By Jon Dougherty
Critics continue to pick apart the “Green New Deal” introduced last week by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), but they’ve gone beyond merely mocking its most outrageous proposals — free money to Americans who won’t work and the end of air travel — to critiquing the very real, and very negative, impacts the plan would have on the American economy.
Writing in Forbes, Michael Shellenberger, who writes about energy policy, noted that the Green New Deal calls for closing all roughly 100 nuclear power plants within a decade as part of a 10-year plan to transition away from fossil fuels to green, renewable energy sources, even though nuclear plants don’t produce emissions.
But not only is decommissioning even a single nuclear plant within a 10-year timeframe impossible — the process takes about six decades to complete — getting rid of nuclear would actually increase emissions, as happened in Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders’ home state of Vermont.
Vermont is home to Ocasio-Cortez allies, and Green New Deal advocates, Senator Bernie Sanders and climate activist Bill McKibben. Both insist the world can be powered on renewables alone. But consider what’s actually happened in their own state.
In 2005, Vermont legislators promised to reduce emissions 25% below 1990 levels by 2012, and 50% below 1990 levels by 2028, through the use of renewables and energy efficiency only.
He goes onto note that accounting for the country’s much faster population growth, emissions in Vermont rose 5 percent overall while per capita emissions throughout the rest of the country fell by 17 percent.
“Did Vermont fail to do energy efficiency, which the Green New Deal and green groups like Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) claim is the most important way to reduce emissions?” Shellenberger writes.
“Nope. In 2018, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy ranked Vermont among the top five states for aggressive action on energy efficiency — for the fifth year in a row.”
What’s more, the state’s primary electric utility company has been a leader in assisting customers with going “off-grid” using solar energy and batteries.
So what’s the deal? If the state is doing everything right in terms of transitioning to “all-green” power like Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders, and other socialist Democrats want, what’s up with increased emissions?
Did Vermont’s electric utility block access to distributed renewable energy sources, like rooftop solar panels? On the contrary. The state’s main electric utility has been a pioneer in helping customers go “off-grid” with solar and batteries.
What’s going on? If Vermont did everything that Ocasio-Cortez, McKibben, Sanders, and other Green New Deal advocates wanted, why have its emissions risen so sharply?
A few years ago, thanks to prodding by anti-nuclear climate activist knuckleheads like Bill McKibben, Vermont Yankee was ‘convinced’ to take the state’s sole nuclear plant offline. In the process, Vermont couldn’t replace the energy lost from the closure, so it had to import energy from elsewhere — energy that was created by fossil fuel plants.
McKibben tried pointing to a New York Times data tool to “prove” closing the nuke plant didn’t increase emissions in the state (as a 2010 study by pro-nuclear environmentalists predicted would happen) because, as the paper reported, “the state replaced the [nuclear] power by buying lots and lots more hydro from Quebec.”
But Shellenberger says McKibben misread/misapplied the data.
“In reality, Vermont’s utilities couldn’t replace with in-state generation the lost electricity from Vermont Yankee, instead turning to electricity imports from the New England power pool, primarily from natural gas,” Shellenberger writes.
McKibben countered that the rise in emissions came from a rise in transportation in the state. “Vermont has done nothing to change the transportation system that is by far the main source of carbon emissions, followed by home heating,” he said.
It’s true that emissions from transportation are the largest source of the state’s emissions. But Vermont’s emissions from transportation were higher in 2005 than in 2015 and the long distances driven by Vermonters comes with the territory in this rural state.
And it’s not true that Vermont “has done nothing” on transportation, as McKibben claims. In fact, Vermont has won awards from the United Nations and NRDC for addressing “environmental and air pollution problems spurred primarily by traffic” by putting in place “design-oriented strategies” so that it “does not rely solely on automobiles.”
The bottom line, Shellenberger notes, is that environmentalists’ ‘war on nuclear’ has not only misinformed generations of Americans about the practicality of nuclear energy and its ability to meet and surpass both environmental and production objectives, but that without it dangerous pollutants and emissions are higher.
But the Green New Deal doesn’t say that. Rather, it regurgitates the same tired, politically correct ‘logic’ for getting rid of the one major source of power that is 100-percent emissions-free.
- Follow Jon Dougherty on Twitter at @JonDougherty10
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