• Ed Flattau

Smart Green Deal

Right Wing circles are quick to ridicule freshman congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, as a hysterical alarmist. They mock her sense of urgency about climate change as expressed through advocacy of a “Green New Deal”.

Their denigration will be judged harshly by future historians. Odds are that these climate change Ocasio-Cortez critics will be typecast as dangerously misguided buffoons oblivious to nature’s surrounding red flags and international scientific affirmation.

That doesn’t mean the 29-year-old Ocasio-Cortez is home-free with the Green New Deal she hopes to translate into actionable policy. While the New Deal has drawn a favorable public response, it is short on particulars. In general, the concept calls for an economy based primarily on renewable energy by no later than 2035. All new vehicles would be electric and fossil fuels would be virtually phased out to consolidate the transformation to a carbon-free society. As envisioned, there would be a job for every American who wanted one. The renewable energy industry would be a major employer, with ample opportunity for both public and private participation.

Ocasio-Cortez and her colleagues are starting out with a zero sum game--renewable energy or bust! But market-based carbon reduction strategies are not mutually exclusive, even if they still involve fossil fuel usage. (Oil, coal, and natural gas aren’t going to vanish overnight anyway, and carbon reduction is taking place). Environmentally activist lawmakers should not make “the perfect the enemy of the good” by abdicating flexibility in the name of ideological purity. There is that risk with the Ocasio- Cortez clique seeming to look askance at a proposed carbon tax because of its symbiotic relationship to fossil fuel use. To the contrary, a well-conceived carbon tax with rebates returned to the public will wean motorists off fossil fuel dependency, in effect accelerating the nation’s transition to alternate sources of clean energy.

The Ocasio-Cortez faction can launch their campaign single-mindedly. But to sell their vision to a cross-section of American society, they will have to tailor their message to the political orientation of their audience.

To climate change deniers, the rationale for decarbonization will need to be conveyed in economic terms, not as threats of existential environmental catastrophe. Instead of debating whether human-generated climate change exists, focus should be on the immense costs from ever increasing severe climate change-related weather events. Emphasize the enormous mitigation benefits and environmental enhancement that a shift to reliance on clean renewable energy would bring.

To be effective, the Ocasio-Cortez progressive crowd will undoubtedly have to compromise, which assures an incremental pace that might tax their patience. But that is the nature of democracy as opposed to a totalitarian regime. In the latter case, policy changes can literally be imposed overnight, but at a cost. “Haste can make waste” in a totalitarian state’s rush job. Rigidly conceived overnight reforms are always more brittle, having been jammed down a populace’s throats.

Whatever the rate of progress, Congress will have to lead the nation in the evolution towards a zero-carbon economy. That’s because The Green New Deal is the most momentous transaction that our super negotiator in the White House should, but in all likelihood won’t consummate.


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