Taking Stock of Bernie Sanders' "Green New Deal"

Jason Lomberg, North American Editor, PSD



Feeling the Bern? The progressive firebrand’s 16.3 trillion “Green New Deal” is about to act as the ultimate litmus test.

Whether you agree with Bernie Sanders or not – we’re not in the business of discussing politics at PSD – it’s worth discussing a plan that could end up costing nearly 80% of the country’s total gross domestic product (as of 2018).

Simply put – what’s in Sanders’ ambitious climate proposal?

The Green New Deal is a “ten-year, nationwide mobilization centered around justice and equity during which climate change will be factored into virtually every area of policy.” Through infrastructure improvements and massive R&D investments, the plan aims to reach 100% renewable energy for electricity and transportation by 2030 and complete decarbonization by 2050.

In the process, it’ll create 20 million new jobs and (supposedly) pay for itself within 15 years.

According to the proposal, four federal Power Marketing Administrations (PMAs) and the Tennessee Valley Authority generate and transmit power to distribution utilities in 33 states. The Green New Deal would add a fifth PMA to cover the remaining states and help build new wind, solar, energy storage and geothermal power plants.

This includes $1.52 trillion for renewable energy and $852 billion to build energy storage capacity.

We’ll also put $526 billion towards a modern smart grid – a “modern, high-volt, underground, renewable, direct current, smart, electric transmission and distribution grid.”

$2.18 trillion will be earmarked for low- and moderate-income families and small businesses to invest in weatherizing and retrofitting their homes and businesses, while $964 billion will go towards phasing out dirty oil, propane, and fracked natural gas for heating and cooling, and we’ll enact a moratorium on nuclear power plant license renewals.

The plan will also expand the Obama administration’s trade-in vehicle program, allotting $681 billion for motorists trading in old cars and $2.09 trillion for those exchanging gas guzzlers for electric vehicles. Additional incentives are available for consumers trading up for American-made EVs.

And how will we pay for all this? That’s the trillion-dollar question.

The proposal targets the fossil fuel industry with lawsuits, fees, and taxes, while making large corporations pay their “fair share,” whatever that means. It’ll also trim military spending on “maintaining global oil dependence” (So fewer military operations in the Middle East?).

The Green New Deal also tabulates new tax revenue from the prospective 20 million new jobs, income from the wholesale of energy generated by regional GMAs, and reduced federal and state safety net spending and equates it all with the bill’s self-sufficiency. Of course, connecting 20 million jobs with new tax revenue assumes fresh economic activity and not workers trading one job for another. But if the bill succeeds, it’ll put nearly the whole country to work, directly or tangential.

One way or another, the Green New Deal will have a dramatic impact on the proceeding few decades. Be sure to educate yourself on the entire proposal, as it’ll be the litmus test of this century.