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Sun Mar 17, 2019, 09:45 AM

 

Bill McKibben writes in the New Yorker about Beto and the Green New Deal.

https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/how-to-tell-if-beto-orourke-is-for-real-a-green-new-deal-and-natural-gas

From the Article:

In fact, that transition is already starting to happen in places such as India and China, where the use of renewable energy is increasing at a breakneck pace because it is both cheap and clean. And it could happen here, too: as the C.E.O. of a solar company said earlier this year, “I can beat a gas peaker anywhere in this country with a solar-plus-storage power plant.”

But the pressures to keep doing more of what we’re used to are enormous. Texas has the second-largest economy in the country; oil and gas are still the state’s largest industries. For employees of those companies, who, in 2018, contributed more money to O’Rourke’s campaign than to that of any other member of Congress except Cruz (it’s Texas, after all), natural-gas production is a way to extend their livelihoods for a few more decades. (Unlike Cruz, O’Rourke took no money from PACs. ) Those parts of organized labor skilled at building pipelines and gas plants want to keep their jobs, too; indeed, the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s energy committee said last week that it could not support the Green New Deal, stating in a letter to its congressional sponsors that “we will not stand by and allow threats to our members’ jobs and their families’ standard of living go unanswered.”

These pressures are why, for eight years, President Obama supported fracking—it’s the path of least resistance. In fairness to Obama, when his term in office began, we still thought of natural gas as the cleaner fossil fuel, because it gives off less carbon when it burns than coal does. But it turns out that fracking not only pollutes water and damages communities; over the past decade, scientists have demonstrated that the leaking methane that invariably accompanies fracking can make natural gas as bad for the climate as coal. Meanwhile, the price of renewables has fallen so far and so fast that we no longer need a “bridge fuel” to get us from coal to something truly clean, however convenient that prospect would be for those enmeshed in the current system. (Still, the science and the economics have not yet been enough to overcome the status quo, as I learned, in 2016, when Bernie Sanders, whom I supported, named me to the Democratic platform-writing panel; my arguments, and those of other anti-fracking campaigners, were not enough to get the document changed.)

By 2019, though, climate change has progressed to the point where a middle-of-the-road, all-of-the-above strategy is impossible: less for reasons of politics, where it may always be the easiest to sell, than for reasons of physics. O’Rourke, who has been strong on a range of other environmental issues, could conceivably be a central figure in the transition to renewable energy. Oil and gas may still be dominant in Texas, but O’Rourke’s home state also has the largest wind-power capacity in the country, and it is one of the five largest producers of solar energy. And, in 2017, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that solar photovoltaic installers and wind-turbine-service technicians are the fastest-growing occupations in the country. So, just as it took a politician of the right, Richard Nixon, to open up relations with China, a Texan might be just the person to persuade oil-and-gas workers that their futures can lie in building solar installations and wind farms—and to stand up to the fossil-fuel companies and the PACs that have so dominated our politics. Because we’ve run out of spare decades in which to play political games.

Bill McKibben, a former New Yorker staff writer, is a founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org and the Schumann Distinguished Scholar in environmental studies at Middlebury College. His forthcoming book is “Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?”Read more »
If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:
Undecided

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