Go Big on Climate Action

By William S. Becker There has been a 10-year drought in Congress on legislation directly related to global climate change. Now, there is a cloudburst of ideas being considered by the Democrat-controlled House.  Will any of them become law? If so, will they be big and bold enough to make a difference? For that matter, are there enough members of either party capable of being bold? In the 116th Congress, it appears that the problem will not be a scarcity of big ideas; it may be a scarcity of political courage. Congress got off to an exciting start in January when a former restaurant worker from the Bronx tossed a Big New Deal into the House of Representatives. It exploded like a percussion grenade, jarring the Capitol awake. An impressive number of House Democrats and presidential candidates immediately embraced it.  Now, however, some Democrats are running for cover to avoid begin branded as socialists, the newly highlighted term in Republican talking points.  Some key Democrats including committee chairmen in the House say they are shooting for a few small legislative

March 12th, 2019|home|

The United States’ Carbon Footprint

The latest EPA data show that in 2016,  transportation  in  California,  Texas  and Florida  was  the  source  of  more  carbon  dioxide  pollution than  transportation  in  rest  of  the  United  States.  California,  Texas  and  Louisiana  led  country  in  emissions  from  industry.  Wyoming had  the  most  emissions  on  a  per  capita   basis.  (Double click to enlarge the chart. Source: Politico)

A Focused Green New Deal

By William S. Becker If Majority Leader Mitch McConnell brings the Green New Deal to a vote in the Senate this week as he intends, the result will be political theater. It won’t be more than that. Why? Because in its present form, the Green New Deal is a vision articulated in a nonbinding resolution, and the opposition of the Republican-controlled Senate is preordained. Here is what we’re likely to witness: McConnell and his Republican colleagues will try to brand the entire Democratic Party as a big-government socialist cabal. Democrats, who actually represent 50 shades of opinion on the proposals in the Green New Deal, may ask why so many Republicans are still ignoring climate change when half the states with the most weather disasters are “red”. If Senate Democrats have done their homework, they might ask McConnell how denying climate change is good for his constituents in Kentucky. The state ranks 12th the nation for its number of natural disasters. It has averaged more than one disaster declaration a year for the last 66 years. Yet it ranks 48th

Make It America’s Green New Deal

By William S. Becker The biggest problem with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal proposal is that it is identified as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal proposal.  She has been brilliant in elevating public attention to the need for an energy transition, but her credentials give conservatives an open shot to discredit the plan as socialism -- a poison pill if the Green New Deal ever comes to a vote in Congress. It's true that 68 Democrats are now cosponsors of a Green New Deal resolution and several Democrats running for president have endorsed it. But that is another kind of poison pill: partisanship. So, what if the Green New Deal was America’s plan instead of a Democrat or Democratic Socialist plan?  Here is a personal story about how that could happen. In 2012, the United Nations held its largest-ever event at that time, the Sustainable Development Conference in Rio de Janeiro. It was nicknamed Rio+20 because it was held on the 20-year anniversary of the world’s historic Earth Summit in the same city. The conference was attended by more

February 19th, 2019|home|

23 Charts: Challenges Ahead for a Green New Deal

The Green New Deal proposal in Congress has caused a great deal of buzz, some of it enthusiastic, some of it skeptical and some of it negative. But we should be asking this: If not the Green New Deal, or something like it, then what are our options? There should be no debate about the fact that the United States and the rest of the world must act boldly and quickly to pull back from far more disastrous impacts of climate change than we are experiencing today. This post offers a set of slides that show some of the good news and the bad news about our response to climate change so far. Many of the illustrations come from Statista, a service that analyzes data from more than 22,500 sources to spot trends on a wide variety of topics including energy and climate. Others come from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communications, PoliticoPro and other data organizations. What we see is this: Although climate change must be addressed by every nation, the United States is in the driver's seat

Is 100% Renewable Energy “Impractical”?

Editor's Note: In this blog, Dr. Charles Kutscher, a member of PCAP's National Advisory Committee, rebuts the argument that 100% renewable energy is not practical. Dr. Kutscher  is a Fellow and Senior Research Associate of the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute, a joint institute between the University of Colorado-Boulder and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). He served as the Director of the Buildings and Thermal Sciences Center at NREL from 2013 until his retirement in 2018. By Charles F. Kutscher Wind and solar energy are now very low in cost and have comprised more than half of new U.S. electric capacity additions for four of the last five years. Not surprisingly, they have become a target for those who want to continue our reliance on conventional energy sources. A case in point is a recent article, What It Costs To Go 100 Percent Renewable, by Philip Rossetti of the American Action Forum, which opposes the Green New Deal and argues that 100% renewable energy is impractical. I see several issues with Mr. Rossetti’s analysis, and to address them we

Vote on the Green New Deal? Game on!

By William S. Becker Some of the Republican Party’s leaders say they love the Green New Deal – not because of its merits, but because they think it will keep Democrats from taking control of Congress and the White House less than two years from now. Sadly, their reaction is not about the jobs an ambitious transition to clean energy would create, or the illnesses and deaths it would prevent, or the need to keep weather disasters from getting worse. As usual, it’s all about the next election. Take Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, for example. “Let’s vote on the Green New Deal!” he tweeted about the plan unveiled last week by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey. “Americans deserve to see what kind of solutions far-left Democrats are offering to deal with climate change.” Sen. Mitch McConnell announced impishly that he’ll schedule a vote on the Deal just to see how many Democrats have the guts to vote for it. The Democrats' first response should be to ask the Republican leaders what their plan is, besides pretending

Getting Started on the Green New Deal

 Second of two parts.  By William S. Becker Now that we have seen the outline of a Green New Deal for America – the  House resolution unveiled by Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Markey last week – the predictable reactions are a) its goals are unrealistic and unachievable; b) it looks like socialism; and c) it would cost too much. Let’s break it down. It’s unachievable: We can’t know that until we have tried. And what would failure look like? What if we only cut greenhouse gas pollution by 60% or 70% instead of 100%? What if we produced a lot of green jobs but not as many as we hoped? What if the economy was more equitable but not to the degree we wanted? Failure would still be progress. It looks like socialism: We will hear this word a lot in the 2020 election cycle. President Trump used it in his State of the Union speech. It is meant to conjure up the image of a Godzilla government that squashes our freedoms and our lives. Nevertheless, recent polls show a

February 10th, 2019|home|

Will the Green New Deal Flourish or Falter?

The first of two parts By William S. Becker As a cancer survivor, I learned some time ago that the longer we ignore the symptoms, the more aggressive the treatment has to be. That lesson came to mind last week when a newcomer and a long-time veteran of Congress s introduced an aggressive proposal that would help put global climate change into remission. I’ll stretch the metaphor further. Industrial countries have been smoking up the atmosphere for a couple of hundred years. The result is that climate change has quietly metastasized through the biosphere.  The symptoms include a massive loss of species, monster weather disasters, hellish heat, polar vortexes that freeze your eyeballs, rising seas, communities reduced to ashes or waterlogged rubble and, yes, the loss of human life. Here in the United States, where much of the planet's climate toxins originate, we have been in denial and ignoring the symptoms for much too long. So, when Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey unveiled a very ambitious plan for a Green New Deal last week, including radical changes in

February 10th, 2019|home|

What will it take to decarbonize on time?

By William S. Becker Several committees in the new House of Representatives have put climate disruption on their agendas -- a long overdue departure from silence, snowballs and stupidity when deniers are in control of Congress. If the committees discuss America’s energy mix – which they should since fossil fuels are what's changing the climate – things could get very interesting. Why? It will be interesting not only because the carbon cartel will flex its muscles publicly and privately to prevent any talk about keeping its assets in the ground.  It will be interesting, too, because environmentalists, climate hawks, advocacy groups and citizens might not agree on how to do what we must: achieve a net-zero carbon economy within 30 years. In other words, we will have to take as much carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere as we put in. In broad strokes, this requires that a) we dramatically increase our energy productivity; b) we reduce, if not completely abandon, the use of fossil fuels to provide electricity, transportation fuels, industrial energy requirements and so on; and c) we

February 1st, 2019|home, Uncategorized|

The Green New Deal is Bigger Than We Think

By William S. Becker The political question of the day – and perhaps the question of our time – is about the Green New Deal. It sounds nice. Polling shows that a huge majority, more than 80%, of voters like it. But outside of a small group of advocates, everyone seems unsure about just what the Green New Deal is. There is a good explanation for that, which I’ll get to shortly. More interesting is that the Green New Deal (hereafter the “Deal”) is a much bigger deal than many of us thought. That became clear this week in a conversation between two of the nation’s most thoughtful thought leaders. More about that shortly, too. By way of background, the Green New Deal made its formal debut on the national stage with a rule offered in the House of Representatives by freshwoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She has made a big splash – more like a photogenic tidal wave, actually – as the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, having defeated one of the Democratic Party’s senior leaders. On the opening day

January 30th, 2019|home|