My Turn, Jeff Sharp: Consider other scenario for ‘Green New Deal’

Published 12:22 am Sunday, June 13, 2021

By Jeff Sharp

Nalini Joseph on Sunday, June 6 presented her view of the “diabolical” “real intent” of HR109, a resolution named “Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal.”

HR109 is not a juggernaut of legislation barreling down upon us to imminently destroy our livelihoods. HR109 is a resolution, a policy statement that cites the same environmental concerns Ms. Joseph acknowledges as valid. You’d never know that reading what she wrote.

Ms. Joseph offers no constructive alternatives for dealing with the problem of global warming. Instead she seeks to inflame suspicion and fear about the topic. “The world conveniently blames us (Americans) for all the issues — mostly to extort large subsidies,” she writes. This is tribalism set on the world stage.

She then attempts to trade off American culpability against some “wonderful things”. “…the USA … has given … things like refining oil (Rockefeller), airplanes (the Wright brothers), mass production assembly lines (Henry Ford), the Internet (anyone recall the DARPA net?) and … other everyday conveniences.” There is no equivalency here. The most obvious flaw in this “trade” is that none of that stuff was ever given away. On a finer scale, each of these things is at best neutral, bringing negative outcomes along with everyday convenience. The huge industry spawned by Rockefeller’s Standard Oil bears considerable responsibility for creating CO2 emissions. Modern air transportation offers an exceptionally efficient method for delivering carbon directly into the stratosphere where it can wreak the most damage. Anyone who has worked on an assembly line will be quick to question the “wonderfulness” of mind-numbing hours spent working to the pace of the line.

An argument follows that if the Green New Deal is “adopted”, then 85% of the world will continue to emit exactly the same amount of CO2 as they do now. This is not how the world works. If you change one thing, then others change accordingly.

Here’s an alternative scenario. With decreased reliance on coal, oil and gas, the U.S. might finally eliminate subsidies it pays the fossil fuel industry. The EU pays even higher subsidies, and they would surely follow suit. The cost of fossil fuels would rise, leading to greater conservation. The industry would then have the opportunity to compete in true capitalist fashion, subject to authentic market forces. Competition would inspire innovation and drive out inefficiency to the benefit of both producers and consumers. Alternative energy sources could become more viable.

As economies of scale engage, alternative energy prices would fall, making them more attractive. The future is not entirely predetermined by regulations. Much of it is about market forces.

Ever the fear monger Ms. Joseph writes about the upset caused by dislocating all those energy sector employees. American companies and American workers always rise to the challenge of competition. Economic reorganization isn’t the ruination of the American way of life, it is the American way of life. And, with their capitalization, those energy companies aren’t going away. If Ms. Joseph had read past page No. 3 of HR109, she’d understand it isn’t directed solely at global warming.

It also resolves to provide infrastructure for the American economy to transition smoothly from fossil fuel dependence to a sustainable energy footprint for the 21st century and beyond. Importantly, HR109 addresses issues of worker dislocation and retraining.

HR109 also addresses workers’ rights and counteracts the predatory capitalism that has sent all gains of the American economy over the past 30 years into the pockets of a few extremely rich individuals. HR109 resolves that government’s role is to protect those whose labor fuels the power of the American economy no less than it protects the interests that invest in it. HR109 isn’t pretext.

It isn’t diabolical. It is a clear-eyed plan for the future.

Sharp lives in Salisbury.