Senate Democrats on Tuesday rolled out an ambitious climate change plan that calls for spending $400 billion annually to achieve net-zero emissions no later than 2050, even as California struggles with rolling blackouts under a comparable statewide renewable energy standard.
The 263-page report, the latest of the Democratic Green New Deal-style proposals, seeks to increase federal spending to address climate change by at least 2% of U.S. gross domestic product annually, or about $400 billion, with a guarantee that 40% of the benefits would go to minority and disadvantaged communities.
“The climate crisis is not some distant threat. It is here now, and it will be catastrophic if we don’t strike back immediately,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat. “Over the next few decades, climate change will affect every part of American life: our health, our economy, our national security, even our geography.”
The plan would create “at least 10 million new jobs” with an aggressive transition from fossil fuels to solar and wind energy. It also would invest in electric vehicles, retrofit buildings and expand public transportation.
Critics said the plan is unrealistic and wildly expensive, but the Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis said in its report that “there is no viable scenario in which our country avoids significant spending.”
“We can wait and spend trillions of dollars in a disorderly, unproductive manner to continuously respond to our changing climate. Or, we strategically invest in climate solutions now,” the report said.
The proposal was introduced while Californians were suffering through power outages during a heat wave. The state hopes to convert its electrical grid to 100% renewable energy by 2045, five years before the Senate Democrats’ goal, raising questions about the feasibility of such plans.
James Taylor, president of the Heartland Institute, said efforts to achieve net-zero emissions with current technology are “simply pixie dust and wishful thinking with absolutely no basis in reality.”
“It’s impossible to have net-zero energy electricity generation without frequent blackouts and substantial economic pain from higher electricity costs, just as a matter of science,” Mr. Taylor said. “We don’t have the capacity to generate our electricity right now from unreliable intermittent sources and still have a reliable electricity grid, and that’s not going to change anytime in the near future.”
Last year, renewable energy represented about 11% of U.S. total energy consumption and 17% of electricity generation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
“It’s just political grandstanding,” Mr. Taylor said. “The Democrats would either destroy our reliable electricity grid or they would immediately need to break their campaign promise. It has to be one or the other.”
Like the Green New Deal resolution proposed in 2017 by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New York Democrat, the program laid out by Democrats on the Special Committee on the Climate Crisis includes a focus on environmental justice while adding a call to expose those who donate to “groups trafficking in climate denial.”
Several pages of the report were devoted to blasting the free market Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Heartland Institute, which have challenged the “climate crisis” narrative, as well as trade associations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“This report charts a smart path forward for climate action in Congress. It includes the vital first step of exposing the fossil fuel industry’s decades-old covert operation to scuttle meaningful climate legislation,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Rhode Island Democrat. “To move forward on major climate bills, we’ll need to execute on that recommendation.”
Steven Milloy, publisher of JunkScience.com and a member of the Trump EPA transition team, said the spending would “accomplish nothing — but at great cost.”
“Regardless of one’s views on climate science, U.S. emissions are an ever-shrinking part of global emissions,” Mr. Milloy said.
Carbon dioxide emissions dropped 12% in the U.S. from 2005 to 2018, according to the EPA, and rose nearly 24% worldwide.
“Democrat plans to ‘decarbonize’ the economy would only raise energy prices, reduce our standard of living and put our national security in jeopardy without changing, much less improving, the weather,” Mr. Milloy said.
Sen. Jeff Merkley, Oregon Democrat, drew a connection between climate change and the novel coronavirus. He said the “pandemic is showing us the importance of responding to crises boldly and decisively with science, not ideology.”