Liberal Environmentalist Says Green New Deal Will Fail and Renewables Can’t Save the Planet
When I was a boy, my parents would sometimes take my sister and me camping in the desert. A lot of people think deserts are empty, but my parents taught us to see the wildlife all around us, including hawks, eagles, and tortoises.
After college, I moved to California to
work on environmental campaigns. I helped save the state’s last ancient
redwood forest and blocked a proposed radioactive waste repository set
for the desert.
In 2002, shortly after I turned 30, I
decided I wanted to dedicate myself to addressing climate change. I was
worried that global warming would end up destroying many of the natural
environments that people had worked so hard to protect.
I thought the solutions were pretty
straightforward: solar panels on every roof, electric cars in every
driveway, etc. The main obstacles, I believed, were political. And so I helped
organize a coalition of America’s largest labor unions and
environmental groups. Our proposal was for a $300 billion dollar
investment in renewables. We would not only prevent climate change but
also create millions of new jobs in a fast-growing high-tech sector.
Our efforts paid off in 2007 when
then-presidential candidate Barack Obama embraced our vision. Between
2009–15, the U.S. invested $150 billion dollars in renewables and other
forms of clean tech. But right away we ran into trouble.
The first was around land use.
Electricity from solar roofs costs about twice as much as electricity
from solar farms, but solar and wind farms require huge amounts of land.
That, along with the fact that solar and wind farms require long new
transmissions lines, and are opposed by local communities and
conservationists trying to preserve wildlife, particularly birds.
Another challenge was the intermittent
nature of solar and wind energies. When the sun stops shining and the
wind stops blowing, you have to quickly be able to ramp up another
source of energy.