Have an extra $2,000 you’d like to throw away?
That’s how much the Green New Deal could raise the average household’s annual electric bill, according to a new study from consulting firm Wood Mackenzie. Transitioning all power plants to clean energy – a central goal of the Green New Deal – would cost American consumers a staggering $4.7 trillion over the next two decades.
The Green New Deal isn’t a serious proposal. Renewable energy sources like solar and wind have their place. But eliminating fossil fuels wholesale would prove prohibitively expensive.
Fortunately, it’s possible to save the environment without destroying the economy.
Introduced by freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), the GND is nothing if not ambitious. The proposal seeks to transition the United States off fossil fuels, ideally within 10 years.
The plan has become a rallying cry for progressives. Numerous candidates running for the Democratic presidential nomination support it. But so far, proponents have mostly ignored the proposal’s cost.
Thanks to Wood Mackenzie’s findings, that’s no longer an option. As the study’s authors point out, the GND would require “a complete redesign of the power sector,” that, among other things, would entail an 11-fold increase in energy production from wind and solar. Such an overhaul would also demand 900 times more energy storage and 200,000 more miles of transmission infrastructure than we currently have.
The study doesn’t even attempt to measure the cost of the GND’s other, non-climate related reforms, like setting up a single-payer health care system or guaranteeing a job to every American. All told, the proposal could cost an incomprehensible $93 trillion – $600,000 per household – according to the American Action Forum.
Thankfully, we don’t have to rely on pie-in-the-sky proposals to combat climate change. Over the last few years, advances in drilling technology have unlocked a glut of clean-burning natural gas. Power plants have switched en masse to this fuel, which is considerably cheaper than dirtier energy sources like coal.
As a result, America recorded a historic drop in greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon dioxide emissions from power plants decreased by 19.3 percent between 2011 and 2017, thanks mostly to the natural gas boom.
The Green New Deal stands no chance of becoming law. Its provisions are already proving so politically toxic that even Sen. Markey, its lead sponsor, didn’t vote in favor when it came up for a roll call vote.
Accelerating the transition to natural gas, by contrast, is politically feasible. It doesn’t require any sacrifices at all – power plants are switching voluntarily to save money.
This lack of sacrifice is important. A new Reuters/Ipsos poll shows that almost 70 percent of Americans support aggressive action on climate change, but just one in three are willing to pay $100 or more in taxes to finance this action.
Of course, renewables can help reduce emissions too. According to the latest projections from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, however, energy sources such as wind, solar and hydropower will account for just 18 percent of America’s electricity production this year, and 20 percent in 2020.
An all-renewable future simply isn’t realistic in our lifetimes. A lower-emissions future is – thanks largely to cleaner-burning natural gas.
Drew Johnson is a Senior Fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.