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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 8/25/19

Bernie Sanders' Manhattan Project: The Game-Changing Green New Deal

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Sen. Bernie Sanders' breathtaking Green New Deal, with an advertised price tag of $16.3 trillion, is aimed at nothing less than saving the planet from the worst consequences of global heating.

The plan aims to create 20 million new, well-paying jobs. It should be noted that one possible outcome of big Federal R&D monies and a rapid shift to renewables would be to revivify the US industrial sector, which has fallen to only 12 percent or so of the US GDP. Although the price tag seems formidable, Sen. Sanders points out that climate inaction will cost $34 trillion (I would add, at the very least) by 2100.

Yuval Rosenberg at the Fiscal Times quotes the response of the centrist Third Way think tank, which appears to represent mainly investment bankers, as criticizing Sanders' plan on a number of points. They lament that he sidelines nuclear energy and carbon capture, and that his goal of getting rid of gasoline vehicles by 2030 is not realistic. If you reason back from these positions, what is being said is that moving quickly off coal, oil and gas is undesirable. Who would say that? Big coal, big oil and big gas, the profits of which are beloved of investment bankers. Likewise, big nuclear.

So let me explain why the critique from Third Way is pernicious. First, there is no such thing as affordable, safe, carbon capture. It is a unicorn. Even if CO2 could be captured, storing carbon dioxide gas would be extremely dangerous. When CO2 leaked from under a lake in the Cameroons, it killed thousands of people living on its shores.

Second, nuclear energy is useless in our new energy regime. Wind and solar will be the backbone, and they are intermittent. The sun doesn't shine at night, wind often calms during the day. Until we get Big Battery capacity (which is coming rapidly), you need a baseline source of power that can be easily phased in and out. That is either hydro where it exists, or natural gas. It takes way too long to power down a nuclear plant and then power it back up. It is useless. Not to mention that the nuclear waste cannot be safely disposed of and poses very long term contamination problems. Not to mention that the plants can melt down and damage riparian ecosystems. Worst of all, nuclear-generated electricity costs 11 cents a kilowatt hour. New solar and wind bids are being let for less than 3 cents a kilowatt hour, even cheaper than coal.

As for taking transportation electric quickly, of course that can be accomplished. Maybe it won't happen in a US dominated by Big Oil, but Sanders intends to push those corporations aside and institute a Federal industrial policy that can make things happen. The analogy is what Franklin Delano Roosevelt accomplished during World War II, when US industrial capacity vastly expanded and 16 million men were mobilized and Social Security was implemented.

These things aren't as hard as they look, though admittedly it is a massive undertaking. In the US, 17.2 million light vehicles are sold annually, so in 10 years that is 172 million. There are 272 mn. light vehicles on the road. So I conclude that the market replaces 64% of the vehicle stock every decade (helped by planned obsolescence). Therefore, if you require that all new vehicles be electric, you'd switch out 64% of the gasoline cars in a decade. (China already today makes an $8000 EV; so can Detroit if they're incentivized). Putting in more public transportation and incentives for using it would make many of the other vehicles redundant. Trade-in incentives could mothball those that are left. The Obama administration already did a small version of this sort of buy-back, taking older polluting gas guzzlers off people's hands for a rebate on a new vehicle. Trump's tax cut on billionaires cost trillions, and over a decade his increase in the war budget will also cost trillions. The US spends more on war than the next 14 countries combined, and is expected to spend $7 trillion on "defense" over the next decade, even though we have no peer powers. Nobody thought those things impossible or fantastic.

Britain spends $45 bn. a year on defense and it has 1/4 the population of the US, so that is as though the US spent less than $200 billion a year on the Pentagon. We could go down to that and save a trillion dollars every two years for useful and productive things instead of for bombs to sell the Saudis to drop on Yemeni children. The US military is among the biggest carbon-emitting organizations in the world, so maybe we could cut those emissions, too. Bernie's plan would be paid for in this way alone in about 32 years.

The plan is set to pay for itself over 15 years in these ways:

Making the fossil fuel industry pay for their pollution, through litigation, fees, and taxes, and eliminating federal fossil fuel subsidies.

Generating revenue from the wholesale of energy produced by the regional Power Marketing Authorities. Revenues will be collected from 2023-2035, and after 2035 electricity will be virtually free, aside from operations and maintenance costs.

Scaling back military spending on maintaining global oil dependence.

Collecting new income tax revenue from the 20 million new jobs created by the plan.

Reduced need for federal and state safety net spending due to the creation of millions of good-paying, unionized jobs.

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Juan Cole is an American academic and commentator on the modern Middle East and South Asia.  He is Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. Since 2002, he has written a weblog, Informed Comment (more...)
 

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2 people are discussing this page, with 3 comments


shad williams

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I have heard that the Fed along with other central banks are printing currencies that are not backed by store of value. The US has been printing fiat dollar currency ever since it went off the gold standard in 1971 able to rip off the entire world using petrodollar and its dollar reserve status.

It seems that the gig is just about up. The elites are trying to run out the clock before the little people figure out that the game is over and the dollar is completely dead.

The worth less dollar may no longer be accepted as payment for goods and services by other countries despite the dollar being backed by men with guns [Paul Krugman, August 2018].

Other countries are forming alliances of men with guns in opposition to the US and western regimes.

Once the game is over, what will the people use for money?

Can the US run its economy only using fiat US dollars, isolated from the rest of the world?

Trump's tax cut on billionaires cost trillions, and over a decade his increase in the war budget will also cost trillions.

What is the point in discussing savings as a result of restoring taxes on the elites and reducing military spending if the value of savings is in a zero value dollar currency?

Submitted on Monday, Aug 26, 2019 at 9:38:45 PM

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Earl Staelin

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Prof. Cole failed to mention that the Green New Deal includes publicly owned banks. Public banks have more power to restore and stabilize our economy than any of the other features of the GND. These could and should be established at the federal, state, and local level. Publicly owned banks are the biggest source of China's strong economy, as well as that of South Korea. Germany's 1,500 cities each with their own city-owned savings bank, known as Sparkassen, and consolidated into 413 publicly owned banks, have been the backbone of Germany's economy for a long time, along with the KfW Bank, a nationally owned development bank. Together they have fostered the rapid conversion to clean energy from fossil fuels. The Green Party has long endorsed publicly owned banks. People should read Ellen Brown's books Web of Debt, The Public Bank Solution, and Banking on the People. The Public Bank Solution has many examples of successful publicly owned banks around the world, currently and in the past, which are usually much better managed than the big private banks. The Bank of North Dakota is celebrating its 100th year this year, as our only sizeable public bank in the U.S. California and Washington state may enact public bank legislation this year.

Submitted on Tuesday, Aug 27, 2019 at 5:42:59 AM

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Earl Staelin

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Prof. Cole failed to mention that the Green New Deal includes publicly owned banks. Public banks have more power to restore and stabilize our economy than any of the other features of the GND. These could and should be established at the federal, state, and local level. Publicly owned banks are the biggest source of China's strong economy, as well as that of South Korea. Germany's 1,500 cities each with their own city-owned savings bank, known as Sparkassen, and consolidated into 413 publicly owned banks, have been the backbone of Germany's economy for a long time, along with the KfW Bank, a nationally owned development bank. Together they have fostered the rapid conversion to clean energy from fossil fuels. The Green Party has long endorsed publicly owned banks. People should read Ellen Brown's books Web of Debt, The Public Bank Solution, and Banking on the People. The Public Bank Solution has many examples of successful publicly owned banks around the world, currently and in the past, which are usually much better managed than the big private banks. The Bank of North Dakota is celebrating its 100th year this year, as our only sizeable public bank in the U.S. California and Washington state may enact public bank legislation this year.

Submitted on Tuesday, Aug 27, 2019 at 5:43:26 AM

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