We’ve come a long away from America’s forefathers who were practical, avoiding extremes and focusing instead on sensible approaches that serve the greater interest. With “green fever” infecting national politics today, the Democratic Party is increasingly tying itself to an agenda of environmental extremism that overlooks common sense. If successful, this agenda could hurt those less fortunate and do serious damage to the American economy.
There is no better exemplar of the push toward extremism by Democrats than the offering of the “Green New Deal,” an all or nothing proposal that bills itself as the silver bullet for America’s contributions to climate change. Among its proposed solutions are a net zero emissions transportation system, an electric grid that achieves net zero greenhouse gas emissions within ten years, green housing for all Americans, and guaranteed food security. It would be an understatement to call such a plan ambitious. It would not be an understatement to call it wildly expensive.
The cost? Some estimates place the final cost as high as high as $93 trillion. Rapid expansion of renewables would cost $2 trillion according to respected physicist Christopher Clark. A “smart power grid” comes with a price tag of $400 billion says the Electric Power Institute. Upgrading homes and industrial buildings runs $2.5 trillion and universal health care costs $1.4 trillion annually.
All of these costs, of course, are just for the first 10 years and none of them were provided by the bill’s chief architect, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezRepublican spin on Biden is off the mark House progressives call on Biden to end all new fossil fuel permitting Schumer endorses democratic socialist India Walton in Buffalo mayor's race MORE (D-N.Y.). Like a political version of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory’s Veruca Salt, the bill hasn’t considered the price tag. She simply wants it now, even though the plan increases federal spending by half.
Consumers have little appetite for such spending either. The University of Chicago’s Energy Policy Institute research found that almost half of Americans are unwilling to pay anything more for climate change, while only one in six are willing to pay an extra $100 monthly.
Fortunately, not all parts of the Democratic base are playing along. Unions, for one, are crying foul over the plan, with United Mine Workers and Laborers’ International Union of North America “skeptical” and “fearful” that the loosely defined plan could actually endanger jobs. Sean McGarvey, president of the North America’s Building Trades Union, has reinforced these concerns, arguing that renewable energy jobs can’t replace oil and gas sector jobs in terms of income and quality. A coalition of labor unions led by the AFL-CIO has piled on, too, stating emphatically in a recent letter to Sen. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeySix big off-year elections you might be missing Glasgow summit raises stakes for Biden deal Dozens of Democrats call for spending bill to pass 'climate test' MORE (D-Mass.) and Ocasio-Cortez that the Green New Deal “is not rooted in an engineering-based approach and makes promises that are not achievable or realistic.”
Legislation in California is also ruffling feathers. Proposed legislation under the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act has drawn sharp criticism over whether the plan, aimed at combating climate change, would instead deepen poverty by restricting new housing for disproportionally Latino and African American residents of California. This dangerous side effect was the basis for a legal complaint filed by a statewide coalition against the California Air Resources Board that argues that greenhouse gas reduction policies would have highly regressive costs and create a housing crisis for minorities. The coalition, called The Two Hundred, makes a strong case that California can’t achieve its aggressive climate goals without hurting its workers and its economy in the process.
If that approach sounds familiar, it should. It’s the same short-sighted, ‘no cost is too high’ attitude that gave us the Green New Deal. Unfortunately, these bad bargains threaten to saddle Americans from all income classes with trillions in new costs or, in the case of California, jeopardize the availability of something as basic as affordable housing. These measures nationally and particularly in California are fracturing the coalition that has built the modern day Democratic Party.
The bottom line: We will always need oil and gas. We do need to reduce consumption, but it is absolutely absurd to think we can do without our energy needs in society today. It’s time for Democrats to change course from an extreme environmental agenda that prioritizes all-or-nothing policy initiatives over union jobs, the protection of minority and low-income communities, and the preservation of the American economy and fiscal sanity. We don’t need more polarization of our party. We need substantive plans, designed by sensible people, that meet the challenge head on at a price all of us, even the poorest among us, can afford.
Charlie Melancon is a former Democratic member of Congress from Louisiana and former Louisiana Secretary of Wildlife and Fisheries.