The Green New Deal Isn’t Ripe

Michael Siegel

Michael Siegel is an astronomer living in Pennsylvania. He is on Twitter, blogs at his own site, and has written a novel.

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120 Responses

  1. Chip Daniels says:

    The environmental movement has always faced a dichotomy between Big Ideas, and microtargeting.

    Big Ideas, like the Green New Deal are criticized as hopelessly large and requiring impossible change.
    Microtargets, like banning plastic straws are criticized as ineffective and pointless.Which is absolutely correct.

    I keep thinking of that famous saying:
    If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.
    Antoine de Saint-Exupery

    The point of the GND isn’t to prescribe a program so much as appeal to the end goal, to get people to envision what such a future could look like.

    Because as we’ve seen countless times, reducing the damage to the environment means attacking all the problems at once, and the biggest problem is the inertia of the status quo.

    We burn fossil fuels for a very good reason- Petroleum is packed with a crazy amount of energy, and is easy to obtain and refine. We construct suburban sprawl for a very good reason- land is cheap and people enjoy the freedom and convenience.

    And these are all interlocked- suburbs are cheap, plastic is cheap because petroleum is cheap; our laws and culture and policy choices reinforce and drive this pattern of consumption.

    Any change to our model of consumption has to start with getting people to imagine a different world, a different way of living.Report

    • James K in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      That, or just apply a carbon tax.

      What you’re describing is the distorting effect of an externality, the solution is to correct the externality and then let market forces act. But that doesn’t give you an excuse the throw public money at favoured constituencies or allow one to indulge in fantasies of remaking the world in your image, so it’s a lot less appealing to “visionary” politicians like AOC.

      The last thing we need are people with bold visions of remaking the future. Hubris of that calibre seldom ends well and often ends very badly.Report

      • Chip Daniels in reply to James K says:

        One of the weakest forms of environmentalism is positing the existence of an un-engineered state of nature, one where the ebb and flow of the world are untouched by man-made processes.

        With 10 billion humans living and breathing on the planet, any future will be engineered. our only choices are how we respond, and in what direction.

        Likewise, all economies are engineered. As has been demonstrated here countless times, the status quo of how we extract, refine, manufacture, assemble, consume, and dispose of resources is a highly engineered construction, the result of bold visions from centuries past, of how their future, our present, could be remade.Report

        • James K in reply to Chip Daniels says:

          That’s true, but irrelevant to my point. I’m not talking about a state of nature, I’m asking whether the future will be constructed from the full diversity of human opinions, with a rational process trading-off those goals with available resources, or will be be a handful of “visionaries” imposing their will on others without regard to the costs or even to whether their pet projects will actually achieve anything.Report

          • Chip Daniels in reply to James K says:

            The future will be planned by a select circle of oligarchs directing their vassal elected officials.

            It will be a game changing disruptive paradigm shift of blue sky visioning which is visioned from the 100,000 foot view, then using best practices and core competencies executed with synergistic win-win exchanges. And freedom.Report

            • James K in reply to Chip Daniels says:

              That’s is what I would expect to come out of something like the Green New Deal, yes. Or were you somehow under the impression that smooth-talking oligarchs would be less influential in a world where the government was handing out tacks of cash for large-scale projects?Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to James K says:

                As opposed to handing out stacks of cash for nothing?

                The point is, the future will be engineered by policy no matter what. The question is who sits at the table and who doesn’t. Whose interests are represented, and whose aren’t.

                And yes, history has examples from the New Deal where oligarchs did have a reduction in power and the common people gained in power.Report

              • James K in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                A lot of the New Deal interventions limited competition, which creates the perfect conditions for creating new oligarchs.

                And you are committing the Fallacy of Grey – government is going to have some control over how society works, but some approaches increase that control, while others lessen it.Report

            • Damon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

              “The future will be planned by a select circle of oligarchs directing their vassal elected officials”

              And if anyone gets in their way, there are always the “re-education camps”.Report

      • pillsy in reply to James K says:

        If those favored constituencies reject your plan because a carbon tax will absolutely screw them to the wall, and disfavored constituencies will reject any plan because they thing climate change is a Chinese plot and also want to own the libs, who exactly is going to provide the support necessary to make your plan happen?Report

    • Doctor Jay in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      And it has to include how that particular individual might fit into that picture. If you live in Custer, SD, like one of my cousins, you are probably pretty sure that the bullet train isn’t coming anywhere near you. But there’s an airport in Sioux Falls that works pretty well for you.

      The strange part of that is that Sioux Falls mostly was created by railroads in bygone days. I think the difference is that the gain from air travel to HST travel isn’t all that great, not like the gain from wagon travel to train travel, which was enormous. It turned a three-month trip into a three week trip, maybe less.

      A friend in Silicon Valley once told me about working for a company that had, for a short time, the processor that was the fastest by a factor of 4x. He said that opened a lot of doors, but when they got to be only 2x or 1.5x, there was a lot less interest.Report

  2. pillsy says:

    So I think the proposed Green New Deal misses the mark, and badly. Tying it to every left-wing idea imaginable is not great. Not actually focusing much on reducing GHG emissions except with the completely implausible ten-year targets is even not greater. But… there is a but.

    Any effective plan to combat climate change is going to have substantial short-term costs, and those costs will not be evenly distributed across the economy. Some of those costs will fall heavily on low- and middle-income people who have very limited ability to afford them, and never really had great opportunities to seek out less carbon-intensive lifestyles and careers. Even if you’re unmoved by arguments of fairness, a lot of those people are either Democrats (so you need them on side and invested in your coalition), and a lot more of those people are a swing constituency (indeed people often simply call them “Obama-Trump voters”) who you at least need not actively enraged by your coalition.

    A plan that really screws those folks is not going to work politically. Some sort of “New Deal” part is not optional because some sort of “New Deal” part is needed to not screw those folks over.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to pillsy says:

      It’s very disappointing, for both political and practical reasons, to see a serious issue like AGW being treated so unseriously by the people currently *most identified* with taking it seriously. (Namely, AOC.)Report

      • North in reply to Stillwater says:

        Well I think there’s a good streak of unseriousness to AOC, and properly so. She’s a brand new national politician who happens to have caught the media zeitgeist (and also has the personal branding that makes the Right Wing Media pimp her like crazy as representative of where the entire left is). I don’t begrudge her floating crazy pie in the sky stuff while she still has that platform to pitch it from.Report

    • North in reply to pillsy says:

      It’s pretty loony-tunes. Snuggling in that “securing the economic wellfare of people who choose not to work” I was like “Wait, what? Unless the policy is that they are going to turn those who choose not to work into carbon neutral biofuel* then in what universe is that environmental policy? ”

      *I think, for the record, that would be a no good terrible inhumane policy.Report

      • pillsy in reply to North says:

        Yeah. I think what I’m getting at is that people are over-correcting. It’s not going to be enough to just put into place sensible regulations and Pigouvian taxes, because doing that without any plan to mitigate the pain this will cause is how you get Gilets Jaunes.

        It could be something as simple as sending out the carbon tax revenues as checks, but ultimately I think it’s going to end up being a redistribution program that’ll look distinctly left-wing.Report

        • North in reply to pillsy says:

          That seems highly likely. Any pricing of carbon is going to necessarily be regressive. If you don’t have a redistribution mechanism involved it’d be both politically poison and impossible to enact.

          That said- putting it in terms of “securing the economic security of those who choose not to work” is the worst possible political/policy approach to that issue that I can imagine.Report

      • DavidTC in reply to North says:

        Providing economic security for people “Unwilling to work” is not actually in the New Green Deal.

        That clause was on the web page and in a draft provided to the press, and you can either believe that was a mistake they caught, or something that was in a previous draft that was removed before publication. But it’s not in the _actual_ New Green Deal.

        Edit: Oh, and the current explanation was ‘That was a reference to retirees, but we realized how it sounds and removed it’.Report

  3. North says:

    I think Chait outlined the rational analysis of the Green New Deal well:

    That said, I think the GND is an appropriate policy- for a politician like AOC to be pimping. As a leftier celebrity politician with no concrete constituency yet desiring to communicate lofty ambitions and desires the GND is well suited to where AOC is today. She isn’t in the running for direct leadership or the presidency so there’s little harm in her proposing wild exciting pie in the sky policies. It’s not like right wingers haven’t been pitching right wing madness like abolishing social security or the like for decades and they were often in leadership positions when they did it. Let AOC have her fun.Report

    • George Turner in reply to North says:

      I encourage her to do more. Many on the right feel that perhaps her proposal was ghost written by Karl Rove, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity as a means of totally discrediting the left and environmentalism in perpetuity. It’s that daffy. A director at American’s for Tax Reform said “The Green New Deal reads like word vomit from a 13-year-old child asked to scribble out their bold new thoughts for a radically different America than we have today.”

      Yet it was endorsed by Kamala Harris, Corey Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Kristen Gillibrand, and Bernie Sanders. Can you image the campaign ads that will run against them?

      “They want to bulldoze your house if you don’t upgrade it to meet whatever requirements they want! They want to cut off your fossil fuels, which for the vast majority of homeowners in the North East and Midwest, means they want to cut off your heat, because natural gas, oil, and propane account for most home heating. They want to take away your car. And they want to pay them to destroy the power grid, with the $13 trillion figure for going renewable coming to $82,000 per working American.”

      Even lifelong Democrats would struggle with that one. Write a personal check for $82,000 just for one small part of this Great Leap Forward ($164,000 for couples) or vote for Trump?

      One of Hawaii’s most liberal congressmen mentioned that the plan would be very hard on Hawaii. It would be especially hard on Hawaii’s congressmen because with the elimination of fossil fuels, nuclear power, and airplanes, the trip home is going to get somewhat interesting, with the last leg taking about two weeks by sail out of LA. There’s no telling how long it will take to get from Washington to LA because the plan switches everyone to electric cars that we don’t have the lithium and rare-earths to build in quantity, and we couldn’t charge them anyway because the plan eliminates most all of our existing power plants. Perhaps they’ll make a deal with Kentucky or Pennsylvania’s delegation for some Amish buggies.

      “High speed rail!” you say. California is going to spend decades trying to get one of those lines between somewhere north of LA to somewhere south of Sacramento, and they might bankrupt the state trying to do it. Rail is expensive, and despite all the massive investments in it, current Amtrak and intercity capacity is enough to move each person in the US 2,000 feet per week. I hope you don’t need to go anywhere soon because even if you increased rail capacity 10-fold, it’s still not going to help, given that rail provides only 0.4% as many annual passenger miles as cars. Increase that to 4%, and you’ve still lost 96% of passenger transportation.

      Even at its peak year in 1920, US railroads only moved 3% of the passenger miles that our cars currently do, and back then rail was a major employer. Europe’s rail systems account for less than 7% of their passenger miles, lagging behind airlines, buses, and most especially cars, which carry 71% of the load. Sure, rich American tourists sing the praises of European rail, but do they also think that most people get around Orlando by monorail?

      So even if we were to bulldoze all the working class neighborhoods (which don’t meet energy standards) and sprawling suburbs (which nobody will be able to commute to anyway) and live like Europe, destroying say a third of the country’s $32 trillion dollars worth of housing stock, rail still wouldn’t be the fix.

      So just on the destruction and alternate reconstruction of housing and energy grid, each working American is out $150,000, and they have to pay for a new electric car, and pay for everyone who doesn’t want to work, and give everyone free education for life. And AOC is also been saying that we can’t turn away any Latinos from South of the Border because meso-American civilization proceeds ours, so they have a right to come here – and get paid for not working. That would be 600 million more mouths to feed. Fortunately none will come here because at that point in the Green New Deal we’ll be worse off than Venezuela is now, and millions will be fleeing instead of arriving.

      This plan is perhaps the greatest single gift to Conservatives since Moses walked down with the Ten Commandments.Report

  4. Doctor Jay says:

    You know, Democrats tried to be super sober and serious and to propose only marginal improvements embodied as specific legislative and/or executive action, and where did that end up?

    With the King of all Moonbeamers (or should I say MoonWallers) in the White House. There was a very clear message from the last election cycle, not just with Trump’s support, but with Sanders’ too. Voters want to hear about the big ideas and the moon shots. They trust that more than they trust the “I’ll work for change incrementally”.

    Mind you, this makes no sense to me at all. That’s now how I run. But it was easy to observe that I’m in the minority on this.

    So NGD is the same style of politics as “Build the Wall”, and “Free College”, only aimed in the environmental direction.Report

    • Chip Daniels in reply to Doctor Jay says:

      We need a Cletus Safari, for leftists.

      “I was a proud climate skeptic and free marketer, who simply wanted to improve mass transit with a few more bus lines. But the smug hard right kept calling me a socialist tree hugger, so eventually I decided, fish it, Ima voting for Ocasio Cortez and a centrally planned socialist democracy!”Report

    • See, this is the sort of things I hear from both side: “Well, we tried to be reasonable, so …” But reasonable compromise on the environment has gotten us:

      The creation of the EPA
      The Clean Air And Clean Water Acts
      Cap and Trade that massively reduced SO2 emissions
      the CFC ban that is repairing the ozone layer
      Better mileage requirements for cars

      McArdle addresses this in her article: the idea that well, we’ll demand the stars and maybe we’ll get the moon. But insane demands are likely to produce an insane response. Trump’s insanity hasn’t gotten a Wall built or any spending cuts or anything like that. But it HAS produced a strong socialist backlash in the Dem Party. I feel like something like the GND is less likely to produce compromise than a “let’s all run our SUV’s non-stop” response from the GOP.Report

      • pillsy in reply to Michael Siegel says:

        The GOP went from a nominee whose position was, “Hey let’s seriously consider CO2 cap and trade,” to one whose position was, “Global warming is a Chinese hoax!” in eight years.

        I don’t believe for a second that any of them will ever agree to compromise because, to be blunt, their revealed preference is for conspiracy-mongering nitwits. Any successful coalition for addressing climate change is going to have to route around the GOP as damage.

        Any compromise and negotiation is going to have to take place between the left- and rightmost parts of the Democratic Party.

        The GND presented is bad, but it’s bad withing the spectrum of ideas that fit inside the Democratic tent [1]. This isn’t an opening move in a set of negotiations with the GOP; it’s an opening move in a set of negotiations with Nancy Pelosi and other, more moderate Dems.

        The GOP had their chance to participate and blew it. At this point the only solution win enough elections and play enough procedural hardball that we crush their ability to resist.

        [1] Except the loony MMT WTFery.Report

        • George Turner in reply to pillsy says:

          AOC’s plan will certainly result in bulldozing much of the housing stock in the US, that owned by poor, minorities, and much of the working class, because the old homes don’t meet modern energy standards. Only the newer elite homes will pass muster.

          So the poor and working class will have to be stripped of their assets (the government is already massively in debt and can’t afford to shell out a couple trillion for imminent domain) and herded into government built projects like Cabrini Green. Many will resist and get put down, but to save the planet you have to break a few eggs.

          People in San Francisco can afford to trade their car for a Tesla, but the poor can’t. They’ll be left without transportation. Many will resist, and they’ll get fined into abject poverty, lose their vehicles, and thus lose their jobs.

          This is how socialism works, and theirs always a loftier goal being pursued as ordinary people are ground under the tank treads.

          So of course the GOP isn’t going to participate in the genocidal madness that is always baked in to these Marxist dreams.Report

      • DavidTC in reply to Michael Siegel says:

        But reasonable compromise on the environment has gotten us:

        Dude, no it didn’t. That’s what it _used_ to get us. It no longer does.

        The Republicans have, for the most obvious thing, refused to raise mileage requires for a fairly long time, and it took until the Democrats controlled everything for them to get raised again. And Trump’s about to freeze the rules again in 2020.

        Ad pillsy pointed out, the Republicans hate cap and trade, despite literally being the poeple who invented it.

        The other stuff is from the fricking 1970s!. The fact that, over 40 years ago, the Republicans would work in a bipartisen manner on environmental stuff doesn’t actually mean anything anymore.Report

  5. Pinky says:

    Republicans announce their Contract With America before the election. Democrats announce their Green New Deal afterwards. It reminds me of the Pelosi line,”we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it”. In this case, you have to vote for the Democrats to find out what they’re up to.Report

    • North in reply to Pinky says:

      A Democratic fringer announced her plan. The Democratic House Leader sort of wrinkled her nose and said “There’ll be lots of competing proposals, what was this one’s name again?”Report

      • Jaybird in reply to North says:

        I understand why Pelosi is pulling the “Freshmen Congresscritters want lots of things. People in Hell want ice water.” schtick.

        AOC is lightning in a bottle, though. What works against any random whatshisnuts might not work against her. Were I a betting man, I’d bet against it.Report

        • North in reply to Jaybird says:

          If this is what she rolls out with I’d be pretty comfortable betting against AOC. Now after Pelosi leaves in 2-4 years? Then the dice roll again but right now I think AOC’s lightning will remain in the bottle.Report

        • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

          AOC just failed her first real test. This is terrible news for the Democrats, just as it would have been if AOC had passed her first real test.Report

            • Michael Cain in reply to Jaybird says:

              Granted, the state of New York is on pace to lose two House seats after the 2020 census. Given that the places losing population are upstate and outstate (or whatever New Yorkers call that), and that New York City is the fastest growing part of the state, it seems unlikely that the Dems can draw districts that reduce the number of seats NYC gets.Report

            • One thing though from that article…”The natural rebuttal is that Ocasio-Cortez’s incredible popularity and ability to galvanize public support is an asset that Democrats should welcome..” from that article: she got 100K in the general, and she excited the democratic base so much in the primary that they turned out at the tsunami-like rate of…11%. Significantly less than Joe Crawley in an uncontested election in 2016. This is still, till she proves otherwise, mostly hype and marketing. When AOC hits the tipping point of hurting Pelosi and company more than helping, they will knee-cap the progressive fantasy that this is going to change the Democratic establishment as currently constituted.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Andrew Donaldson says:

                “AOC is incredibly popular, and also out of touch” seems to be the GOP’s latest talking point.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Were I to phrase it, I’d phrase it something like “AOC is incredibly popular with the nutzo populist base and a thorn in the side of the Establishment.”

                Sort of like Trump, I’d guess.Report

              • Fair, but for that to hold up you need the Democratic nominees to not blindly support her legislation the second it rolls out. Goes both ways. Besides, I for one, gave up on discerning the hypocrisy of the GOP a long, long time ago.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Andrew Donaldson says:

                Why not?

                The thing is a nonbinding resolution of abstract ideas and principles, deliberately intended to provoke further discussion and negotiation.
                What we are talking about is not a problem that can possibly be resolved by a single piece of legislation, or even several.

                I think its useful to think of the world in 1969, and the fledgling environmental movement as it existed at the time, and compare it to 50 years later.

                The movement was chaotic and in many ways stupid- I remember seeing an article showing a bunch of hippies ceremonially burying an automobile, to theatrically kill the internal combustion engine. The way people talked about solar power was a weird mixture of crunchy theology and technobabble.
                And yet, here we are, with electric and hybrid cars being the norm, and solar energy a massive industry.

                The world of 2069 is going to look very different than the world of 2019. Technology is going to change, political divisions are going to change, and the entire culture is going to change.

                This is part of that process.Report

              • Honestly this is something you should write up in long form. Seriously, I think that comparison of 50 years from now is a good one, and those of us like me that weren’t around for the 60’s would like to read it.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Andrew Donaldson says:

                Maybe I will, if I can resist the temptation to ramble on about onions tied to belts.

                I saw this over at Balloon Juice, from a piece in Politico:
                “You’re Living in the America John Dingell Made”:

                … He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1955, a year after the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education deemed “separate but equal” unconstitutional; he remained in office into the second term of the nation’s first black president. His 59 years in Congress are the most of anyone in American history and span more than a quarter of the time since the Constitution created the legislative branch. He was sworn in at 29, the same age Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is today. She would have to remain in the House until 2078 to match his tenure. He was there for the administrations of 11 of the nation’s 45 presidents. “Presidents come and presidents go,” Bill Clinton said at a 2005 celebration of Dingell’s 50th year in Congress. “John Dingell goes on forever.”…

                Modern America is as much a creation of John Dingell’s life work as anyone’s. If you or a parent or grandparent have relied on Medicare or Medicaid; if you’ve seethed about the lack of gun control; if you’ve cheered that segregation of public places is illegal and employment discrimination is banned; if you’re thankful for the continued existence of the U.S. auto industry; if you’ve raged about gas-guzzling cars contributing to climate change; if your health insurance is purchased on the Obamacare exchanges; if you’ve swum in lakes or rivers or oceans free from toxic pollution; if you’ve drunk a glass of or bathed your children in tap water with confidence that it’s free from contamination; then John Dingell played a role in your life…


              • Brandon Berg in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                “AOC is incredibly popular, and also out of touch” seems to be the GOP’s latest talking point.

                She’s out of touch with reality, and incredibly popular with voters who are also out of touch with reality. Much like Trump and Sanders, her popularity comes from telling ignorant people things they already ignorantly believe.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                I was totally going to vote for Trump.

                But then a bunch of smug conservatives kept telling me that my tribe were ignorant and out of touch.

                So I have no choice but to dig in my heels and vote for AOC for president.

                See what you’ve made me do?Report

    • Stillwater in reply to Pinky says:

      Couple of things. I think viewing each party as monolithic, with a fixed agenda, is one of the problems in our politics. I say *problem* because that view is actually incorrect but widely believed. Also, politicians run locally, presumably on local issues, so in that sense national politics should be lagging indicator of a party’s priorities, not a leading indicator. But third, AOC’s GND has not only ho hope of passing, it reflects only a handful of elected Democrats views right now, so to say you have to elect democrats to find out what’s in their platform is sorta ridiculous, but consistent with the conserva-logic idea that Dems are always secretly plotting and scheming … 🙂Report

      • Pinky in reply to Stillwater says:

        “Only a handful of elected Democrats”? I count four presidential candidates (Booker, Gillibrand, Harris, and Warren) as having endorsed it as of yesterday, and I haven’t checked what happened on the Sunday talk shows.

        You can say that politicians run locally, and to an extent that’s true. But this past cycle, it seemed like most were running on an anti-Trump, anti-Wall platform. Not so much on third-trimester abortions, 70% tax brackets, and the confiscation of automobiles.Report

        • George Turner in reply to Pinky says:

          If Democrat politicians were smart, they’d realize that AOC’s Green New Deal will do for most of America what Obama and Hillary’s war on coal did for Democrats in eastern Kentucky, West Virginia, and western Pennsylvania. People whose families been loyal Democrats since the 1920’s switched parties en mass, and areas where Republicans had often not even bothered to field a candidate became Republican strongholds. The Green New Deal expands that effect and potentially spreads it to almost everywhere else in the nation.

          No more cars, so write off the UAW vote, along with the rest of Michigan and many other states. Also be prepared to write off states where people drive cars. With no more fossil fuel powered ships, planes, and power plants, perhaps even write off Hawaii, which will have no tourism, no power, and no imported food.

          Write off states where people live in older houses, and write off states that have cold winters where people depend on natural gas, oil, and propane to heat their homes, because they’ll know they have a target on their back.

          Often tribalism swings based on whose ox is getting gored. The rich can already buy a Tesla and live in modern, energy efficient homes, and they know they will get to keep their private jets so they can keep flying to climate conferences. The poor, who can barely afford payments on their beater car, and who can’t afford to gut their house and replace all the windows and doors, and who can’t afford to install a geo-thermal heat pump with electric backup, will know they’re screwed.

          This will reduce the Democrat base to university employees, college students, and people who live in Hollywood or Long Island.

          I think Nancy and the moderate Democrats realize what a disaster the plan is.Report

  6. Michael Cain says:

    The resolution is sufficient, for now. After all, absolutely nothing is going to happen for at least two years. Absent the extremely unlikely case that something removes both Trump and Pence, nearly simultaneously, and Speaker Pelosi becomes President. So there’s two years* to hold hearings, listen to the experts from the national laboratories that have been studying this problem for 20 years, draft legislation. Once there is a presidential candidate, they can prepare for exactly which agency/department rules and regulations will be changed as quickly as the system allows (roughly three years).

    * Maybe longer. When I look at the 2020 Senate election map, I’m not nearly as confident as some people about the Dems winning control.Report

  7. LeeEsq says:

    I really don’t understand high speed rail skeptics. The usual arguments on why the United States can’t have a high speed rail network is that we way too large and our population is density is too low. However, the world’s largest high speed rail network is in China, which is not a small country and too a large extent as a more unforgiving terrain than the United States. The densest parts of China are about as dense as New Jersey. Other parts are really low density.

    Furthermore, the density in the United States is not uniformly low. California is about the size of Sweden but has four times the people. Sweden has a better railway network though. Los Angeles County is the size of Connecticut but has a population of ten million. Its a dense place. Same with nearby Orange County. Texas and Florida have big pockets of density in the major metropolitan areas and are otherwise sparsely populated.

    It might not make sense to have a coast to coast comprehensive high speed rail network in the United States but there are pockets of density where high speed rail would be reasonably competitive with air travel. So you might not want to take a train from New York to LA but an LA to SF or San Diego and a New York to Boston trip makes sense. The travel time might be technically longer but you save time by not having to get to the airport hours before boarding and going through security theater.

    Opposition to high speed rail seems mainly religious. Part of the car cult that dominates certain segments of the American population.Report

    • Michael Siegel in reply to LeeEsq says:

      Chiina doesn’t have to worry about things like rights, environmental impact studies or tribal territory claims. They can just do WTF they want. Makes things little different. And as I noted, we have a semi-high-speed rail on the East Coast but Cali’s is bogged down in cost overruns and legal problems.Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to LeeEsq says:

      One of the differences between the US and Europe (and probably other places) is that the governments outside the US retained control over the railroad rights-of-way. One of the things that jumped out at me when parts of Denver’s commuter rail were compared to a similar project in Paris. In France, the government simply announced, “This right-of-way, and in some cases the existing tracks, are now prioritized for local passenger service. Freight service will adjust accordingly.” In Denver, RTD had to sit down and negotiate use of the right-of-way or the tracks, in some cases paying billion-dollar up-front costs. At least one of the Denver rail lines will probably never be built because BNSF has set its lease price on a little-used 30-mile right-of-way at their estimate of what it would cost RTD to acquire all new land for the route.Report

      • Marchmaine in reply to Michael Cain says:

        I’m cautious when it comes to wielding the eminent Domain hammer; but as someone who lives next to a railway line that was built by appropriating the land (at FMV, so I’m told) and creating a number of inconvenient situations… like my property which was severed from the original holding (even requiring the govt/railway consortium to build a cow-bridge for access to the severed pastures)… I’m here to say, it’s sometimes necessary and survivable.

        There’s only so much leverage BNSF should have… overplay and risk overplaying.Report

    • Marchmaine in reply to LeeEsq says:

      Sometimes I think a lot of the technocratic view of things is exactly right for the wrong reasons.

      Like… SF to LA and DC to NYC to Boston are the perfect places to build HSR… that’s where people want to go.

      But… wouldn’t that be nearly impossible to build through such built-up areas?

      Yes… nobody takes HSR seriously.

      Hey… what if we built HSR to places where the land is cheap and the throughways relatively simple and under-developed… like, maybe NY to Scranton or some such place.

      Dude… no one wants to go to Scranton.

      Mumbles… but the housing is cheap, the area is beautiful, and imagine if there was HSR NYC so you could still work there… if you even had to.

      So, counter-intuitively, if you want to sell GND ideas, fuck SF, LA, NYC, BOS, and DC… show the benefits to Scranton, Harrisburg, Indianapolis, etc. Then point out the benefits to the Big5 in terms of affordability, options, and increase in cultural (and real) commerce by having a larger more integrated geography.

      Oh, and stop talking about ending air travel, that’s both stupid and unnecessary to what HSR might offer.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Marchmaine says:

        Oh, and stop talking about ending air travel, that’s both stupid and unnecessary to what HSR might offer.

        Along those lines I’m reminded of a conversation I had with my niece and her girlfriend, both about AOC’s age. We were talking about solar as a remedy to carbon emissions and all that, and re: incentives I said “right, but installing panels becomes *more* attractive when you allow for net metering, so that’s an important part of the equation.” They both looked at me like I was crazy. The idea they had, presumably (since they hinted at it but never made it explicit) is that a truly green economy will be fueled by individuals producing all the energy they consume on site without being hooked up to a grid, because a truly green economy *won’t have a grid*. Or something. 🙂 Which is, in my mind, just as fantastical as the idea of eliminating air travel, but was nevertheless insightful re: how the youngs view these types of things.Report

        • Marchmaine in reply to Stillwater says:

          I believe it… I’ve been trying to find a way to bring in Solar for my property for years… as it stands, the math doesn’t work out and while I like the idea of Net Metering, it has a weird by-product of eliminating one of the key reasons why I might do Solar *even though the math doesn’t work* … to provide back-up power to our remote location in the event of an extended Power outage. So you end-up with the strange scenario of No Power, No Solar either… and all the Solar folks tell me it is illegal to do a set-up where there’s a breaker (like a propane generator) that cuts the power to the Grid in the event of an outage.

          So Solar, in VA, is something like a luxury good that has weird regulations preventing certain uses (always in the name of safety) vs. other uses.

          {I recognize that the math can and does work in other locations owing to expected output, SRECs, cost of electricity, etc. etc.}

          But yes, I expect your niece and pal have not really grappled with the reality and costs of Solar.Report

      • DavidTC in reply to Marchmaine says:

        But… wouldn’t that be nearly impossible to build through such built-up areas?

        I honestly don’t see why. We don’t seem to have any problem finding new land for highways.

        Additionally…high-speed train lines should not actually go through cities. Rather like airports aren’t in the middle of cities.

        Although, unlike airports, we might want to consider, for example, having multiple terminals in a city that trains sorta circle through. Like a train going out of torn north might load at a southern terminal, then go at 60mph through the city to another terminal, load more people, and then shoot out of town, and unload at two terminals in the other city. Or three, or four.

        Of course, we’d also want tracks entirely avoiding the city for trains that aren’t going there.Report

  8. Jaybird says:

    I don’t think that the point of the GND is to pass.Report

    • pillsy in reply to Jaybird says:

      Obviously not, but I don’t think that makes the markers it’s laying down entirely irrelevant.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to pillsy says:

        Oh, absolutely not.

        I’m just wondering at what the point of the GND likely would be (if the point isn’t to pass).

        You never know, after all.

        But it’s probably to move the overton window. Again.Report

        • pillsy in reply to Jaybird says:

          Yes, I think that’s mostly right.

          I do hope that, in the inevitable backlash, we don’t move too far from the “New Deal” part, even though tossing every left-wing cloud candy castle in there was a very bad call.Report

        • DavidTC in reply to Jaybird says:

          Yeah, I’m somewhat baffled at people standing around arguing in public that all these policies can’t possibly happen.

          Newflash, guys: The point of the GND was to make people stand around in public arguing about them. It literally already accomplished its goal.

          What happens next is that Democrats take a few extremely popular pieces of the GND and proceed to hit Republicans in the face with them for the next two years.

          I know we’re all used to a universe where only the Republican party has _any_ legislative ability, what with the Dems losing the House and the ability to get things through a Senate fillibuster in 2010. So everyone sorta recalibrated to a universe where the only party that can do things have really unpopular policies and have to pass them as fast as possible, before a few of their more vulnerable parties member notice how unpopular the things are. They don’t want to put those things in front of the public, they don’t even want the public to _notice_ them.

          But that’s was just because basically everything Republicans wanted to do was astonishingly unpopular!

          Now we have a party that can pass things in the House with a lot of popular ideas, and all the rules change. They can throw out red meat (blue meat) for their base in this giant proposals, and then check the public’s reaction, find the really popular stuff, and then start hammering the other party with it.

          It’s weird how everyone forgot how politics actually worked under the “We’ll pass another symbolic vote to repeal Obamacare, oh crap wait we now have Trump in the White House this might actually pass, nevermind” Republicans.Report

  9. Jaybird says:

    The current scandal is that the GND FAQ has been memory holed.

    NPR’s still contains the lines that are causing so much heartburn like “Economic security for all who are unable or unwilling to work”.

    AOC is arguing that she never said such things and the right wingers are smearing her.

    It’s a good tactic. It works for Trump, after all.Report

  10. Marchmaine says:

    67? The official GenX retirement age? Cool. It’s boldness like this I can get behind.

    …or wait, is this unofficial official acknowledgement that there is no GenX retirement plan anywhere near retirement-proof.Report

  11. Jaybird says:

    Neoliberal shill Noah Smith points out that the GND won’t actually reduce climate change and he points to stuff like this.

    The problem is that because the U.S. only produces 14% of global carbon emissions (and falling every day), the Green New Deal won't actually reduce climate change.

    Thus, we'll be paying for both the Green New Deal AND the hurricanes, floods, droughts, wildfires, etc.— Noah Smith (@Noahpinion) February 9, 2019


    • pillsy in reply to Jaybird says:

      In case you think @jaybird ‘s being ironic, Noah Smith actually one the “Neoliberal Shill” bracket competition on Twitter about a year ago.

      I still can’t believe he beat out Macron.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

      It seems like Noah is softshoeing a a much bigger concession/assertion here under the guise of it only being a function of AOC’s GND fantasies.

      To wit: apparently the notion that the way for the united States to actually counter the warming of the planet itself (as opposed to help other countries do that, or to lead in efforts to adjust to the effects) is no longer (primarily?) for it to cut its own GHG emissions.

      …Is that sinking in?

      Is that really a critique that is in any way limited to the approach Representative Alexandria’s Big Package envisions for the United States’ to average temperature increase reduction? That is, for us to do our part, or more, in reducing temperature increases by cutting our national emissions, primarily by limiting the growth of of fossil fuel consumption? Is that not the approach that has been envsioned by every major political effort toward tackling this problem that the U.S. has ever been part of, from Kyoto to the stumblng cap-and-trade dicussions that happened under Bush and Obama, through to the Paris Agreement and Trump’s withdrawal therefrom?

      It’s certainly the case that AOC’s vision is far too broad, and that as such she does damage to the perceived seriousness about this issue that the left has perhaps generally enjoyed over the last decade or two. But as to that that particular critique of the core of her plan as it actually does relate to climate change itself, is Smith’s critique really fairly directed at the GND as compared to other serious treatments of the issue? Or is it actually quietly saying that the moment to be focused on the approach that has dominated ALL serious attempts at dealing with climate change to date – cutting U.S. emissions – has passed?

      It’s clearly the latter. Smith directs this critique at Green New Deal – but this is really a deeply unfair softpedaling of what is actually a shocking admission with massive implications far beyond just dragging a dead-on-arrival socialist demand sheet in the U.S. Congress: that the entire paradigm that efforts to fight climate change have operated within, at least as relates to the Western industrialized nations, is outdated because the problem is now beyond their ability to reverse, and driven by economic realities in developing not developed nations.

      Noah Smith should be directing this critique at the people who need to hear it. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is not first among those.Report

  12. Y’all should read through this Twitter thread critiquing the GND. It’s one of the best I’ve read a it really gets into substantive issues. TL;DR version:

    1) the biggest problem in global warming is not the US but other countries. We only produce 15% of the gasses. This makes innovation a critical aspect. We have to develop better solar, wind, energy storage nuclear so that other countries can adopt that tech. He makes the case that Europe’s alternative energy subsidies improved the tech so that other countries adopted it.

    2) He points out that agriculture and manufacturing contribute about 40%. We already have are implementing improvements to civilian energy. But we need to figure out how those sectors can have their emissions scaled down.

    Anyway, worth a read.Report

    • pillsy in reply to Michael Siegel says:

      I gotta say, seeing stuff like Noah Smith’s thread, and all the attention Ramez Naam seems to be getting [1], there may be something to the idea that throwing something out there to get attention is not an entirely bad idea, even if it was really dopey.

      [1] He’s been writing about climate change and renewable energy for years.Report

      • Michael Siegel in reply to pillsy says:

        One of the things I like about AOC’s rise: even if she’s wrong about everything, we’re debating policy again. I’m spending way more time going through the ins and outs of various proposals than the latest incomprehensible scandal. Makes me happy.Report

        • greginak in reply to Michael Siegel says:

          Well some people are debating policy. Which i like and i liked the linked threads. But we’re not actually talking about what we can do because the debate is only going on one side.Report

          • dragonfrog in reply to greginak says:

            the debate is only going on one side.

            Y’all are probably going to have to get used to that – start figuring out what to do and how to do it, and let the other ‘side’ come join you when they’re ready to stop yelling hoarsely about anyone who wants meaningful public services or regulation being George Soros, Josef Stalin, and Charles Manson rolled into one.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to Michael Siegel says:

      Well, as James K said many years ago, climate change is the mother of all collective action problems. Still true.Report

    • James K in reply to Michael Siegel says:

      That is a good thread.

      The way I see it, given the optimal policy can’t really be implemented, this is a race. On the one hand, our zero-carbon tech will eventually be cost-competitive with our existing tech, and at that point the market will transition away from carbon on its own. The question is how much damage we do to the environment before that happens. That means anything we can do to speed the transition up, such as promoting innovation in zero-carbon technology will help mitigate the damage climate change will cause us.Report

      • George Turner in reply to James K says:

        The easiest way to do that is to fund various LiFTR (Lithium Fluoride Thorium Reactor) projects and other advanced nuclear projects, as the largest increase in emissions have been coal plants in China, India, and Africa. Advanced nuclear could, in most cases, completely replace coal, oil fired, and natural gas power plants, cutting net CO2 emission for electricity to virtually zero. The private sector is hesitant to invest because of the low chances that these promising projects have of getting approval by the Nuclear Regulator Commissions anytime in the next 30 years, and the massive environmental opposition to nuclear power worldwide.

        So once the good solution is off the table, what we’re left with is debating the merits of no-as-good solutions.

        Wind power’s main problem is that most of humanity doesn’t live in continents that have much wind. The North Atlantic (the UK, Northern Europe) and a band of the central US are where most of useful wind is. Other good spots are coastal Algeria, Somalia, and southern Argentina. The rest of the world has to make due with wind that’s a third or less as much as these good spots, which means a wind turbine, which is going to cost just as much, will have about a tenth of the output (ROI) that is marginally profitable elsewhere. In short, wind turbines are only a good solution in the areas where the rich Western countries are already putting them because that’s where the wind is, and where the wind is in reasonable proximity to a market. Few humans live where the wind is really good, like the circumpolar south Atlantic, because we hate howling wind, and plants aren’t real happy about it either.

        Solar has a lot of potential, but it still has problems with cost, it can’t hold a grid up at night, and it doesn’t like snow. So if you go solar, and want to keep your grid up 24 hours a day, you should back it up with nuclear. But if you back it up with nuclear the solar arrays are redundant.Report

  13. Rufus F. says:

    Something I’ve not seen discussed- I’m sure it’s out there somewhere- is the effect of green “meat” on the environment. Factory farmed meat is supposedly terrible and the fake stuff is actually getting pretty good. I have a vegetarian girlfriend, so I eat a lot of it, and I had a sausage on a bun the other day that was tastier than the meat kind with the only giveaway being it wasn’t greasy. I can live with that.

    Anyway, I’ve been told that eating a “plant-based diet” is the best thing you can do for the environment, but I’ve never seen the numbers for that. I know the plant-burger industry is growing fairly strongly, but is the farming better? I mean, palm oil production is horrible for the planet. So, I’m sure I can ask a hippie, but if anyone here knows how much of a difference it makes…Report

    • George Turner in reply to Rufus F. says:

      I bought Feeding the World several years ago, written by one of the top governmental experts on feeding the world.

      He says the idea that we can all go vegetarian is unrealistic (China is going the other way) and in many large areas unworkable (much of the world is suited to pasture, not crops). But all meat is not the same when it comes to turning plant food into protein, chicken and pork are far more efficient than beef, and fish farming is also very efficient.

      I also found this short Youtube video quite informative.Report

    • James K in reply to Rufus F. says:

      The environmental implications of meat are a little complicated. On the one hand, it depends on how you trade off methane against CO2 (methane is a worse GHG than CO2, but it breaks down into CO2 in a few years, so its hard to decide how to count that). Of further difficulty is that there is a lot of land that is useless for growing crops.

      The big issues, in the US mostly, is that corn-fed beef is extremely environmentally-unfriendly. But corn-fed beef is largely an artefact of the US’s agricultural policies, so that’s fixable in principle.Report

      • Road Scholar in reply to James K says:

        methane is a worse GHG than CO2, but it breaks down into CO2 in a few years, so its hard to decide how to count that

        Actually not hard at all. CH4 breaks down through oxidation — essentially it slowly burns — by the reaction CH4 + 2(O2) => CO2 + 2(H2O). CH4 has a half-life in the atmosphere of about 10 years. Without looking it up I don’t know how much more powerful methane is vs CO2 as a greenhouse gas but if you knew that the calculation is fairly straightforward to make the comparison.Report

        • James K in reply to Road Scholar says:

          What makes it tricky is figuring out how to handle time. How do we reconcile something that is methane for X years and then CO2 thereafter, vs something that’s CO2 from day 1. In theory there’s some kind of present value calculation that could be done here, but coming up with a good discount rate for climate change is a non-trivial problem.Report

          • Road Scholar in reply to James K says:

            I’m not really understanding what it is you’re trying to figure out here. Absent any economic considerations, it’s better to burn methane — either by using it in some way or just flaring it off — than to just release it into the atmosphere. Any time that carbon atom spends attached to four hydrogens is worse for AGW than the equivalent time spent attached to two oxygens.Report

            • James K in reply to Road Scholar says:

              Yes, it’s easy to work out that its worse, the trick is figuring out how much worse. In order to do proper environmental policy, particularly to levy a proper Carbon tax or similar measure, you need to know how many times worse methane is than CO2 for the climate, so you know how many CO2 equivalents to set it as. If there are two processes, one emits 2 units of CO2, while the other emits one unit of methane, which is better for the climate? How about three units of CO2? How about four?Report

              • Michael Cain in reply to James K says:

                The generally accepted figures for heat capture are on the near order of 100:1 over five years, 70:1 over 20 years, and 30:1 over a hundred years for equal mass. No time discounting in those calculations. Nitrous oxides about 300:1 over 100 years. Fluorinated gases are on the order of several thousand to one over a hundred years.

                Even when those weights are considered (the usual language is to convert the other gases to CO2 equivalent), the US emits so much CO2 that it accounts for 80% of the US’s total contribution to warming (methane’s contribution is about 10%). In practice, fixing CO2 largely fixes NOx. Fixing CO2 largely fixes non-agricultural CH4. Fluorinated gases are conceptually simple, just require all heat pumps be replaced with gear that uses CO2 as the working fluid (parts of the world are doing that).

                That paragraph assumes that “fixing” is roughly the same as “eliminate”. If it means “convert everything to methane”, then you’ve got a point.Report

      • Rufus F. in reply to James K says:

        I have a feeling the vegans and plant-based eaters are going to make a difference at some point in how beef is raised. Plant-based fake meat sales increased by 23% last year, which is nothing to sneeze at. The meat industry is responding by trying to pass laws that you can’t use the word “meat” on the packaging, but I don’t think that’s going to make much difference for the people who eat it. Better practices might win back some meat-eaters though.Report

  14. try-harder says:

    MMT doesn’t say you can spend money endlessly. Sorry, it just aint true. They say that the real constraint on spending is inflation and the provision of real resources in the economy. They will argue the former has been stubbornly low and that productive capacity is sufficient to rise to meet demand.

    Its not silly to think that tackling huge environmental problems requires thinking about multiple but related issues including inequality, healthcare, and reproductive rights. I will leave you all to ponder how environmental issues might be related to poverty, or to women’s rights not to have a baby, to our health and well-being. Its not too hard to see the connection, if you just try. Also just to point out: its the sugar to go down with the pill; make people feel more secure in their lives, and that government is working for them, and they can tolerate sacrifice.

    2009-2019 is 10 years, not 20. And yes, rail can be built to most cities; just an excuse to say no. They built roads, didn’t they?Report