What’s at Stake for Real Americans with These 'Green New Deals?'
Posted August 13, 2019
Now’s a good time to revisit the potential impacts of the “Green New Deal” and other anti-natural gas and oil ideas that have gained so much traction with the Democratic presidential contenders.
As we said a few months ago, fundamentally reordering American energy and Americans’ way of life should be measured by impacts on U.S. consumers, the economy and the country’s energy future.
For example, a 2017 study projected that radically restricting U.S. energy development (including halting new natural gas and oil leases, banning hydraulic fracturing, prohibiting new or expanded coal mines and prohibiting energy infrastructure permits) could cost 5.9 million jobs and $11.8 trillion in cumulative GDP by 2040. Even accounting for “green” job creation, such restrictions would return the U.S. to recession-level unemployment rates of over 7%. A frank reckoning of the Democrats’ energy proposals has been absent through two rounds of presidential debates.
The threat of climate change is real, and we need solutions that realistically address it. This means taking on the dual challenge of lowering energy-related emissions while meeting our country’s need for affordable and reliable energy.
We can do both – increased use of natural gas is the chief reason U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are at their lowest levels in a generation – yet you’d never know it from the debate stage.
Quite the opposite. Support for green new deal-like concepts is this season’s political litmus test on climate action, with many of the Democratic presidential contenders backing the “keep it in the ground” concept. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s Green Industrial Mobilization, Sen. Kamala Harris’ Climate Equity Act, and Gov. Jay Inslee’s Climate Mission Agenda are just some of the green new deals to surface this cycle.
They could have significant impacts on these areas of everyday life, now supported by our current energy portfolio:
Affordable Household Electricity: Abundant and affordable natural gas, made possible by the shale revolution, has contributed to lower heating costs for American families. This is an especially important consideration for low- and fixed-income households because energy affects livelihoods, and during the winter months inexpensive access to heat reduces exposure to the life-threatening cold.
The regional energy shortages resulting from infrastructure moratoriums impacting New York and New England serve as a warning of what a radical climate plan could mean. Plus, the proposals would require retrofitting existing buildings and infrastructure that currently depend on natural gas and oil, upgrades that could cost upward of $500 billion.
Government Revenue for Education and Infrastructure: In 2018, revenues generated by U.S. energy production in federal areas totaled $8.93 billion – money that’s redistributed to states and communities for education, infrastructure and conservation projects. Eliminating natural gas and oil production could mean cutting the tax base that funds services that matter most to average Americans, such as public schools, roads and first responders.
Transportation without Unfair Subsidies: Electric vehicles (EVs) – and their subsidies – already disproportionately benefit upper-income households at the expense of other taxpayers, and their market viability is still to be determined. Currently, EVs are more costly than conventional vehicles, and they don’t necessarily meet individual consumer or commercial cargo needs.
And, aside from the obvious fact that the energy must come from somewhere – and renewables only generated 17% of U.S. electricity in 2018 – battery production presents another roadblock to universal EV uptake. Reliance on foreign countries, including Russia and China, for the mineral components in EV batteries could reverse progress toward lowering energy imports, threatening the U.S. economy.
Millions of Jobs in the Natural Gas and Oil Industry: The natural gas and oil industry supports 10.3 million well-paying jobs, creating STEM-related opportunities for veterans, women and minorities, and contributing $1.3 trillion to the U.S. economy. While green new deal proposals often promise economic safety nets for the energy workforce, the reality of job replacement programs is much less clear.
Cleaner Energy Worldwide with U.S. LNG Exports: The growth of U.S. energy production has supported increasing exports of crude oil and liquified natural gas (LNG), which benefit the American economy and transport clean energy across the globe. Coal-to-natural gas switching has saved about 500 million tons of carbon dioxide worldwide, contributing to better air quality at home and clean energy transitions abroad – progress made possible by American LNG, not renewables alone.
Homegrown natural gas and oil has also bolstered American energy security and granted the U.S. unique leverage in policy negotiations in the Middle East. This domestic energy abundance guarantees supply stability for us and our allies and allows the U.S. to better mitigate global risks.
Green new deals just don’t make sense for Americans.
On the whole, the climate proposals touted by 2020 presidential contenders are unworkable for average consumers. Even Ernest Moniz, President Obama’s energy secretary, recognizes the need to counter the soaring promises of the green new deals with practical policy solutions. Last week, ahead of a speech at the Global Energy Institute, he stated:
“If one is not pragmatic and pushes programs that are tough but at least achievable and if we can’t pull together and recognize the needs of a broad coalition, we won’t get there.”
The future of sustainable energy and environmental progress requires natural gas and oil to exist in partnership with renewables. Programs addressing the environment should embrace the American energy revolution, with its assurance of affordable and clean natural gas, and should champion the industry-driven innovations that have already made the U.S. a world leader in emissions reduction. Real Americans deserve real solutions, not the disingenuous pledges of these green new deals.
About The Author
Sam Winstel is a writer for the American Petroleum Institute. He comes to API from Edelman, where he supported communications marketing strategies for clients across the firm’s energy and federal government practices. Originally from Dallas, Texas, Sam graduated from Davidson College in North Carolina, and he currently resides in Washington, D.C.