The Green New Deal is aspirational. It ignites the imagination of how we might boldly respond to multiple crises at the same time and solve them all. While Democrats should debate, promote, vote, and work out the details; they should also work, pragmatically, on important components that CAN be operationalized and/or make the most impact. This means continuing to work toward the goal of decarbonisation and economic justice no matter what happens with the Green New Deal in the short term.
The transition to cleaner energy sources should prioritize ending coal which is responsible for some 69% of electricity-related greenhouse emissions in the US (keeping in mind that electricity generation is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases).
Coal is the dirtiest fuel source, it wreaks havoc on the health of communities (more here and here), and it is increasingly uneconomical in the face of cheaper sources of new power, namely natural gas, wind and solar. Coal use has been in sharp decline in the US since the 2000s (in the 1990s the US got more than 50% of its electricity from coal, by 2018 that number had fallen to around 30%). The energy transition should prioritize retiring coal plants while investing in clean energy. For the time being, natural gas is part of the transition to a cleaner source of energy (keeping in mind that it should be replaced by 2050 if not sooner).
Retiring aging, dirty, inefficient coal plants should be easy right? Yes and No. Policy makers need to study how Colorado has proposed to mitigate financial risks and costs to costumers in the retirement of its coal-fired power plants. Maxx Chatsko has recently written about the important developments in Colorado to end coal power in Colorado through innovative policy proposed by state Rep. Chris Hansen called the “Colorado Energy Impact Assistance Act.” For more on the Colorado plans go here or here.
So, while Congress members supporting the Green New Deal fight on its behalf, at the same time please coordinate your staffs to look into proven strategies to replace aging coal-fired power plants with new green energy! Ending coal benefits the economic outlooks and health of communities, done skillfully it can generate economic, racial, and environmental justice.
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