Early Version of Ocasio-Cortez Green New Deal Touts Clean Power

February 6, 2019, 6:28 PM UTC

Guaranteed jobs, health care, and housing are in a draft of the Green New Deal environmental package set to be unveiled by Democrats this week, but the proposal doesn’t explicitly include the ban on fossil fuels called for by some supporters.

Instead, the draft of the much anticipated resolution being crafted by Democrats Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York representative, and Ed Markey, a Massachusetts senator, calls for 100 percent power from “clean, renewable and zero emission energy sources.” While the proposal calls for reaching “net-zero greenhouse gas emissions,” it omits specific language sought by some progressives, who could feel betrayed after rallying behind the plan at an early stage.

“It’s setting us up for a long term transition away from fossil fuels,” Saikat Chakrabarti, the New York freshman lawmaker’s chief of staff, said in an interview. “We are saying net zero emissions. I can’t imagine how we do that without transitioning off of fossil fuel.”

The five-page draft obtained by Bloomberg provides early details of how Democrats plan to define what is quickly becoming a centerpiece of their agenda on Capitol Hill and the 2020 campaign trail.

“This is the most ambitious climate and economic justice plans for Congress in our lifetime,” said Stephen O’Hanlon, a spokesman for Sunrise Movement, the grassroots group that has partnered with Ocasio-Cortez to push for the Green New Deal and did not provide the document. “We want to be clear that in the Sunrise Movement’s view the resolution is a road map for organizing the Green New Deal over the coming year and going to work with think tanks, political leaders and different stakeholders to develop the vision for the Green New Deal for the coming year.”

The draft framework, a non-binding resolution that aims to firm up what had been a loosely defined legislative wish list to halt global warming, calls for a series of “Green New Deal Projects.” Those include a dramatic expansion of renewable energy, energy and water efficiency upgrades for all U.S. buildings, and an overhaul of the country’s transportation system to eliminate pollution and emissions from the sector “as much as technologically feasible,” with a nod to investment in zero-emission vehicles, public transit, and high-speed rail.

Others tenets of the proposal are ambitious such as “massive growth in clean U.S. manufacturing, removing pollution byproducts and greenhouse gas emissions from that sector as much as technologically feasible.” The draft also calls for funding to harden and lessen the impacts of climate change, build the smart grid, clean up hazardous waste sites and restore threatened lands.

“Over the next two years, we can turn this into a comprehensive set of legislation ready for the next President to sign into law in 2021,” said Sean McElwee, co-founder of Data For Progress, a left-leaning think tank that has played an integral role in sketching out the Green New Deal. “These are principles that every elected Democrat in the country should be able to adhere to. There is no viable path to the Democratic nomination for someone who does not.”

The proposal also calls for any forthcoming infrastructure legislation to address climate change, including by eliminating greenhouse gas emissions, a “guarantee of universal access to clean water,” funding for community-projects to mitigate the damage caused by climate change, and a requirement that that Green New Deal projects create “high-quality union jobs.” Another Green New Deal requirement: “enacting and enforcing trade rules, procurement standards, and border adjustments with strong labor and environmental protections to stop the transfer of jobs and pollution overseas and grow our domestic manufacturing.”

The draft didn’t specify funding sources, but the draft cites a landmark climate report released late last year by the Trump administration that said climate change is expected to cause more than $5 trillion in lost economic output in the U.S. by the end of the century. “Accounting for the true cost of emissions” and new public investment will be required, the document says.

The omission of a specific ban on fossil fuels is a nod to moderates who feared it was unfeasible and seen as too extreme and was a nod to labor unions who had concerns with the language. At the same time inclusion of phrase clean energy leaves the door open the door to nuclear and carbon capture loathed by some in the environmental community. The omission of a specific ban on fossil fuels, which is still subject to change, was earlier reported by Politico.

“While the resolutions contain bold and important proposals, they remain incomplete in addressing the climate crisis comprehensively due to their failure to address fossil fuel production,” David Turnbull, a spokesman for the environmental group Oil Change International, said by email.

“Our climate crisis requires that we stand up to the fossil fuel industry and ramp down our fossil fuel production, not allow it to continue its planned expansion,” he said. “Any comprehensive approach to the climate crisis must include a plan to manage the decline of fossil fuel production and ensure a just transition for workers and communities.”

However, the omission of such language could make the proposal more acceptable to labor unions and Democrats on the presidential campaign trail and some environmental groups indicated they were amenable to the wording.

“We are confident this initial plan will help us get there even if there is not an implicit ban on fossil fuels,” said Thanu Yakupitiyage, a spokeswoman for the environmental group 350.org. The group noted the resolution has language related to eminent domain and trade that could serve as an intervention to pipelines and oil exports.

Fossil-fuel proponents were quick to crow that the elimination of their energy source had been re-considered.

“They’re getting rid of the central tenet which was the elimination of the fuel that runs our entire globe,” said Tom Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, a free-market advocacy group. “Maybe they are starting to do a little research and realize it will be literally impossible to that.”

The issue of climate change attracts young voters and presents a contrast with President Donald Trump, who has called it a hoax and promised to bring back carbon dioxide-spewing coal.

“It’s easy to declare the end of fossil fuels, but actually crafting a plan to destroy the economy is both bad policy and bad politics,” said Texans for Natural Gas spokesman Steve Everley. “We eagerly await the next walkback from supporters of the Green New Deal.”