Parsing The 35 Page, $16 Trillion Green New Deal From Bernie Sanders

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Let’s face it. CleanTechnica is never going to be able to do a better job of explaining Bernie Sanders’ $16 trillion Green New Deal proposal than the Senator and his policy team have already done. We have provided a link to the 35-page document so you can find it easily. Suffice it to say we will attempt to hit the highlights here in hopes that our readers will be motivated to read it for themselves and discuss it in the comments section.

Sanders Green New Deal
Credit: Sanders For President

The Sanders position paper is partly a reprise of the New Deal Franklin Delano Roosevelt used to help pull the nation out of The Depression and partly a call for concerted national action similar to the Apollo program championed by John F. Kennedy.

$16 Trillion Is A Lot Of Money

Will it be expensive? Yes it will. The plan is projected to cost $16 trillion over the next 15 years. But Sanders says it will pay for itself by slashing the subsidies currently paid to fossil fuel companies, requiring those same companies to pay for the damage done by their products, and payroll taxes generated by adding 20 million new workers to the economy.

A new study by economists at the University of Cambridge suggests that the effects of climate change will have a negative impact on the economies of all the world’s nations. Dr. Kamiar Mohaddes, a co-author of the study and professor of economics at Cambridge, says, “Whether cold snaps or heat waves, droughts, floods or natural disasters, all deviations of climate conditions from their historical norms have adverse economic effects. Without mitigation and adaptation policies, many countries are likely to experience sustained temperature increases relative to historical norms and suffer major income losses as a result. This holds for both rich and poor countries as well as hot and cold regions.”

The study suggests the US could lose 7% of its GDP by 2100 if a “business as usual” approach is taken.

In 2018, US GDP stood at $20.5 trillion. Assuming a modest 2% gain in GDP per year, in 15 years GDP should  be around $26 trillion. 7% of that is $1.8 trillion. So its not like doing nothing will cost nothing. Assuming an average loss in GDP of $1.5 trillion for 15 years, the US economy will suffer a decrease in GDP of more than $22 trillion between now and 2035 because of climate change. Perhaps Sanders is correct when he says his plan will pay for itself.

Criminal & Civil Penalties For Fossil Fuel Companies & Their Leaders

One glaring omission from the Sanders plan is a call for a carbon adjustment fee, often referred to incorrectly as a carbon tax. 5 years ago, Sanders called such a fee “the most straightforward and efficient strategy for quickly reducing greenhouse gas emissions” but Robert Hockett, a law professor at Cornell who has advised Mr. Sanders on climate change policy, tells the New York Times the country now needs more than just a carbon tax. It needs a vast overhaul of infrastructure and manufacturing. He said Mr. Sanders’ plan and its price tag reflected that need. “You’ll see Bernie setting the pace. He’ll be the one who is always prepared to go the furthest,” Hockett says.

Sanders may not be proposing a carbon tax, but he is clearly planning to inflict pain on polluters. The results may be similar to what a carbon tax would accomplish. His words should be music to the ears of many CleanTechnica readers. Give a listen.

“For decades, fossil fuel corporations knowingly destroyed our planet for short-term profits. The fossil fuel industry has known since as early as the 1970s that their products were contributing to climate change and that climate change is real, dangerous, and preventable. Yet, they kept going.

“Instead of working to find solutions to the coming crisis, the fossil fuel industry poured billions into funding climate denialism, hiring lobbyists to fight even the slightest government regulation and oversight, and contributing to politicians who would put the interests of fossil fuel executives over the safety and security of the planet.

“”Fossil fuel corporations have fought to escape liability for the pollution and destruction caused by their greed. They have evaded taxes, desecrated tribal lands, exploited workers and poisoned communities. Bernie believes this is criminal activity, and, when he is President, he will hold the fossil fuel industry accountable.

“Transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy cannot be done without standing up to fossil fuel corporations. Bernie will make fossil fuel corporations pay for the irreparable damage they have done to our communities and our planet, and he will ensure that all fossil fuel workers affected by the transition are entitled to new jobs, health care, pensions, and wage support. He will not allow fossil fuel executives to reap massive profits while endangering the future of humanity.

“He will not leave it to the market to determine the fate of the planet. The science is clear on what is necessary. As president, Bernie will take immediate action to end the fossil fuel industry’s greed once and for all.”

100% Renewable By 2030, Zero Emissions By 2050

The Sanders Green New Deal calls for all electricity in the United States to come from renewable sources by 2030 — just a short decade away. Getting there “will not rely on any false solutions like nuclear, geoengineering, carbon capture and sequestration, or trash incinerators.” Here are the key elements of the 100% renewable energy pledge.

“Build enough renewable energy generation capacity for the nation’s growing needs. Currently, four federal Power Marketing Administrations and the Tennessee Valley Authority generate and transmit power to distribution utilities in 33 states.We will create one more PMA to cover the remaining states and territories and expand the existing PMAs to build more than enough wind, solar, energy storage and geothermal power plants.

“We will spend $1.52 trillion on renewable energy and $852 billion to build energy storage capacity. Together, with an EPA federal renewable energy standard, this will fully drive out non-sustainable generation sources.

“We will end greed in our energy system. The renewable energy generated by the Green New Deal will be publicly owned, managed by the Federal Power Marketing Administrations, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Tennessee Valley Authority and sold to distribution utilities with a preference for public power districts, municipally- and cooperatively-owned utilities with democratic, public ownership, and other existing utilities that demonstrate a commitment to the public interest.

“The Department of Energy will provide technical assistance to states and municipalities that would like to establish publicly owned distribution utilities or community choice aggregation programs in their communities. Electricity will be sold at current rates to keep the cost of electricity stable during this transition.

“Build a modern smart grid. A smart grid means a resilient, secure, and intelligent electric grid system that is capable of managing high amounts of renewable energy, charging electric vehicles quickly, and maximizing efficiency. We will spend $526 billion on a modern, high-volt, underground, renewable, direct current, smart, electric transmission and distribution grid will ensure our transition to 100 percent sustainable energy is safe and smooth.”

Social Justice

The Sanders plan includes multiple provisions meant to insure all Americans — especially black and brown people, women, and Native Americans — are included in the decarbonization process. From job training opportunities to access to EV incentives, being the democratic socialist he is, Sanders intends to include all Americans in the program.

Social justice aspects of the Green New Deal proposed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Edward Markey riled many conservatives precisely because of such provisions. Bernie has embraced them and made then part of the core of his proposals.

Decarbonizing Transportation & Upgrading Structures

In addition to support for electric cars and charging infrastructure, Sanders pledges to eliminate diesel powered trucks, clean up emissions from the airline and ocean shipping sectors, eliminate transporting school children in diesel power school buses, and covert construction vehicles to zero emissions.

In addition, he proposes a massive effort to make existing residential and commercial buildings more energy efficient. Converting heating systems to electricity is also included in his plan.

Policies Are Easy, Politics Is Hard

Is any of this politically possible? Certainly detractors are going to scream about big government and the fossil fuel industry will fight back with every ounce of determination it can muster. Dave Roberts, senior writer for Vox whose Twitter handle is Dr. Vox, sums up the politics involved this way:

“Here’s the only way any of this works: You develop a vision of politics that puts ordinary people at the center and gives them a tangible stake in the country’s future, a share in its enormous wealth, and a role to play in its greater purpose. Then organize people around that vision and demand it from elected representatives. If elected representatives don’t push for it, make sure they get primaried or defeated. If you want bipartisanship, get it because politicians in purple districts and states are scared to cross you, not because you led them to the sweet light of reason.”

But it’s going to be an uphill battle. A Yale University poll finds 93% of Democratic voters favor bold action on climate change, yet it is only ranked as the 17th most important issue by voters in general. Even among liberal Democrats, it’s ranked as only the 3rd most important issue. Moderate and conservative Democrats place it 8th on the list of things they are concerned about.

Jay Inslee, governor of Washington, dropped out of the presidential race this week. He had made climate change the central focus of his campaign but failed to gain enough traction with voters to keep his campaign hopes alive. That may not be good news for the Sanders candidacy.

But Sanders gives full-throated support to his plan even if it is not politically popular. “President Trump thinks that climate change is a hoax. President Trump is dangerously, dangerously wrong. Climate change is an existential threat to the entire country and the entire world and we must be extraordinarily aggressive,” Sanders says. “I have seven grandchildren, and I’m going to be damned if I’m going to leave them a planet that is unhealthy and uninhabitable.”

Is Bernie whistling in the dark or is he on to something here that will energize voters as the election nears? “We’ll see,” said the Zen master. Please let us know in the comments how you feel about the Sanders Green New Deal. All we ask is that you read his proposal first. Thanks.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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