A Decade After Clean Energy Investments, Lawmakers Bicker Over ‘Green New Deal’

A Decade After Clean Energy Investments, Lawmakers Bicker Over ‘Green New Deal’


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Janet Ybarra
Former Washington Journalist
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press

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It’s what has become perhaps simultaneously the most often-misunderstood political buzzword and partisan lightning rod: the so-called “green new deal.”

The “green new deal” is embraced by many Democrats–including several top presidential candidates–but held at arm’s length by others. And it’s openly criticized by congressional Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who has a vote scheduled Tuesday, hoping to embarrass Senate Democrats who will have to vote on measures which are not necessarily terribly yet either popular or understood by voters at large. The green new deal is not expected to be approved by this vote in the Republican-dominated Senate.

And, yes, the green new deal–which at it’s heart aims to significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions which contribute to climate change–does still need to be better explained to the American people.

But supporters should stand firm, and make their case–because the nation has been here before.

Ten years ago, as a matter of fact.

The Great Recession had taken hold, and the nation was hemorrhaging jobs each month.

However, President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress put together a massive economic stimulus program, which came to be known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Republicans were carping from the sidelines (sound familiar?) but the Recovery Act made the largest single investment in clean energy in history, providing more than $90 billion in strategic clean energy investments and tax incentives to promote job creation and the deployment of low-carbon technologies, according to an Obama-era fact sheet.

The Recovery Act leveraged approximately $150 billion in private and other non-federal capital for clean energy investments.

Clean energy investments made up more than one-eighth of total Recovery Act spending. (Full disclosure: I worked at the US Department of Energy helping to implement Recovery Act spending in the months immediately after the law was signed.)

Supporters of the green new deal ought to build on the successes of the Recovery Act. Its supporters want to see the green new deal reap important economic benefits concurrently to a drop in greenhouse gas emissions, just as the Recovery Act created jobs and improved the US economy in its own way.

Let Mitch McConnell try to play “gotcha” on the Senate floor. It’s nothing Republicans weren’t doing a decade ago. Instead, supporters of a green new deal ought to use McConnell’s vote as an opportunity to educate the American people, that’s it not all about “putting an end to air travel and cow farts.”

If supporters can effectively explain their green new deal, they will have the American people on their side. Public opinion clearly says majorities want action taken to effectively address climate change.

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