Commentary: Who gets the green in the Green New Deal?
Recently there has been a lot of talk about the Green New Deal, a resolution proposed by some in Congress, which would - in theory - lay out a plan to convert our entire economy to net-zero carbon emissions. But after reading the resolution, this Green New Deal reads more like a Democrat wish list than an actual plan. This is not leadership.
While it is easy to throw out a wish list and call it “bold ideas,” a leader also thinks about the implications of these ideas. A leader owns the implementation, not just the message. Since there is no mention of funding or practical paths forward, the Green New Deal is not only hollow, it is dangerous. It is nearly impossible to make happen, and if we blindly attempted, it would cost the country trillions of dollars, plus have potentially tens of trillions of dollars of negative economic impact.
The worst part is, I believe if pieces of this “Deal” became law it would do more to harm than good, while forcing struggling Americans to subsidize the wealthy.
Let me explain:
Imagine James who is an African-American living in Antioch, but working downtown in San Francisco. He makes $45,000 per year. Because housing in the Bay Area is unaffordable, James drives the 45 miles to and from work each way every day, paying about 80 Cents more per gallon of gas than the national average just because he lives in California. California’s gas tax was structured to limit money for addressing congestion to $250 million - less than 1percent of the $2.88 billion the tax is anticipated to generate.
Because California refuses to increase traffic capacity to encourage public transportation use, James doesn’t just drive 45 minutes. James’ drive is more like 90 minutes each way. With an average 25 mile per gallon car, James spends about $3,000 per year on fuel. But he spends so much time idling his gas mileage is actually closer to 20 so his fuel costs are much higher.
It gets worse. California’s environmental policies increase electricity costs too: 58 percent above the national average.
Additionally, between 2000 and 2014 many African American and Latinos shifted from central cities to eastern suburbs. Many families are doubling or tripling up in homes because they cannot afford single family housing. In 2016 and 2017, the combination of increased congestion and more vehicle miles traveled reversed decades of air quality improvements in California. The very policies California passed to help the environment, similar the Green New Deal, are harming the environment.
At the same time, California’s politicians have decided they want more electric vehicles on the roads. That’s fine. But while federal electrical vehicle subsidies are expiring, California may increase its incentive from $2,500 to $4,500. So, those who are buying electric cars benefit while those paying gasoline taxes get hurt. Who buys electric cars? The average Tesla purchaser is overwhelmingly a white, upper class male making $143,000 a year. Should this be subsidized?
The effect: California’s poorest, minority communities are being taxed to subsidize some rich guy’s Tesla. Does this make any sense?
This situation is so out of hand a civil rights group is suing the state of California for re-segregation due to its environmental policies.
The lawsuit says “California’s climate policies guarantee that housing, transportation and electricity prices will continue to rise while ‘gateway’ jobs to the middle class for those without college degrees, such as manufacturing and logistics, will continue to locate in other states.”
Do we want this across the entire country?
Just in California alone they need 3.5 million new housing options to deal with homelessness and unaffordability. California has the highest homeless population, and the highest homelessness rate, in the nation. But rich white people use the California Environmental Quality Act to challenge multi-family housing units located in existing urbanized areas, at the expense of working minorities, all because of California’s version of the Green New Deal.
I am a huge environmentalist. As Texas Railroad Commissioner I regulate the oil and gas industry and I am passionate about boldly going after those who harm the environment or our communities. The fact is, most operators in this state are good, responsible people who care as much about their world as I do. Because we take energy regulation seriously in Texas, I was disappointed the “Green New Deal” promotes policies that aren’t realistic and would devastate many of our citizens.
How can we help the hard-working poor and middle class in this country? By making the basic needs to sustain life reliable and affordable. If James lived in Texas, he would pay $2,600 less for the same energy needs. That’s like a percent pay increase. Now is not a time to ask poorer people to subsidize rich people’s choices. Now is a time with all of the energy development in this country and in this state to make sure everybody has access to affordable, reliable energy to make energy one less thing they have to worry about.
Ryan Sitton, a Republican, is commissioner of the Railroad Commission of Texas, the state’s oil and gas regulator