New climate change efforts will not succeed without critical innovation

New climate change efforts will not succeed without critical innovation
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Climate policy is at the forefront of the minds of lawmakers on this Earth Day. Between the new infrastructure package, the global climate summit this week, and the coming announcement of the new commitments for the Paris climate accord, one might think that there is plenty of climate policy already on the agenda. But grapevine rumors suggest the Green New Deal resolution could be reintroduced this week.

The resolution does not need specific action by the federal government, but it does act like a map of the most aggressive vision for a total energy and environmental overhaul. Is that vision really of a brighter future with a healthier climate and thriving economy with clean jobs? The short answer is no. We have already seen the effects of aggressive proposals meant to force the economy into using favored energy sources.

These proposals fail to greatly reduce emissions and generate unreliable energy and skyrocketing prices. Germany has been a leader in renewable energy. In the first half of 2020, half its power was produced by renewable sources. Considering that in the United States, less than 20 percent of our electricity comes from renewable energy sources, Germany appears to be way ahead of the global fight against climate change.


But what is it like for households? It comes with a cost. A study found that between 2006 and 2017, the cost of electricity for households in Germany rose by 50 percent. We saw firsthand in California, which uses renewable sources for a third of its electricity, how reliance on such power sources led to numerous rolling blackouts during a heat wave.

Understanding the Green New Deal is neither realistic nor desirable does not mean our lawmakers cannot advance climate policy that protects the environment. Over the last two years since the proposal was introduced, there has been growing support with both sides of the aisle for action to address climate change and use clean energy sources.

American innovation has proven itself as the path forward for sustainable climate progress. While renewable energy has become cheaper and more feasible thanks to this same American innovation, mandating the adoption of renewable energy is still not a responsible approach to take, especially when we have other options, such as nuclear power and carbon capture, that can reduce emissions and still remain affordable.

Too many climate activists overlook this fact, but nuclear power is reliable and does not result in carbon emissions. It is a part of our energy grid but is underutilized. That can and should change. Europe provides a case of what that future could look like. France has long relied on nuclear power and generates less than a tenth of the carbon emissions by Germany for nearly half the cost. Developments in nuclear power technology, such as small modular reactors, could help the United States to increase nuclear power generation faster and with fewer investments.

While we increase these nuclear power capabilities, we should also utilize carbon capture and storage to reduce emissions from energy sources like natural gas. The fracking boom during the 2000s led to far lower energy prices in the United States and also gave us more reliable and affordable energy sources while cutting down on our emissions.


We should celebrate the progress we have made on the environment. The United States remains the only highly populated country to meet the most stringent global clean air standards. Our emissions have fallen by almost 15 percent in the last 15 years, while emissions from the rest of the world have risen by 20 percent. Thanks to a combination of renewable energy and traditional sources, our emissions are now around the levels in 1980, when electricity demand was a third lower than today.

Now is not the time to return to ideas like those in the Green New Deal which count on prohibitions and mandates that will drive up prices and fail to significantly benefit the environment. Our climate progress came from American innovation. It is our best road forward.

Charlotte Whelan is a policy analyst at Independent Womens Forum and is a member for the Emerging Leaders Council with the Steamboat Institute.