This week includes Earth Day, and climate policy is at the forefront of legislators’ minds and agendas. Between the climate-change-heavy, Biden-administration infrastructure package, the scheduled climate summit and the anticipated announcement of the new U.S. commitments for the Paris Climate Agreement, one might think that there is plenty of climate policy already on the agenda. But grapevine rumors suggest that Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez plans also to reintroduce the Green New Deal Resolution this week.
The Green New Deal Resolution doesn’t require specific action by the federal government, but it does act as a roadmap of the far left’s most aggressive vision of a complete energy and environmental overhaul. Is that roadmap really toward a brighter future, with a healthier climate and thriving economy with clean, carbon-free jobs? The answer is no.
We’ve seen the consequences of aggressive proposals meant to force an economy to use favored energy sources. The proposals fail to meaningfully reduce carbon dioxide emissions and instead result in unreliable energy sources for citizens and skyrocketing energy prices. Take Germany for example: the country has long been a leader in pursuing renewable energy. In the first half of 2020, almost 50 percent of Germany’s power was produced by renewable energy sources. Considering that, in the U.S., only 16 percent of our electricity comes from wind, solar, and hydropower, Germany appears to be way ahead of the fight against climate change. But what does this look like for German households?
This renewable energy has come with a cost. A study found that between 2006 and 2017, the cost of electricity for households in Germany increased by 50 percent. We saw first hand in California, which depends on renewable sources for one third of its electricity, how dependency on these unreliable power sources led to rolling blackouts during a heat wave.
Recognizing that the Green New Deal is neither workable nor desirable doesn’t mean that policymakers can’t advance policies to improve the environment. In fact, in the last two years since the Green New Deal was first introduced, there has been growing support on both sides of the aisle for taking action to address climate change and encourage the development and use of cleaner energy sources.
American innovation has proven itself time and again as the pathway forward for sustainable environmental progress. While renewable energy has become cheaper and more economically feasible thanks to this same American innovation, mandating the widespread adoption of renewable energy is still not a responsible approach to take, particularly when we have other good options, such as nuclear power and carbon capture and storage, that can succeed in reducing emissions and are still reliable and affordable.
Too many environmentalists choose to overlook this fact, but nuclear power is carbon-free, cheap, and reliable. It has long been a part of America’s energy grid, but has been underutilized. That can and should change. Europe again provides an example of what that future could look like: France has long relied on nuclear power and, because of that, it generates less than one-tenth of Germany’s carbon emissions at nearly half the cost. New developments in nuclear power technology, such as small modular reactors, can help the United States increase our nuclear power generation more quickly and with lower investment costs.
While we ramp up our nuclear power capacities, we should also utilize carbon capture and storage to help reduce carbon emissions from energy sources such as natural gas. The fracking boom of the 2000’s helped to greatly reduce energy costs in the U.S. and provided us with reliable and affordable energy, while also reducing emissions.
In fact, on this Earth Day, it’s important to recognize and celebrate the progress the U.S. has made on the environment. We’re the only highly-populated country to meet the World Health Organization’s most stringent air quality standards and our energy-related emissions have dropped by 14 percent in the last 15 years, while the rest of the world has increased theirs by 20 percent. And thanks to a combination of renewable energy and cleaner traditional energy sources, U.S. emissions are now around their 1980 levels, when electricity demand was one-third lower than today.
Now is not the time to return to policies like those contained in the Green New Deal that rely on prohibitions and mandates that will drive up costs for the American public and fail to meaningfully benefit the environment. Our progress came thanks to innovation, and that remains our best path forward.
Charlotte Whelan is a policy analyst at Independent Women’s Forum and member of the Steamboat Institute’s Emerging Leaders Council.