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The recent Green New Deal put forth by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was quite the list. Rebuilding and retrofitting buildings, phasing out air travel, guaranteed jobs; there were lots of far-reaching and sweeping proposals. Of course, the pushback was immediate, from many quarters. JHK had a sober critique of socialism that was put up yesterday that brought up the energy/entropy issue, and that WW2 style programs won’t be saving the day.
We can appreciate the promise and possibility of new ideas and bold proposals, but shouldn’t a reasonable fifth grader be on staff to ask simple questions like “who will pay for all this stuff?”, or more importantly “Is this even scientifically or logistically possible?” It is curious why the plan, with all its pie-in-the-sky ideas, only lightly touched on some of the more reasonable courses of action (like a carbon tax), which seems a natural fit for figuring out how to actually pay for things and reduce carbon emissions. If you want to reduce the amount of carbon being pumped into the atmosphere, a carbon tax is probably the simplest and most equitable way to do that. It would need coordination by all national governments, which would be tricky (an understatement, of course), but the concept doesn’t force any one particular solution as a silver bullet to our current predicament. The good thing about a carbon tax is that actually might help people at the bottom of the economic ladder, and could be considered a type of Universal Basic Income (not that this is a good or bad thing, just pointing out that it could be a funding model that could actually work).
The idea of becoming an entirely 100% renewable and green economy sounds great, but to do this in a ten year time frame is wildly optimistic. The Hirsch Report was written regarding the issue of Peak Oil, but the time frame of moving off of fossil fuels was more in the 20-30 year range, not ten. A cursory inspection of the nation that had a New Deal, cranked out lots of aircraft and munitions for WW2, and put men on the moon finds that the “secret sauce” of those achievements was cheap and abundant domestic energy which we don’t have any more. Economically, the amount of resources put into the war effort was substantial. As far as the creation of the middle class, this was done after the war, when nobody was left standing (industrially) except the United States.
It’s been noted before, but well worth noting again – for a reality-based look at renewable energy, and what it can do (and can’t do), check out Sustainable Energy Without The Hot Air. Pass this on to everyone you know who talks/handwaves about this stuff, because it easily boils things down to numbers, and is written in a fashion that makes it easy to see if these ideas are reasonable. Yes, some of the best solutions from that book are the same in the proposal by AOC and crew; electrifying transport (going to trains/trolleys); solar thermal and heat pumps (not ripping down buildings, but replacing their heating/cooling sources), but these are based on sound engineering principles, not on wishes (or wishful technology).
- If anyone recalls – the US stopped producing domestic autos for the duration of WW2 – could something as drastic happen again?
- Given the size of the US budget, and what it is spent on, what would be cut from the current budget?