Green New Deal, or No Deal?

When we as a nation think about our economy how often do we also think about the environment? Often these two topics are disaggregated from one another. However, they should be thought of together. In moving towards renewable energy sources, public transportation, human health, housing affordability, and emerging workforce opportunities play a vital role for job creation in these fields and therefore a vital role in our environment and economy.

The Green New Deal (GND) is a 10-year national goal focused on issues threatening the environment due to human development and a greater need for renewable energy. This increased need stems from changing demands surrounding public transportation, human health, housing affordability, and emerging workforce opportunities. The GND aims to change policies to revolutionize our entire way of life to meet net-zero energy goals and cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 to move to clean, renewable energy sources, with the goal of improving our environment and economy.

While the spirit behind the GND is apparent, it is a non-binding resolution and changes need to be made before the policy could be feasible broadly. For example, Americans would need to replace their gas-consuming vehicles with electric ones. While the benefits of electric cars are plentiful, our current transportation system does not support mass use of electric vehicles, nor do many people’s budgets. Furthermore, the GND also proposes that all buildings become net-zero by 2030. For this to even be possible from an economic development standpoint, there would need to be a major shift in the workforce surround construction and engineering. Engineers, production workers, machinists, electricians, plumbers, and other jobs in industries such as manufacturing, utilities, transportation, and construction would need to shift their efforts towards net-zero construction; something that is currently in the works but not at the speed necessary to meet these goals.

Yet, the GND has the potential to create many more jobs that can boost the economy while also meeting regional energy and environmental stewardship goals. Work to meet these goals is already being done at the regional level. Within the New River Valley, the New River Valley Regional Commission seeks to find solutions to environmental and sustainability issues and recently published their Energy & Livability Initiative that focuses on some of the same guiding principles as the GND. This plan outlines key findings, strategies, and recommendations that include initiatives towards investing in improved infrastructure efficiency, increasing housing affordability, attracting clean energy businesses and projects, reducing energy expenditures for community members, providing greater access to alternative transportation options and mixed-use development, and reducing the overall carbon footprint and environmental impact, with a focused vision.

The US has never operated on a scale of this magnitude before. With the many complexities entangled within the way our socio-economic system operates, the proposed time period of 10 years seems unrealistic. The GND fails to understand the social capital involved in this change and take into account the issues surrounding a population shift to environmental sustainability. In my opinion, a more achievable goal would aim to achieve this over the next 25 years to 30 years or by 2050. This does not suggest that we should wait to implement a deal like this, it simply means there needs to be more time to make it more sustainable for all Americans.

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