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|

Our Refugee Crisis at Home

By William S. Becker It was sometime during the cusp between the 1970s and 1980s – I don’t remember the exact date – that I stood on a sidewalk in a small Wisconsin village watching a historic event unfold across the street. There were three of us, a jovial barrel-bellied farmer in striped overalls and Marie Herbst. Marie and her husband Ed owned the Wonder Bar, one of the town’s most popular taverns. A bulldozer was crawling toward the Wonder Bar.  The building was pretty much on its last legs, having survived years of flood disasters. The bulldozer did not have to work hard. It gave the building a push and the entire structure collapsed. “We had some pretty good times in there,” the farmer said wistfully. As I recall, Marie shed a tear or two, and that was that. Another one of the village’s old buildings was demolished. We all hoped it was for a good cause. I have written about the village several times in the past, but in view of the two ominous reports that climate scientists

January 25th, 2019|home|

Americans waking up to climate

Democrats are moving forward on their promise to make global climate change one of their top issues now that they control the House of Representatives. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has created a House Standing Committee on the Climate Crisis chaired by Rep. Kathy Castor of Florida, one of the states being hit hard by sea level rise. Rep. Frank Pallone, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has created a subcommittee on climate change. And newly seated Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says she is working to flesh out a proposal to create a Green New Deal that would accelerate America’s economy-wide transition to net-zero-carbon energy. Democrats should feel motivated by new research showing that the American people are taking climate change more seriously, in part because of personal experiences with extreme weather. The Yale Project on Climate Change Communications and its partner, the George Mason University Center for Climate Change, have become the most frequent pollsters tracking what Americans think about climate change. Their latest research finds a continued upward trend in Americans’ concerns, including substantial increases in certainty that

January 23rd, 2019|home|

The Elephant at the State of the Union

By William S. Becker Deep in the inner sanctums of the federal bureaucracy, Donald Trump’s lieutenants are writing the early drafts of the President’s State of the Union address, coming up on Jan. 29. It’s possible that the annual speech will be overshadowed by a continuing government shutdown. But if it is like most of the others that presidents have delivered to Congress, Trump will brag about what he has done and explain what he wants to do next, in his case with fact-checkers scrambling to keep up. Typically, the state of the economy is part of these speeches. This year Trump has some explaining to do about the role his trade war with China, criticism of the Fed, treatment of European allies, threats of nuclear war, statements about withdrawing from international institutions, chaos in the White House and the government shutdown have played in the crazy volatility of the stock market. I would be uncomfortably outside my lane if I tried to explain what has happened to the economy, or what will. But there is evidence now that global

January 15th, 2019|home|

Shooting at the Wrong Tax Target

By William S. Becker Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been in Congress just a few days, but she's already looking like the Robin Hood of the climate-action movement. She and her merry band of progressives in the House of Representatives are the kind of heroes we need right now. But Ocasio-Cortez has aimed her first arrow at the wrong target. Ocasio-Cortez is a champion of the Green New Deal, a plan to combat climate change by producing 100% of the nation’s electricity with renewable resources within 10 years.  While so much progress in so little time may seem unrealistic, America has done great things even faster. The shift to zero-carbon energy is the right idea and Congress should be aiming high. The Green New Deal has a social justice dimension, too, so Ocasio-Cortez has proposed that it be financed by raising the marginal tax rate to 70% for people making more than $10 million annually. That would kill two big birds at once. It would reduce income inequality as well as carbon emissions. Some of her progressive Democratic colleagues in the

January 14th, 2019|home, Uncategorized|

Building the Green New Deal

By William S. Becker The always informative blog Grist reports that the proposal for a national Green New Deal is stirring up criticism from grassroots organizations that have worked for a long time on social justice, renewable energy, the sovereign rights of Native Americans and other dimensions of the idea pushed by freshman U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Some long-time activists are concerned that the idea was developed “top down” by Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign, rather than at the grassroots where boots with well-worn soles are on the ground. Grist reports that Ocasio-Cortez’s staff is now taking in ideas from many of those organizations and the Green New Deal is growing from a concept into a more specific set of objectives. In case there still is any friction about the top-down origins of the idea, let’s consider how these things often work. The idea of a Green New Deal has been around for a long time before Rep. Ocasio-Cortez adopted it, but the way it has appeared on the congressional stage is not untypical. In the intense pressure and pace of political

January 10th, 2019|home, Uncategorized|

2019: Year of the Carbon Revolution?

Second in a series of occasional articles about the new Congress and climate change. The clear and present danger of climate change means we cannot burn our way to prosperity. We already rely too heavily on fossil fuels. We need to find a new, sustainable path to the future we want. We need a clean industrial revolution. -  Ban Ki-moon By William S. Becker It is dangerous to recommend a revolution in a nation whose citizens are armed to the teeth. Some people might get the wrong idea. But it is also dangerous for a complacent citizenry to leave the country in the hands of leaders who violate the trust we have placed in them. That's what is happening today as members of Congress ignore the wishes of the people who elected them. Research shows, for example, that the American people want more federal protections for the environment. Instead, President Trump is rolling them back and Congress is acquiescing. However, the most dangerous example of official negligence is the refusal of Congress and/or the President to do something about two

December 29th, 2018|home, Uncategorized|

Proposed: A Select Committee For A Green New Deal

There is significant post-election buzz among progressives about a "Green New Deal" -- a national program with the intensity of America's efforts during World War II.  The core of the idea is "the transition of the United States economy to become greenhouse gas emissions neutral and to significantly draw down greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and oceans and to promote economic and environmental justice and equality." The Yale Project on Climate Change Communications reports that at least 40 members of Congress supported the Green New Deal concept as of mid-December, 2018, and polling shows the idea is supported by 81% of American voters, including 64% of Republicans and 57% of self-described conservative Republicans. However, the idea is short on details.  To flesh it out, supporters have proposed that the House of Representatives create a Special Committee to work on a Green New Deal plan and to prepare legislation to implement it. Here are excerpts from their proposal to House leadership: DRAFT TEXT FOR PROPOSED ADDENDUM TO HOUSE RULES FOR 116TH CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES (a) Establishment of the Select

December 21st, 2018|home|