GOP’s alternative to the Green New Deal: Throw money at fossil fuels
Last week, we were skeptical of Republicans’ latest attempts to appease suburban women and millenial voters by proposing a legislative response to the Green New Deal. While the GOP certainly could have proposed policies that fit well within conservative ideology’s preference for market-based mechanisms, most notably a carbon tax, the few details provided did not exactly inspire confidence, to put it mildly.
The one thing we did give them credit for was a “trillion tree” initiative (that wouldn’t involve anything close to a trillion trees). Unfortunately, as MIT Technology Review’s James Temple recently explained, even that “could be a dangerous distraction,” and is “no substitute for cutting emissions.”
And the rest of the GOP’s plan, which a spokesperson for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy shared with Breitbart, is barely even going to try to reduce emissions.
Of the six pieces of legislation McCarthy’s office expects to be rolled out “over the next few months,” one is about shifting foreign aid to address plastics in rivers, and three are essentially government handouts to the fossil fuel industry. Republicans want the government to fund research into capturing carbon and sequestration to “maximize the use of America’s vast fossil energy resources into the future,” provide tax incentives to develop that technology, and invest in more natural gas pipelines.
That being said, the remaining two policies seem like they have potential… if you don’t think about them too hard. One aims to make it easier for farmers to reduce emissions by helping them implement new farming techniques and incentivizing new technology. It seems unlikely Republicans are about to start helping organic and otherwise low-carbon farms, and reading between the “public-private partnerships” lines, it sure sounds like this is going to be more government subsidies for large-scale industrial agriculture.
The final piece of the puzzle is the ol’ standby of nuclear energy. Fossil-fuel-funded folks love to praise nuclear energy as a potential climate solution, because they know the industry’s dirty secret: “It’s really hard to make the economics of nuclear power work.”
That’s not a quote from some radical anti-nuclear activist, but instead the former chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Allison Macfarlane. And it wasn’t found in some far-left fringe blog, but instead in the right-leaning Washington Examiner, in a piece explaining how the oft-touted but little-tested dreams of the new generation of nuclear power plants are likely to remain dreams for decades to come.
The piece points to an Obama-era initiative with Babcock & Wilcox to split the costs of a small modular reactor that was supposed to be operating by 2022. Well, it’s 2020, so it should be pretty close to completion, right?
Nope. Even with the government’s money involved, “Babcock & Wilcox later withdrew its application due to high costs.”
And it’s not just the fancy new nuclear reactors that aren’t economically feasible. As we’ve ranted about before, Georgia and South Carolina have sunk something like a combined $40 billion into nuclear plants that either aren’t yet (GA) or never will be (SC) operational.
Macfarlane, now a professor at George Washington University, said that she is “not optimistic that any kind of nuclear reactors will have any significant impact on climate change for the next 20 or 30 years.”
So any potential help that nuclear power could offer to fight climate change wouldn’t be ready until we’re at the point where emissions need to already be approaching zero if we’d like to save the lives of millions of our fellow humans.
If we’d rather save the fossil fuel industry, though, the GOP has just the plan.
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(Crossposted with DailyKos. Image CC by Sodahead.)