Saturday, June 30, 2018

What’s the ‘Green New Deal’?  The Surprising Origins Behind a Progressive Rallying Cry.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez campaign poster (Credit: Scott Heins / Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Defining a ‘Green New Deal’
From the beginning, there were competing definitions of what “Green New Deal” meant.

[Thomas] Friedman’s version focused on policies that compelled the “big players to do the right thing for the wrong reasons.”  He liked a lot of what Obama enacted — including $51 billion in “green stimulus” and a $2.3 billion tax credit to clean energy manufacturing — even after the administration shelved the Green New Deal rhetoric after the midterm election.

Sure, big-ticket policies like a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system and sunseting the $20 billion in subsidies to oil, gas, and coal each year never came to fruition.  Even the regulations the administration did achieve — like tightening fuel economy standards and incentivizing utilities to produce more renewable energy — disintegrated as soon as the Trump administration took over.

Subsidies for wind, solar, and battery technology managed to survive proposed cuts in the tax bill Congress passed last year because Republicans in states that have come to rely on those burgeoning industries saved them.  For Friedman that is proof that lasting climate policies are ones that make private renewable energy companies powerful enough to sway politics.

“The more the market does on its own, the more sustainable it is,” he said.  Even as the Trump administration dismantles Obama’s climate legacy, Friedman feels the battle shouldn’t be for more aggressive government intervention to wean the economy off fossil fuels, but on messaging that focuses on the patriotic, nation-building aspects of greening the economy.

“We are the true patriots on this,” said Friedman.  “We’re talking about American economic power, American moral power, American geopolitical power.  Green is geostrategic, geoeconomic, patriotic, capitalistic.”
Revival of an idea
Talk of a Green New Deal went quiet for years in the U.S. and Britain.  But a new wave of progressive candidates, spurred by the organizing that went into Senator Bernie Sanders’ 2016 Democratic presidential bid, began reviving the term in the past year.

It could be a winning strategy.  Polls show that Americans overwhelmingly support efforts to reduce climate pollution and increase renewable energy capacity, even if it comes with a cost. Sixty-one percent of Americans who voted for Obama in 2012 and then for Trump in 2016 supported requiring a minimum amount of renewable fuels even if it increased electricity prices, according to Cooperative Congressional Election Study’s 2016 survey results analyzed for HuffPost by Data for Progress, a left-leaning think tank.  That increased to 76 percent among voters who picked Obama in 2012 but sat out the 2016 race, and it surged to 85 percent among those who voted for both Obama and, in 2016, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

The data showed similar support for strengthening enforcement of the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, even if it cost U.S. jobs.  Fifty percent of Obama-Trump voters said they would support such regulations, increasing to 77 percent among voters who picked Obama then sat out the 2016 election, and 83 percent for Obama-and-Clinton voters.

Some have called for federal spending plans similar to the World War II economic mobilization to bolster renewable energy and rebuild roads and bridges to make them more resilient in extreme weather.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic Socialists of America-backed challenger who trounced Democratic Representative Joe Crowley Tuesday night in a working-class Bronx and Queens district in New York City, outlined a similar vision.  She called the Green New Deal proposed in Obama’s 2008 platform a “half measure” that “will not work.”

“The Green New Deal we are proposing will be similar in scale to the mobilization efforts seen in World War II or the Marshall Plan,” she said by email.  “It will require the investment of trillions of dollars and the creation of millions of high-wage jobs.  We must again invest in the development, manufacturing, deployment, and distribution of energy but this time green energy.”

Read more at What’s the ‘Green New Deal’?  The Surprising Origins Behind a Progressive Rallying Cry.

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