Opinion | A Case for a Market-Driven Green New Deal – The New York Times

By Amory B. Lovins and Rushad R. Nanavatty
Mr. Lovins and Mr. Nanavatty work at Rocky Mountain Institute, which is focused on creating a clean, low-carbon energy future.

April 18, 2019

A wind farm in Pomeroy, Iowa.
Credit
Jim Watson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“The best thing to come from the Senate’s floor debate on the Green New Deal late last month may have been these eminently sane remarks, calling on lawmakers of both parties to “move together” in order “to lower emissions, to address the reality of climate change, recognizing that we’ve got an economy we need to keep strong, that we have vulnerable people we need to protect, that we have an environment that we all care about — Republicans and Democrats.”

Who said it? A Republican, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who leads the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “My hope is we get beyond the high-fired rhetoric to practical, pragmatic, bipartisan solutions,” she said on the chamber floor.

The path is there, if our leaders will only choose to take it. In 2011, Reinventing Fire, an energy study by Rocky Mountain Institute, where we work, showed how a business-led transition could triple energy efficiency, quintuple renewables and sustain an American economy 2.6 times larger in 2050 than it was in 2010 with no oil, coal or nuclear energy, and one-third less natural gas. The net cost was $5 trillion less than business-as-usual — or even more valuable if a price was put on carbon emissions.

Any serious energy transformation effort — whether the Green New Deal or “pragmatic, bipartisan solutions” called for by Senator Murkowski — will need to harness America’s immensely powerful and creative economic engine, not dismantle it. This means unleashing the market in sectors where we already know how to profitably reduce emissions (electricity, transportation, buildings), creating markets for solutions in areas where there aren’t yet enough answers (heavy industry, agriculture) and fixing market failures (unpriced carbon, for instance, or rewarding utilities for selling more electricity rather than cutting your bill).

Here’s how:

First, we should let competition and flexibility rule our electricity system. Abundant market data show that a renewably powered future would cost less than our current system. Electricity providers have gotten the memo, even if Washington hasn’t. To save their customers money, utilities in Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Colorado and Utah are phasing out old coal and nuclear plants and replacing them with wind and solar. Clean energy portfolios — including affordable battery storage and other flexible resources — are starting to displace natural gas in California and New York.

Concerns about round-the-clock availability of electricity from a highly renewable grid, a common fear, are mostly misplaced. The Department of Energy has assessed that renewables “that are commercially available today,” combined with a more flexible electric grid, can reliably supply up to 80 percent of our electricity in 2050 (and these technologies are advancing every year). Four European countries with modest or no hydropower get from 46 percent to 71 percent of their electricity from renewables, with grids more reliable than those in the United States.

In America, Iowa and Texas are leading the way on wind. Over 35 percent of Iowa’s electricity is wind-generated. This has provided a second source of income to farmers whose lands host turbines and given Iowans among the lowest power prices in the nation. Over all, the estimated $476 billion needed to build a flexible grid that integrates renewables would yield $2 trillion in saved energy and reliability benefits.

Second, correcting our biggest market failure by putting a price on carbon by taxing it and then rebating the revenues equally to all citizens would be “the most cost-effective lever to reduce carbon emissions at the necessary scale and speed,” according to a recent statement signed by more than 3,500 economists, including 27 Nobel laureates. Combining carbon pricing with border tax adjustments and rebates for citizens would ensure we didn’t export our emissions or hurt working-class Americans. Clearer price signals could drive cheaper and cleaner practices if we eliminated market barriers that are obstacles to efficiency and clean energy.

For sectors with fewer market-ready substitutes and less sensitivity to fuel prices, like industry and agriculture, we need other approaches. Hence our third point:

We need to take advantage of the world’s most successful research and development organization — the federal government — to solve our remaining technology challenges. Government R&D helped develop the internet, the Global Positioning System, fracking, many vital drugs and, more recently, breakthrough battery technologies. The government now needs to apply its early-stage investment muscle, in concert with private enterprise, to cutting greenhouse gas emissions in these harder-to-abate sectors.

Failures should outnumber successes, as in any sound early-stage investment portfolio. But just a handful of big wins can deliver potentially incalculable value to our economy and planet. Which brings us to our final point.

We should base investment decisions on net value, not cost alone.

Green New Deal critics often look at only one side of the accounting ledger. A columnist for The Wall Street Journal, for example, recently pointed to the $400 billion estimated cost of retrofitting American buildings without mentioning the $1.4 trillion net value (retrofit costs minus saved energy costs) of doing so.

Much of this value can accrue to working Americans who need it most. Nationally, the average energy burden for low-income families is three times greater than for the rest of the country. Low-income families tend to rely more on expensive heating fuels, and have older, less efficient furnaces, appliances and homes. They are likelier to get sick from living near fossil fuel production. Consequently, they can benefit the most from lower-cost renewable energy, phasing out fossil fuels and improved buildings.”

Opinion | Trump Mocks Climate Change. That’s a Key to Defeating Him. – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

By Thomas L. Friedman
Opinion Columnist

April 9, 2019, 902
Image
A wind farm near Glenrock, Wyo.CreditCreditDamon Winter/The New York Times

“Here’s some news you may have missed. Southeastern Africa got hit in March with a cyclone that United Nations officials say was one of the worst weather disasters to ever strike the Southern Hemisphere. “Ever” is a long time.

The storm swept through Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, killing hundreds. My friend Greg Carr, who runs the Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique, told me that the lions, elephants and zebras sensed the storm coming and moved to higher ground to avoid the flooding. Among the people and birds that survived, many of the former lost their homes and the latter their nests and eggs.

Image  Beira, the fourth-largest city in Mozambique, was devastated last month by Cyclone Idai.CreditMike Hutchings/Reuters
While this historic weather disaster was unfolding, President Trump was urging Republicans not to kill the Democrats’ Green New Deal proposal — not because Trump wants to work with it, but because he wants to run against it in 2020.”

The Problem With Putting a Price on the End of the World – by David Leonhardt – The New York Times

“But the downsides of performance standards are often exaggerated. Most Americans are surely happy to pay a small amount more for their homes, for instance, if their children no longer have to ingest lead paint. And the initial skepticism about California’s plan appears to have been misplaced. Critics predicted that the state wouldn’t be able to meet its goal without hurting its economy. They were wrong: The state met its goal four years early, by 2016. The costs to consumers were modest and hard to notice. John Podesta told me he considered California’s approach a model for future federal action.

The key political advantage is that performance standards focus voters on the end goal, rather than on the technocratic mechanism for achieving it. Carbon pricing puts attention on the mechanism, be it a dreaded tax or a byzantine cap-and-trade system. Mechanisms don’t inspire people. Mechanisms are easy to caricature as big-government bureaucracy. Think about the debate over Obamacare: When the focus was on mechanisms — insurance mandates, insurance exchanges and the like — the law was not popular. When the focus shifted to basic principles — Do sick people deserve health insurance? — the law became much more so.”

Inside the Race to Build the Burger of the Future – by Michael Grunwald – POLITICO Magazine


Michael Grunwald is a senior staff writer for Politico Magazine.

“Politicians often rally their supporters with partisan red meat, but these days Republicans are using actual red meat. They’re accusing Democrats of a plot to ban beef, trying to rebrand the Green New Deal for climate action as a nanny-state assault on the American diet. At Thursday’s rally in Michigan, President Donald Trump portrayed a green dystopia with “no more cows.” In a recent Washington speech, former Trump aide Sebastian Gorka warned conservatives that leftists are coming for their hamburgers: “This is what Stalin dreamt about, but never achieved!” Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) actually ate a burger during a press conference on Capitol Hill, an activity he claimed would be illegal under a Green New Deal.

In reality, nobody’s banning beef. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the driving force behind the Green New Deal, really did suggest that “maybe we shouldn’t be eating a hamburger for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” and her office did release (and then retract) a fact sheet implying a desire to “get rid of farting cows.” A lot of environmental activists really do target red meat, and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) , a vegan who hopes to replace Trump, really did recently observe that “this planet simply can’t sustain billions of people consuming industrially produced animal agriculture.” But the actual Green New Deal resolution calls only for dramatic reductions of greenhouse-gas emissions from agriculture. It says nothing about seizing steaks, and no Democrats are pushing to confiscate cows regardless of their tailpipe emissions.

Source: Inside the Race to Build the Burger of the Future – POLITICO Magazine

Opinion | People Actually Like the Green New Deal – The New York Times

By Sean McElwee
Mr. McElwee is one of the founders of Data for Progress.

March 27, 2019, 359

Image Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaking at a press conference about the Green New Deal, as Senator Ed Markey looks on.CreditCreditPete Marovich for The New York Times

“Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, brought the Green New Deal to a vote in the Senate on Tuesday. He defeated consideration of the plan 57-0, winning over three Democratic senators and one independent who caucuses with the Democrats. The rest of the Democratic caucus voted “present,” in an attempt to confound Mr. McConnell’s strategy, which was to tie down the Democratic Party to an ambitious proposal from its progressive wing. In his mind, this would clearly hurt the Democrats.

President Trump thinks so too. “You look at this Green New Deal — it’s the most preposterous thing,” he told Fox Business last week “Now I don’t want to knock it too much right now because I really hope they keep going forward with it, frankly, because I think it’s going to be very easy to beat.”

But is the Green New Deal really that toxic? My research suggests it’s not.

To begin with, the idea of a Green New Deal did not come out of nowhere. For the past several years, environmental, labor and racial justice organizations have been working toward a new framework for climate policies aimed at ensuring that these policies address the needs of front-line communities, while ensuring that workers in fossil fuel industries still have economic opportunities. In Buffalo, local groups organized to keep the closure of a fossil fuel plant from harming the local economy. In California, groups pushed through SB 535, which dedicates funding from the state’s cap-and-trade program to low-income communities disproportionately affected by climate change. In New York, the Climate and Community Protection Act, a law that mandates emissions reductions and investments in affected communities is the product of a multiyear effort. These achievements all predate the Green New Deal, but they are rooted in a similar goal: to fight for clean air, clean water, decarbonization, racial justice and good jobs at the same time.”

Opinion | Carbon Taxes Are the Original Green New Deal – by Steven Rattner – The New York Times

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | Pending Approval
Steven Rattner writes, “Why are so many economists, even conservative ones, in favor of a massive new tax? Because markets do not always price in “externalities” like pollution. In addition to cutting consumption, raising the price of carbon would arguably do more to encourage development of alternative power sources than all the massive new government spending programs that advocates of the Green New Deal envision.” Thank you Steve Rattner, for your clarity and wisdom. I hope Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and every democrat running for president studies this. The intelligence of this approach, is that the GOP should and will support it with the right leadership, since it is the proper conservative approach. Rattner doesn’t mention that more will be needed, he is selling something that could get both parties in congress together in the near future. We need to get this all in place, and then review if 5% increases every year will get us to where we want to go. This is a first important step to take to shift the American economy into a sustainable future, and it already has bipartisan support.
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Rattner also writes, “Fortunately, there is a better way to address the climate problem at far lower cost to the economy: a tax on greenhouse gas emissions. That can be imposed in any number of ways. The 18.4 cent federal gasoline tax, for example, hasn’t been increased since 1993 even as most other developed countries impose far higher levies.

A particularly thoughtful proposal has come from the Climate Leadership Council, a bipartisan organization that counts more than 3,300 economists among its signatories. Elegant in its simplicity, the key provision would be the imposition of an escalating tax on carbon. At an initial rate of $43 per ton, the levy would be roughly equivalent to 38.2 cents per gallon of gasoline.

To prevent polluters from fleeing overseas, the tax would be imposed on imports from countries lacking a similar provision while exports to those countries would not be taxed. While difficult to implement, that component is important to work out.”

Opinion | Forget Trump’s Border Wall. Let’s Build F.D.R.’s International Park. – By Dan W. Reicher – The New York Times

By Dan W. Reicher
Mr. Reicher was a member of the first reported expedition to navigate the 1,800-mile-plus Rio Grande.

March 14, 2019

Image Big Bend National Park, on the border of Texas and Mexico. There has long been interest in creating an international park in the area.
Credit David Hensley/Moment, via Getty Images

“Big Bend National Park, on the border of Texas and Mexico. There has long been interest in creating an international park in the area.CreditCreditDavid Hensley/Moment, via Getty Images
Nearly 75 years ago, an American president was eyeing a grand project along our southern border, not to divide the United States and Mexico but to bring the two nations together. On June 12, 1944, a week after D-Day, President Franklin Roosevelt signed legislation establishing Big Bend National Park, almost a million acres along the Rio Grande in West Texas.

He followed up with a grand challenge to President Manuel Ávila Camacho of Mexico: “I do not believe that this undertaking in the Big Bend will be complete until the entire park area in this region on both sides of the Rio Grande forms one great international park.” Mr. Camacho agreed.

Still, the building of a great international park along our southern border, rather than a grim medieval wall, remains an elusive goal. But if there ever was a moment for it, this is it, and particularly in a place where time and the flowing river have already carved truly great walls along thousand-foot-deep canyons.

There was a compelling precedent for President Roosevelt’s idea. In 1932, the United States and Canada joined Glacier National Park and Waterton Lakes National Park to form the world’s first international peace park, an important example globally of cross-border collaboration. Following this lead, in 1936 the United States and Mexico established a commission to begin work on Big Bend International Park.”

Tesla Swerves on Strategy- Trailed by Growing Doubts – The New York Times

By Neal E. Boudette
March 6, 2019, 313
“Tesla’s sleek stores embodied its green vision for upending the transportation and energy business: a one-stop shop for electric cars, solar panels and battery storage. Less than three months ago, the company announced 11 new store locations across the country.

Now Tesla is in retreat, shuttering most of its stores in a bid to cut costs. The move signaled the broader vulnerabilities of an upstart that for a time was the most highly valued American car company.

A spate of price cuts in the United States points to a slowdown in sales, and the company says it is currently making cars for Europe and China only. But plans to bring the company’s mass-market car, the Model 3, to overseas buyers have been hamstrung by logistical challenges.

A long-promised $35,000 version of the Model 3 is finally being offered, but the price will test the company’s profitability. Tesla now expects a loss in the first quarter, rattling investors’ faith in the company and its enigmatic founder, Elon Musk. In recent days, its shares have tumbled more than 13 percent.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | Pending Approval NYT

Opinion | The Green New Deal Is What Realistic Environmental Policy Looks Like – By Jedediah Britton-Purdy – The New York Times

By Jedediah Britton-Purdy
Mr. Britton-Purdy is the author, most recently, of “After Nature: A Politics for the Anthropocene.”

Feb. 14, 2019

Image
Supporters of a Green New Deal gathered late last year in Washington.CreditCreditJim Lo Scalzo/European Pressphoto Agency, via Shutterstock

“Everyone is lining up to endorse the Green New Deal — or to mock it. Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand have all endorsed the resolution sponsored by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts.

Conservative critics predictably call it “a shocking document” and “a call for enviro-socialism in America,” but liberal condescension has cut deeper. The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, essentially dismissed it as branding, saying, “The green dream, or whatever they call it, nobody knows what it is, but they’re for it, right?” Others have criticized it for leaving out any mention of a carbon tax, a cornerstone of mainstream climate-policy proposals, while embracing a left-populist agenda that includes universal health care, stronger labor rights and a jobs guarantee.

What do these goals have to do with stabilizing atmospheric carbon levels before climate change makes large parts of the world uninhabitable? What has taken liberal critics aback is that the Green New Deal strays so far from the traditional environmental emphasis on controlling pollution, which the carbon tax aims to do, and tries to solve the problems of economic inequality, poverty and even corporate concentration (there’s an antimonopoly clause).

But this everything-and-the-carbon-sink strategy is actually a feature of the approach, not a bug, and not only for reasons of ideological branding. In the 21st century, environmental policy is economic policy. Keeping the two separate isn’t a feat of intellectual discipline. It’s an anachronism.

Our carbon emissions are not mainly about the price of gasoline or electricity. They’re about infrastructure. For every human being, there are over 1,000 tons of built environment: roads, office buildings, power plants, cars and trains and long-haul trucks. It is a technological exoskeleton for the species. Everything most of us do, we do through it: calling our parents, getting to work, moving for a job, taking the family on vacation, finding food for the evening or staying warm in a polar vortex. Just being human in this artificial world implies a definite carbon footprint — and for that matter, a trail of footprints in water use, soil compaction, habitat degradation and pesticide use. You cannot change the climate impact of Americans without changing the built American landscape.”

Opinion | An Energy Wish List for Congress – By Justin Gillis and Hal Harvey – The New York Times

By Justin Gillis and Hal Harvey
Mr. Gillis and Mr. Harvey are writing a book on how to speed up the clean-energy transition.

Feb. 5, 2019

“Amid the disarray in Washington, here is a ray of hope: It seems possible that Congress could pass energy legislation this year with the support of both parties. It would not be the sweeping measure to tackle climate change that is really needed, but there is at least a chance of getting a bill that does more good than harm for the climate and the country.

The point person on this effort will be Lisa Murkowski, the maverick Republican from Alaska who heads the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. She has a history of working with Democrats on energy legislation, and got 85 Senate votes for passage of a major energy bill in 2016, only to see it bog down in negotiations with a House then also led by Republicans.

Newly installed as leader of the Democrats on her committee is Joe Manchin, of West Virginia. Both senators are beholden to fossil-fuel interests, and it is inevitable that any bill they draft will seek to include provisions sought by that powerful lobby. But Ms. Murkowski has seen the effects of climate change firsthand in Alaska, and takes the problem seriously. Mr. Manchin declared the other day, “We want clean water; we want clean air; we want to have an economy that works in balance with the environment, we really do.”

In the House, newly empowered Democrats are eager to tackle climate change, but as long as Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, controls the Senate calendar, getting a sweeping climate bill through that body will be impossible. So, even as Democrats work to take control of the Senate in the 2020 election, they ought to engage with Ms. Murkowski to try to get a reasonable measure out of Congress — and to keep it focused on clean energy.”