Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey just released the Green New Deal, a plan to overhaul the entire U.S. economy and “achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions” within the decade.
The plan reads like a Saturday Night Live parody of an environmentalist’s wish list. The pie-in-the-sky goals range from the merely impractical to the physically impossible.
Consider a few of the Green New Deal’s unrealistic demands.
The plan calls for retrofitting “all existing buildings in the United States” with state-of-the-art technologies such as energy-efficient windows. There are roughly 100 million commercial, residential, and industrial buildings in the United States. If each has 50 windows, on average – single-family homes might have fewer panes, but skyscrapers have thousands – that’s 5 billion windows we’d need to replace.
Assuming a two-man team of workers can replace two windows per hour, and they work 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year for a decade, we’d need 240,000 laborers – more than the population of Richmond, Virginia – just to install new windows. Let’s not even contemplate the cost of installing new HVAC systems, solar roofs, and other green gadgets.
Then there’s the equally ludicrous goal of replacing fuel-burning jetliners with high-speed trains. California has spent the past decade trying to construct a single high-speed rail line. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced this month that he’s dramatically scaling back the project, which is years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget.
Even if we could build a national high-speed rail network, it’d still be a catastrophically bad idea. In a few years, Amtrak will unveil next-generation trains that can travel 160 mph. Assuming these trains made no stops and traveled in a straight line at max speed, it would take over 15 hours to get from Los Angeles to New York City.
Should we all leave for cross-country trips a day early?
Even the most overly optimistic analysis – put together by scientists at Stanford University, UC Berkeley, and elsewhere – conclude that the United States wouldn’t be able to shift to 100 percent renewable energy before 2055, a quarter-century past the Green New Deal’s deadline.
But that target is likely unreachable. In a Publications of the National Academy of Sciences article, 21 leading climate researchers recently warned that professor’s projections contained errors, unreasonable assumptions, and relied heavily on technology that hasn’t proven effective on a large scale.
The authors concluded that such a transition could cause massive economic turmoil, in part because wind farms and solar plants only generate electricity on windy, sunny days. Storing that much renewable energy isn’t even possible due to limitations in current battery technology.
Of course, we don’t need to rely on future projections to see why the Green New Deal is misguided. A look at recent real-world experiments with renewable energy offers plenty of stark warnings.
In 2011, then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law requiring California utilities to boost their reliance on renewables by 2020. By 2017, Californians were paying roughly 50 percent more for electricity than the rest of the country.
Germany’s attempt to generate 80 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2050 has yielded similar results. The country’s electricity prices have been the highest in Europe since 2013.
The Green New Deal is laughably unrealistic. If lawmakers implemented even a tenth of the plan, it would destroy the U.S. economy and impoverish tens of millions of people.
Drew Johnson is a Senior Fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research. This piece originally ran in Fox Business.