It's Time for a Green Real Deal
I wish climate change wasn’t real. A melting Arctic creates a more permissive environment for Russia and China to seize territory. Mass migrations of climate refugees erode borders and nations, creating a global playground for terrorists and traffickers. My Florida neighbors are still rebuilding their lives after devastating hurricanes.
The reality of climate change is a stupid thing to argue about. How we respond, however, hasn’t been afforded enough debate.
Congress’ most famous (and most powerful) new member has drafted a Green New Deal. It’s not an action plan — it’s the scope of what she believes Washington should control. Goodbye to cars, cows, airplanes, and buildings. Hello $93 trillion in new spending — excessive, considering our nation already runs trillion-dollar annual deficits against a $21 trillion national debt.
The GND embraces regulation as its organizing principle, but America’s regulations are far less sought-after than our innovations and expertise. More regulations mean we will export pollution-causing jobs overseas, without reducing pollution. The GND would destroy America’s economy, without reducing global emissions.
Despite this, the GND shouldn’t scare anyone, because it will never happen. In the Senate, even the GND’s own sponsors couldn’t bring themselves to vote yes on it.
What America needs is a Green Real Deal — a strategy linked to legislative proposals that can gain broad, bipartisan support. Climate change is too big for one political party to solve alone. We must address it as a nation, rather than lecture from the ivory towers of our own piety.
Let’s start by modernizing our electric grid. The American Society of Civil Engineers graded our grid D+. Today’s grid cannot accommodate fluctuation in capacity, utilization, and availability of our existing renewable portfolio — much less an expanded use of renewables. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory argues that today’s renewable energy technology, coupled with upgraded grid technology, could result in renewable energy meeting 80 percent of America’s energy needs by 2050.
To unlock the potential of American innovation, grid upgrades will facilitate “net metering,” which allows property owners, shopping centers, hospitals, and schools to sell energy they create back to the grid. This creates incentives for corporations to maximize renewable energy production and allows homeowners to lower or eliminate their energy costs by embracing renewable energy.
The grid isn’t the only platform ripe for innovation. The federal government owns 640 million acres of land. Reps. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and Raul Grijalva (D-N.M.) have both drafted legislations to harvest more renewable energy on public lands. It’s a bipartisan no-brainer.
The GND assumes that investment in clean energy demands more government. But here, less government is the answer. Today’s cheapest, cleanest energy comes from hydropower. A pro-hydro agenda should cut the maze of red tape. More hydropower means lower costs for consumers, while reducing carbon emissions.
Legacy government-control doctrine also constrains zero-emissions nuclear innovation, particularly where it can replace dirty coal. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission favors big, expensive light-water reactors that cost billions. The NRC won’t fairly consider smaller, reliable modular reactors built at a fraction of the cost, limiting the availability of nuclear power to disadvantaged and rural communities lacking a robust payer base. A more libertarian, technologically inclusive policy would democratize nuclear use, reduce carbon emissions, and allow American companies to capture the global modular-nuclear market.
The GRD rejects the fiction that Washington alone can solve problems. States should be encouraged to create tax incentives for energy production and efficiency upgrades, as Florida has. By supporting individual responsibility over government control, every American can be rewarded when the carbon footprint shrinks.
America’s solar technology once led the world. Not anymore. China stole American intellectual property, replicated our products, and undercut American solar companies. President Trump’s tariffs against Chinese solar panels were a good start, but we must become more aggressive in defense of American innovators.
Americans always rise to the challenge when we empower individuals and deconstruct the limitations on our potential. Climate change is real. A response doesn’t demand subjugating our lives to expansive government control. It requires a Green Real Deal.