Why ‘Green New Deal’ Has Washington in Such a Lather


President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal created a sprawling range of public-works programs to address the Great Depression. Eighty years later, some present-day members of his party say a program no less grand in scope is needed to address a new crisis — the existential threat of global warming. A band of self-described progressiveDemocrats energized by the party’s successes in last year’s midterm elections have unveiled a wish list of government actions they’ve packaged as the “Green New Deal.” It’s long on ambition but short on details.

1. What is meant by ‘Green New Deal’?

The term has kicked around for more than a decade among advocates of a concerted government effort to turn environmentalism into an economic engine. Thomas L. Friedman of the New York Times, in a 2007 column, called for “a Green New Deal — one in which government’s role is not funding projects, as in the original New Deal, but seeding basic research, providing loan guarantees where needed and setting standards, taxes and incentives that will spawn 1,000 G.E. Transportations for all kinds of clean power.” In its most recent incarnation, Green New Deal is the name adopted by Democrats led by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts in a bid to dramatically shift the U.S. away from fossil fuels and other sources of the emissions that cause global warming.

2. What would it do?

The group’s manifesto, in the form of a non-binding resolution offered in both chambers of the U.S. Congress, calls for a “10-year national mobilization” to shift the nation to 100 percent “clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources” — a highly ambitious goal, given that fossil fuels (petroleum, natural gas and coal) accounted for 80 percent of U.S. energy consumption in 2017. Weaving together what had been a hodgepodge of progressive proposals and aspirations, the plan calls for upgrading “all existing buildings” for maximum energy efficiency and removing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions “as much as is technologically feasible” from manufacturing, agriculture and transportation. For good measure, the program calls for steps to expand educational opportunities, increase “high-quality union jobs” and provide health care and housing for all Americans — a progressive wish list not directly connected to renewable energy.

Image result for U.S. Energy Information Administration; graphic by Bloomberg QuickTake

3. How would the plan accomplish all that?

Answers to that question, and how much it would cost, are largely absent for now. Green New Deal proponents say their immediate goal is to change the debate about the climate, to inject a greater sense of urgency and ambition. What’s been put down on paper is akin to a “request for proposals,” Ocasio-Cortez explained on Twitter. “We’ve defined the scope and where we want to go. Now let’s assess + collab on projects,” she wrote. MORE


The Green New Deal Can Work – Here’s How

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