Green New Deal

How Much Will the Green New Deal Cost?

Climate change is the excuse; radically remaking the American economy is the aim.


Andrei Gabriel Stanescu/Dreamstime

Progressive firebrand Naomi Klein once declared that climate change has given the world "the most powerful argument against unfettered capitalism" ever. She added that progressive values and policies are "currently being vindicated, rather than refuted, by the laws of nature."

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.) has taken that message to heart. Today the democratic socialist released the text of a resolution "recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal." It invokes climate concerns to urge Congress to adopt a sweeping plan to totally remake the American economy.

There's a lot to consider in this resolution, but let's for the time being focus on the goal of "meeting 100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources" by 2030. The resolution is light on fiscal details, so let's consider the question of how achieving this goal would cost.

As it happens, a team of Stanford engineers led by Mark Jacobson outlined just such a plan back in 2015. Jacobson's repowering plan would involve installing 335,000 onshore wind turbines; 154,000 offshore wind turbines; 75 million residential photovoltaic systems; 2.75 million commercial photovoltaic systems; 46,000 utility-scale photovoltaic facilities; 3,600 concentrated solar power facilities with onsite heat storage; and an extensive array of underground thermal storage facilities.

Assuming steep declines in the costs of each form of renewable electric power generation, just running the electrical grid using only renewable power would still cost roughly $7 trillion by 2030. The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation calculated that the total cost of an earlier version of Jacobson's scheme would amount to $13 trillion. And based on how fast it has taken to install energy generation infrastructure in the past, Jacobson's repowering plan would require a sustained installation rate that is more than 14 times the U.S. average over the last 55 years and more than six times the peak rate.

Where is the money to pay for this massive transformation going to come from? The headline over at The Week sums it up pretty well: "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wants to pay for her Green New Deal by essentially printing more money."

More on the Green New Deal proposal later.