural counties, a different approach is warranted.

Continue reading “The Green New Deal: Healthy and Affordable Food”

Air Quality

One of the goals of the Green New Deal is to provide clean air to all Americans.

Here is a picture of what air quality in America looks like on April 27, 2019:


https://aqicn.org/map/northamerica/

Green is good, yellow bad, red worse and purple just horrible. The picture changes from day to day, of course, but it’s clear that most Americans do enjoy clean air on most days of the year. But as with water pollution (and almost everything else that is bad in our land), air pollution is tougher on the poor and minorities. Not only are they exposed to more of it, they have fewer resources to deal with it.

Continue reading “Air Quality”

Is The 12 Year Target For Zero Emissions A Hard Target?

Let’s talk about time. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) wrote a special report on what will happen if global average temperature rises above 1.5C. They say that if we don’t get to zero emissions by 2050… well let’s let them say it and let’s start with the good-ish news:

Continue reading “Is The 12 Year Target For Zero Emissions A Hard Target?”

Clean Water, Air, Healthy and Affordable Food, and Nature

In a nod to the environmental movement of the 70s, the Green New Deal has as a goal the delivery of clean water and air, healthy and affordable food and what I presume to mean access to nature.

Again, due to the length of the posts, we will have to deal with these one at a time. Today we’ll talk about clean water.

The Environmental Protection Agency is budgeted at about $8.9 billion a year at present. About 52% of that goes to improving water quality. About half that amount (45%) is in the form of grants to cities and states for specific projects. It could be more.

Continue reading “Clean Water, Air, Healthy and Affordable Food, and Nature”

Economic Security

The Green New Deal as proposed calls for the provision of economic security for all Americans. And that’s all it says about it. Now we’re in favor of it in the abstract, but we need a definition in order to start on a road map.

The International Committee of the Red Cross defines economic security as “the ability of individuals, households or communities to cover their essential needs sustainably and with dignity. This can vary according to an individual’s physical needs, the environment and prevailing cultural standards. Food, basic shelter, clothing and hygiene qualify as essential needs, as does the related expenditure; the essential assets needed to earn a living, and the costs associated with health care and education also qualify.”

Continue reading “Economic Security”

Affordable, Safe and Adequate Housing

One element of the proposed Green New Deal is ‘affordable, safe and adequate housing.’ Our first post on this subject will concern those who have no homes.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), there were roughly 554,000 homeless people living somewhere in the United States on a given night last year. A total of 193,000 of those people were “unsheltered,” meaning that they were living on the streets and had no access to emergency shelters, transitional housing, or Safe Havens.”

Continue reading “Affordable, Safe and Adequate Housing”

Electric Cars–A Foundation Stone For The GND

There are at present 276 million registered vehicles in the United States. About 1 million of them are electric.

If the Green New Deal is to have any chance at achieving the Green part of the New Deal, almost all of this vast fleet of cars, pickups and SUVs will have to be electric by 2030. Is it possible? Yes. Will it be easy? No.

Let’s start with the glass half full. 2018 saw a phenomenal jump in the sales of electric cars–an 81% increase over 2017, which was also a banner year. Put another way, half of all the electric cars in America were sold in the past two years.

To get to 276 million electric vehicles, sales would have to grow at a phenomenal rate–but less than the 81% recorded in 2018. We’d ‘only’ need sales to grow at a 60% rate every year for 12 years. But things are not that simple, obviously.

Continue reading “Electric Cars–A Foundation Stone For The GND”

Moonshot or Pyramids?

Should the U.S. decide to pursue the Green New Deal, there are different approaches to take–but although one is probably optimal, we can expect to pursue two parallel tracks at different rates of speed.

One is brute force–we mandate (and probably finance) the environmental aspects of the GND, build out the needed solar and wind power generation, require a changeover to an electric fleet, and use regulation and legislation to push people into desired behaviors. We liken this to ancient Egyptians building the pyramids with slave labor, but then we’re harsh critics at times.

Continue reading “Moonshot or Pyramids?”

To Understand The Challenge, You Need To Understand Energy

A British Thermal Unit (BTU) is the amount of energy needed to heat a pint of water from 39 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s about the amount of energy consumed by burning a wooden match.

We currently measure energy consumption by counting ‘quads.’ A quad is one quadrillion BTUs. It is about the amount of energy consumed by burning the contents of a train full of coal that has 100 tons of coal in each car. The train would stretch for 3,780 miles, from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Anchorage, Alaska.

Continue reading “To Understand The Challenge, You Need To Understand Energy”

The Green New Deal and High Quality Healthcare

A lot has been made in the media about the accelerated schedule of the Green New Deal–the sponsors of the Congressional resolution want us to get there in 12 years.

To us, what’s more interesting is the fusion of progressive economic and social goals with the environmental initiatives to get to zero emissions. And again, in the formative stages of all this, it’s easy to look at it as disconnected. We might even be permitted to speculate that a firm connection did not exist in the minds of the plan’s creators. But we think over the course of this blog’s existence that we will end up showing a very firm connection between the social, the economic and the environmental elements.

Progressives began labeling healthcare a human right about a decade or so before the Green New Deal. Old school opponents were quick to object–how can infrastructure and services painstakingly built up over centuries at great cost to companies and individuals be re-characterized as providing something (healthcare) that their customers (patients) all of a sudden have a right to?

Continue reading “The Green New Deal and High Quality Healthcare”

What Is The Green New Deal?

Wikipedia is not perfect. But it is very good. It has a nice page on the Green New Deal (GND) here.

“The Green New Deal (GND) is a proposed stimulus program that aims to address climate change and economic inequality The name refers to the New Deal, a set of social and economic reforms and public works projects undertaken by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in response to the Great Depression. The Green New Deal combines Roosevelt’s economic approach with modern ideas such as renewable energy and resource efficiency.”

Continue reading “What Is The Green New Deal?”

Welcome–Let’s Get To The Green New Deal

The Green New Deal is a set of goals, not a road map. Not yet. Not in 2019.

green grass near trees
Photo by Luis Dalvan on Pexels.com

It is our intention to show how to get as close as possible to fulfilling the aspirations of those hoping to reduce or eliminate our contributions to climate change.

It is also our hope to outline what individuals, communities, organizations and countries can do to help. It may be our small conceit to have one tip in every blog post.

Although the Green New Deal was launched as an American initiative, human contributions to climate change are of course global. We will try and talk to both the American situation and the global condition.

Read More