To the editor:
Anthony Marolda indeed poses a number of serious questions in his April 5 letter “How real is the Green New Deal?” Sadly, he concludes, almost joyfully in tone, that the plan is infeasible — dead in essence — because of the current technological limits of clean energy sources, the purported “prohibitive” cost, and the failure to pass a sham Senate vote. It’s now becoming clear that the fossil fuel industry, in particular Exxon and the American Petroleum Institute, have for decades fought successfully to quash the science and forestall the dramatic actions needed to reduce carbon emissions. As I wrote recently, the global response to climate change should have been “all hands on deck,” starting about 30 years ago. Now, young people worldwide are beginning a protest movement which calls their elders to task for our failure to prevent a future cataclysm, one whose shape we can already begin to see.
Green energy capture and storage, as Mr. Marolda points out, have physical limitations; storage in particular requires a transformative breakthrough. However, much of the shortfall he describes is of scale, the number of solar and wind units for instance, rather than the efficiency of individual units. It’s discouraging to travel in some Sun Belt states where so few solar panels are seen. Surely as a society we can do better than to puff out our chests and scoff at such notions, as so many these days seem inclined to do.
As for the cost, it’s not as if we will simply have a bonfire of Treasury notes. There would be enormous benefits from modern, clean, and efficient infrastructure and transportation, bringing with it drastic reductions in local and regional health hazards like acid rain, particulate emissions and lung diseases, not to mention consigning abominations like mountaintop removal in coal country and massive oil spills to the history books. Millions would be employed in this national program. And, as Noah Smith wrote in the April 9 Times, it’s not necessary to dismantle capitalism; but federal and state government action is required to curb capitalism’s worst outcomes and to focus its creative energy on society’s greatest needs. Indeed, the Green New Dealers don’t contemplate a “centrally planned economy,” much less nationalization of industry. So, if corporate America insists on its “personhood,” even at times its civil rights, including religious freedom, here is an opportunity for it to behave like a concerned citizen, as so many companies already do in so many ways.
One hundred percent green energy in 10 years may not be achievable, but we must strive for it. The authors of the Green New Deal are at least honest about the stakes involved, something we certainly don’t hear from the occupants of the White House and the industry foxes that now run our health and safety agencies.
A couple more things: you’ll still be able to get a hamburger and a shake if you want. The suggestion is that maybe we could get along with less beef and dairy, for our own health and the planet’s. And maybe we can reduce, not eliminate, air travel with fast, efficient rail systems powered with green electricity. We put a man (several men, actually) on the moon, didn’t we?