The Green New Deal

A GREEN NEW DEAL FOR SUSTAINABLE ENERGY AND TRANSPORTATION

A plan for a job-creating energy and transportation policy needed to save our environment

by Paula Bradshaw, Green Party candidate for Congress,
12th Congressional District

A GREEN NEW DEAL FOR SUSTAINABLE ENERGY AND TRANSPORTATION
A plan for a job-creating energy and transportation policy needed to save our environment
by Paula Bradshaw, Green Party candidate for Congress

I. Two of the greatest problems facing our society today are :

A. Unemployment and Poverty: As of September 2014, we had about 17 million unemployed and underemployed workers in the U.S., by the official count. And many of those who have jobs aren’t paid enough to make ends meet, resulting in growing numbers of working poor, more debt, more taxpayer subsidies – and over 45 million Americans living below the official poverty line.

B. Catastrophic climate change and other destruction of our air, water and land quality, caused primarily by our current energy, transportation and agricultural practices. The very fabric of our environment, upon which all life depends, is being destroyed. Entire species are being wiped out, and the survival of our own species is being put at risk.

But here’s a proposition for you: What if we could solve both problems at the same time, by a) putting people to work at living wages, on projects that, b) improve our energy efficiency, energy conservation, water and soil conservation, renewable energy production, sustainable transportation, and environmental restoration?

That’s the premise behind the proposal for a Green New Deal. We have a huge challenge ahead of us. Time is running out to save our eco-system from the already present and growing catastrophe of global climate change, and other threats of environmental contamination. Solving that problem will require a lot of work – insulating and retrofitting homes and building, building a modernized, energy-efficient transportation infrastructure, putting solar arrays on every rooftop, building and installing wind generators, planting trees, restoring watersheds, redesigning entire cityscapes – and much more. It will require a major nationwide mobilization, comparable to the incredible shift in production that this country successfully underwent during World War II, except this time, it will be to save life, not take life.

Yet we also have millions of Americans, right now, who badly need work that pays a living wage. We as a society can make the choice to put two and two together. Let’s put America to work saving our environment! We can do it! It’s a matter of political policy and political will – which begins by getting advocates of this needed social change elected to government office.

Human-created global climate change is a 911 emergency – and we need to treat it as an emergency. No credible climate scientist outside of the influence of the fossil fuel corporations seriously doubts this proposition. It is long past time for government to pay attention to them.

While skeptics love to argue that it is impossible to prove that any one extreme weather event is caused by global warming, that is not only debatable, it misses the larger point. Global climate change “loads the dice,” such that destructive extreme weather events become more frequent. In the 1980s, we averaged about 50 weather-related natural catastrophes annually in North America. Now we’re averaging about 200 a year, and if we don’t take action, it will only get worse.

A new study from a team of scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research noted:

Weather extremes in the summer — such as the record heat wave in the United States that hit corn farmers and worsened wildfires in 2012 — have reached an exceptional number in the last ten years. Man-made global warming can explain a gradual increase in periods of severe heat, but the observed change in the magnitude and duration of some events is not so easily explained. It has been linked to a recently discovered mechanism: the trapping of giant waves [within the jet stream] in the atmosphere. A new data analysis now shows that such wave-trapping events are indeed on the rise.

A number of other studies in recent years have linked this quantum jump in extreme weather to global warming and the warming-driven loss of Arctic ice.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has amassed abundant evidence that we are changing our climate. The IPCC is the international body for assessing the science related to climate change. IPCC assessments are written by hundreds of leading scientists, working together. In September 2014, Rajendra K. Pachauri, Chairman of the IPCC, introduced the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report to the UN Climate Summit with this summary:

“We have abundant evidence that we are changing our climate. The atmosphere and oceans have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, and sea level has risen. Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850. Greenhouse gases in our atmosphere have increased to levels unprecedented in the past 800,000 years.

Our time to take action is running out. If we want a chance to limit the global rise in temperature to
2 degrees Celsius, our emissions should peak by 2020. If we carry on business as usual, our opportunity to remain below the 2-degree limit will slip away well before the middle of the century. Moreover, the longer we wait the higher the risk of severe, widespread and irreversible impacts.

Food and water shortages.
Increased poverty.
Forced migrations that could increase the risk of violent conflict.
Extreme droughts and floods.
The collapse of ice sheets that flood our coastal cities.

And a steady rise in our death toll, especially among the world’s poorest.

How on Earth can we leave our children with a world like this?

I’m not sure I could stand before you if the threats of climate change had no solutions. But they do. We already have the means to build a better, more sustainable world. The solutions are many and allow for continued economic development. While some technologies need additional development, many are already available.

Renewable energy is a real option. Half of the world’s new electricity generating capacity in 2012
came from renewables. We also have tremendous opportunities to improve energy efficiency. And we can further reduce emissions by stopping deforestation.

We are told that limiting climate change will be too expensive… But wait until you get the
bill for inaction. There are costs of taking action – but they are nothing compared to the cost of
inaction.

It comes down to a matter of choice. We can continue along our existing path and face dire consequences. Or we can listen to the voice of science, and resolve to act before it’s too late.

That’s our choice.”

The destructive impacts of climate change go beyond even this summary. They include destruction of habitat and of entire species. They include spread of diseases and pestilence to new regions. Global climate change can obviously harm food production.

Climate change is also an economic issue. In 2012, extreme weather losses cost American taxpayers over $110 billion. The National Flood Insurance Program is $24 billion in debt, the Federal Crop Insurance Program paid record claims of over $17 billion in 2012, and federal and state wildfire protection costs have tripled since the 1990s. Weather catastrophe losses in the U.S. from 1990 to 2011 cost private insurers about $385 billion – and that was before Hurricane Sandy. And as many Southern Illinoisans know from bitter experience, disaster relief and private insurance don’t cover many people’s losses, leaving us to pay out of pocket. Twenty-five percent of small businesses impacted by a natural disaster never reopen.

The many impacts of climate change “will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions—conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.” Those aren’t my words. That’s from the Pentagon’s 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review. While I probably disagree with most of the Pentagon’s views on how best to respond, at least the Pentagon understands that human-caused climate change is a serious problem that requires a response – which puts it far ahead of most members of Congress.

Time is running out. The consensus of most scientists is that if global temperatures rise more than 2 degrees Celsius, we will pass a tipping point that will make it impossible to stop the slide into chaos. And if we burn more than 20 percent of our known fossil fuel reserves, that will push us past the 2 degree threshold.

The conduct of many of the world’s governments, led by our own, is nothing short of criminal. Despite being aware for decades of the link between greenhouse gas emissions and global warming, the levels of greenhouse gases responsible for global warming have reached a record high. According to the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rose by nearly three parts per million from 2012 to 2013, the largest single-year increase since detailed records began three decades ago. We are not even slowing down the rate of harm, we are accelerating it.

The causes of global climate change are no mystery. They are the product of greenhouse gas emissions – primarily carbon dioxide and methane – stemming primarily from the burning of oil, gas and coal, for electricity, heating and transportation. Our over-reliance on meat as a food source is another contributing factor (from mass production of methane-emitting livestock) but that is a subject for a separate paper.

The solutions to the crisis are also no mystery: We need to phase out our use of fossil fuels for energy, beginning now. This means that, as a society and as individuals, we have to stop wasting energy, we have to be more efficient in how we use energy, and we need to rapidly develop, build and install collectors of renewable sources of energy, primarily wind, solar and geothermal.

II. Eliminating the false alternatives: “Clean” coal and natural gas, nuclear power and (most) bio-energy

Both of my opponents support the continued, and increasing, use of coal as an energy source, although one of them stresses that he wants to develop “clean coal” technologies so that we can use more Illinois coal at home, instead of just exporting it to China and other countries. Both of my opponents also support high volume hydraulic fracturing and vertical drilling, known as “fracking,” as a method of recovering more domestic natural gas and oil, although both insist that they want this occur only under strict regulations to ensure that it’s done “safely.”

Like most current members of Congress, they just don’t get it. Or, more likely, they are getting too many contributions, direct and indirect, from fossil fuel interests, to allow themselves to “get it.” Either way, the result is the same. Even if coal could be burned “cleanly” – which it can’t – it would still emit greenhouse gases, contributing to global warming. Coal-fired plants are the largest single source of global warming pollution in the world, emitting about one-third of the CO2. And even if fracking could be regulated to allow us to safely recover more natural gas – which it can’t – the process causes releases of methane, which is a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2, and burning it also emits more greenhouse gases, contributing to global warming. In short, an energy policy based on continued or expanded use of coal or natural gas simply doesn’t address the climate change issue at all.

“Clean coal” is a myth. Coal companies have been promising “clean coal” for over a century but the concept makes about as much sense as promising “clean dirt.” Despite progress in some areas, such as reduction in sulfur dioxide emissions, fine particle pollution from coal-fired plants still kills over 13,000 people per year, causes adverse health impacts costing our nation over $100 billion per year, and inflicts the misery of asthma on untold thousands of people. Coal effluents also contaminate lakes and streams with mercury and other toxins, poisoning fish, wildlife, and ultimately, people. The coal recovery method of mountaintop removal, now being used in Appalachia, is particularly devastating to the environment and the homes, land and health of its residents. I would push to prohibit this practice. But the practices currently used in strip mining pose similar problems, causing residents in Saline County, Illinois, for example, to protest against the expansion of the Peabody Coal Rocky Branch mine there. I support their struggle.

I realize that some have proposed fanciful projects to “sequester” carbon emissions from coal-fired plants, like the on-again/off-again “Future Gen” project. Proponents claim that the coal can be gasified and burned to produce energy, with the resulting carbon dioxide and toxic emissions captured, transported by pipeline for miles over land, then injected into safe geologic formations deep underground. However, the only thing we can safely say will be sunk into the ground by this proposal are the hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars it will take to finance such a project. This is not a sound or safe proposal; it is a boondoggle for the coal corporations. The potential for devastating leaks of concentrated CO2 into the environment, plus the human and environmental costs of mining the coal, weighs against taking such a gamble. We don’t need to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on the pretext that it is needed to keep workers employed in an industry that frequently kills them, from mining disasters and black lung disease. That seems foolish when the same funds could be invested in methods of producing energy that we know are carbon-free, that create more employment, and that we know are much safer than mining coal or extracting oil or natural gas.

It’s also important not to exaggerate the significance of coal mining as a current source of employment. Today the industry employs just over 4,000 people in the entire state. Those 4,000 people produced over 52 million tons of coal in 2013. In 1995, it took over 5,660 miners to produce 49.5 million tons of coal. It’s a familiar story: Mechanization and exploitation wiping out jobs. While outfits like Peabody Coal and owners like Robert Murray want miners to believe that environmentalists are their enemy, miners would do well to remember who the real exploiters are.

Despite this, many Southern Illinoisans feel strongly about supporting coal mining as a source of employment. But this attachment to coal is not because workers enjoy traveling deep underground, risking life, limb and deadly black lung disease (which kills an average of three miners a day in the U.S.), to work in filthy conditions for a union-busting corporation. (At last count, there were only two union mines in all of Illinois.) They favor coal mining jobs only because they provide a means to earn a good living with a high-school education and on-the-job training. We do need well-paying industrial jobs in Southern Illinois – and under my proposals, we can have them, without the hazards of coal mining. If workers can make the same money bolting solar panels to roofs as they can make bolting the roof of a mine a mile underground, most people would take the first choice.

As for fracking, this is an inherently dangerous and socially irresponsible practice and it needs to be banned. It involves injecting a brew of toxic chemicals (the exact composition of which is a “trade secret”) mixed with millions of gallons of fresh water, under high pressure, thousands of feet below the surface, to crack the shale layer and recover natural gas or oil. It then entails taking the toxic flowback and injecting that under high pressure into injection wells, deep in the earth, for storage – except, of course, it’s not safe storage. Two studies have shown show a 6-7% well casing failure rate – or “compromised structural integrity” – within the first three years after drilling the well. The practice has been proved to cause earthquakes. It also entails air pollution, serious threats to worker safety and health, immense truck traffic and corresponding damage to roads and the natural beauty and tranquility of Southern Illinois. It will threaten our agriculture, orchards, wineries and tourism.

To be blunt, fracking is an insane practice, and for government to encourage it is the height of irresponsibility. You can’t “regulate” what happens a mile underground, you can’t “regulate” earthquakes, and once aquifers are contaminated, you can’t reverse engineer the contamination. It’s especially insane in Southern Illinois, because the U.S. Geological Survey says that Southern Illinois is one of the nation’s “hot spots” for potentially catastrophic seismic activity, and Illinois shale is highly radioactive, in the top 10 percent, so the toxic flowback water will also pose a radioactive health hazard.

On top of all that, the big energy corporations are not in the business or extracting oil and natural gas in order to keep prices down for American consumers or to provide “energy security” for the United States. They are in the business to make money. They are pushing to build new facilities so that more of the fossil fuels extracted can be exported, just like most Illinois coal is already being exported. Those who cheer, “drill, baby, drill!” thinking that such policies will help the American people, have been sold a bottle of snake oil. These policies are aimed at helping the energy conglomerates, their investors and speculators – and no one else.

Extreme extraction means disaster. We need a just transition to renewable energy in Southern Illinois.

Although some policymakers have pointed to nuclear power as an “answer” to global warming, this would be a “cure” worse than the disease. Current forms of production of nuclear energy, from the mining of uranium, which constitutes one of the grossest forms of exploitation of Native Americans, to the still unsolved problem of radioactive waste disposal, are an environmental nightmare from beginning to end. That’s not even counting the unacceptable risk of a Fukushima-type disaster, the periodic smaller-scale releases such as those that have polluted waterways in Illinois, and the hazards posed by transporting nuclear materials and waste. Some of the plants now operating in this state use a design almost identical to the Fukushima reactors. Nuclear power would never have existed without massive governmental subsidies and the Price-Anderson Act, which makes taxpayers the “insurers” in the event of a nuclear catastrophe. These are among the reasons why I categorically oppose the building of new nuclear power plants, and call for the rapid phase-out of existing plants.

While I support more research on, and possible development of, other energy technologies, including hydrogen fuel-cell and waste conversion (see, e.g., www.intellergy.com), we need to be very careful about biomass and bio-fuels. The burning of plant products still generates greenhouse gases, and removes soil-building residue. Other biomass practices are harmful, such as clearing forests, savannas or grasslands to grow energy crops, and displacing food production for bioenergy production. The prevailing evidence indicates that the fossil-fuel energy used to produce corn-based ethanol exceeds the amount of energy obtained, and it is not clear that any other bio-fuels achieve a better result. The production of ethanol also consumes huge amounts of water and threatens the stability of food supplies and prices. Thus, I would support eliminating government subsidies for corn-based ethanol. We should not be using our farmland for cash-crop, petroleum-consuming monoculture.

III. The Goal: Carbon-free and nuclear-free

The goal of our energy and transportation policy should be: Carbon-free and nuclear free. This is not a theoretical, “pie in the sky” goal. It is attainable through technologies that exist right now. The main barrier to achieving this goal is not technological; it is political.

A number of studies – including papers by Stanford researcher Mark Z. Jacobson and UC-Davis researcher Mark A. Delucchi, and A Solar Transition is Possible by Peter D. Schwartzman & David W. Schwartzman (at solarutopia.org) – show that all of our energy needs could be met by a combination of wind, solar, geothermal and hydroelectric power, with wind and solar power providing the vast majority. This could be done using existing solar collectors, panels, wind generators and other methods for capturing and converting these forms of energy into electricity.

Critics sometimes argue that, since the sun doesn’t shine every day, and some places like Southern Illinois don’t get enough wind to justify large wind generators, this means that it is not “realistic” to believe that we can meet our power needs in this way. But the criticism has been refuted. An improved electrical grid can eliminate bottlenecks between supply and demand. The sun is always shining somewhere and the wind always blowing somewhere. Central and Northern Illinois, and Lake Michigan, are prime spots for wind power. High altitude wind generation also holds the potential to provide a tremendous supply of steady energy. Smaller generators can provide some of our power here, along with solar power. There are already technologies for storing power captured during peak supply periods, such as using the energy to produce hydrogen for industrial and some transportation purposes.

Countries like Germany and states like Iowa are already demonstrating what can be done. Iowa generated 27.4 percent of all its electricity from wind in 2013. In the first quarter of 2014, renewable energy sources met a record 27 percent of Germany’s electricity demand. Denmark is right behind, at 25 percent. Both countries are on course to achieve nearly 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.

The further good news is that we can go a long way toward solving our unemployment problem by embracing energy efficiency and renewable energy. The fossil fuel industry has become so capital-intensive that it doesn’t create jobs at anywhere near the same rate as do investments in clean energy and sustainable transportation. According to a study by the Political Economy Research Institute and the Center for American Progress, The Economic Benefits of Investing in Clean Energy. (available at http://www.peri.umass.edu/economic_benefits), a $1 million investment in oil and natural gas extraction creates 5.2 jobs, directly and indirectly, and $1 million invested in coal extraction creates 6.9 jobs. But $1 million invested in building retrofits creates 16.7 jobs, $1 million invested in mass transit or freight rail creates 22.3 jobs; in smart grid, 12.5 jobs; in wind power, 13.3 jobs; and in in solar energy, 13.7 jobs. It is obvious that our federal policy is subsidizing the wrong industries.

Jacobson writes: “[T]here are no technological or economic barriers to converting the entire world to clean, renewable energy sources. It is a question of whether we have the societal and political will.” He compares the effort needed to the effort required to put a man on the moon. It’s a good comparison, in terms of the achievability of the goal and the time required. When we as a people are committed to a major goal, we are capable of remarkable things. On May 25, 1961, John F. Kennedy declared the goal of “of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” Eight years and three months later, that goal was attained. In the case of building a renewable energy future, the scope of the changes needed is greater – but so is the urgency of accomplishing it.

Our nation has the know-how to reach this goal, and the capacity to rebuild a new energy and transportation infrastructure. And we have one thing more: Over 17 million unemployed or underemployed workers looking for full-time work. With the right plan, we can turn a negative into a positive. We can solve our unemployment problem by doing what is needed to solve the climate change problem.

IV. How do we get there?

The policies needed to bring about a carbon-free, nuclear free future begin with replacing our current policies that subsidize fossil fuels with policies that incentivize and promote conservation, energy-efficiency and renewable energy. They also include direct government employment of millions of workers to carry out some of the essential tasks.

The Green Party, and this campaign, have a plan for achieving this goal. We call it the Green New Deal. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s original New Deal provides a positive model for what is needed today. The private sector alone will never create full employment at a living wage, because the profit motive drives corporations to minimize labor costs, so they eliminate jobs through technology and relocating jobs to lower-wage countries. But when the private sector is unable to meet the goal of full employment on its own, government has both the ability and the obligation to step in and provide needed economic opportunities for the people it is supposed to serve. Despite political resistance, the 2FDR administration created 4 million jobs in about two months in1933, the equivalent of 10 million today. The Federal government in the 1930s New Deal funded vast infrastructure projects, created parks, including the Shawnee National Forest, brought electricity to rural areas, put people to work restoring degraded farmland, funded art and literature projects, and much more. It attacked unemployment directly, putting millions to work, while literally changing the American landscape for the better.

We need to replicate that model, on an even larger scale, to meet the challenges we face today. FDR’s New Deal hired workers to plant trees to combat dust storms and preserve top soil; today we need trees planted to combat global warming. In the same way that the New Deal brought electricity to rural America, the Green New Deal can bring about a revolution in renewable energy. Where the New Deal built roads and bridges, the Green New Deal will grow a network of light rail, trolleys and bike trails. 

Here are some of the specific policies that would be included in a Green New Deal:

1. Eliminate all subsidies and tax breaks for the oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear energy sectors. Level the playing field for renewable energy producers.

2. Invest in green business by providing grants and low-interest loans to grow green businesses and cooperatives, with an emphasis on small, locally-based companies that keep the wealth created by local labor circulating in the community rather than being drained off to enrich absentee investors. Use government purchasing power, agency practices and contracting authority to favor companies that provide renewable energy or promote greenhouse gas reductions.

3. Directly employ, or employ through contracts with existing companies, millions of workers in installation of American-made solar, wind and geothermal systems, development of a “super-grid” that can accommodate the millions of new net producers of electricity, and energy efficient retrofitting of homes and businesses, with priority going to low-income housing. Establish and enforce green building codes to promote energy-efficient buildings.

4. Adopt the German model: Require utilities to purchase a rapidly increasing percentage of electricity from renewable producers, at a premium rate. Support installation of solar and wind systems by offering 10-year interest-free loans, which can be paid off through sale of the electricity generated at the premium rate. By setting and attaining the goal of turning every private home from a net energy consumer to a net energy producer, we not only create jobs directly, we save consumers money, which means more disposable income spent on local businesses.

5. Directly employ millions of workers in major public works projects based on smart urban planning and redesign, to promote urban residential/commercial infill, dual use buildings, residences near workplaces and schools, use of vertical density, and road/light rail/bike path/pedestrian walkways that promote efficient transit rather than suburban cul-de-sacs and sprawl.

6. Directly employ millions of workers in the restoration, development and improvement of clean and efficient public transportation, including inter-city high speed rail, a linked mass transit system for metropolitan areas, intra-city and regional light rail, rail/bus hybrids, and the expansion of bicycle trails and lanes.

7. Directly employ workers in a renewed Civilian Conservation Corps, to plant millions of trees that absorb carbon dioxide, and otherwise restore damaged ecosystems.

V. How Do We Pay For It?

Those who say that we can no longer afford ambitious government projects to employ workers are wrong, in two respects. First, we can’t afford not to act. As explained in part I, global climate change is already costing us dearly, and the human and economic costs of disasters, forest fires, floods, droughts and food shortages will become staggering if we fail to take dramatic action.

Second, we still live in the richest nation in the world. The problem is that, since 1980, more than 80 percent of the total increase in Americans’ income went to the top 1 percent – even as the top 1 percent’s share of the tax burden was dramatically reduced. This has not improved under the current president: From 2009 – 2012, the top 1% has captured 95% of the income gains. The gap between rich and poor is now worse than it was during the “Robber Baron” era. Among developed nations, only Chile, Mexico, and Turkey have higher income inequality than the U.S. Yet the top 1 percent are obviously not creating many jobs.

With a sound fiscal and monetary policy, we could readily afford the public works that we need. First, I would vote to restore a progressive tax system to help pay for a Green New Deal. I would vote to roll back the Reagan tax cuts, as well as the Bush/Obama tax cuts of 2001 and 2010. That step alone would easily raise in excess of $100 billion a year.

Second, we should tax financial speculation. Southern Illinoisans pay over 7% sales tax on every purchase we make, yet Wall Street speculators pay nothing when they buy and sell trillions of dollars’ worth of stocks, options, credit default swaps and other derivatives. Even a 0.5 percent tax on such trades could easily raise over $150 billion a year.

Third, we should cut the military budget by $360 billion, which would still leave us spending 2-1/2 times more than any other nation in the world.

Fourth, we need monetary reform. I would introduce the American Monetary Act, which would nationalize the Federal Reserve and take the power to create money away from private banks by curtailing the fractional reserve system. Instead, the U.S. government would spend money into circulation rather then borrowing it, at interest, from private banks – which then has to be repaid. Money would be spent into circulation by paying workers directly to perform the projects and services we need – such as in the projects proposed here — thereby directly attacking unemployment. It is absurd that our monetary policy and money supply is under the control of a consortium of private banks, accountable to no one but themselves. The people, through Congress, should be in charge of their own money supply, in keeping with Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution. This proposal is explained further in another policy statement on my website, “Why Monetary Reform Is a Crucial Issue.”

Fifth, we should enact a fee-and-dividend system to require greenhouse gas producers to pay their fair share of the costs they impose on society, as proposed by Dr. James Hansen. Under this proposal, gradually increasing fees would be imposed on the producers of greenhouse gases, while consumers would receive periodic dividends from the proceeds, based on their income level, with progressively higher dividends going to persons at lower income levels, that would provide protection from energy price hikes and promote a shift in spending in favor of clean energy and energy efficiency. The guiding principle is that those who are imposing such terrible costs on society should start paying the price for it, thereby creating an incentive for producers to transition to renewable energy and zero-emissions processes, and for consumers to transition to better insulated homes, sustainable transportation and more energy-efficient products.

VI. Conclusion

Some people looking at this program for overhauling our nation’s energy and transportation policy will react negatively to the idea of a “big government” program to accomplish it. But the fact is that government is already involved in our nation’s energy and transportation infrastructure in a big way. The problem is, what we are funding today are the Big Oil, gas, coal and other energy corporations, the big utilities and other players who have kept us hooked on fossil fuels and caused the very crisis befalling us.

No private company will ever take responsibility for funding an entire energy or transportation infrastructure; the capital costs are too great and it would never return a profit. If General Motors and Ford had to cover the cost of building and maintaining our entire system of highways, roads and bridges, no one would be able to afford a car. The energy and transportation infrastructure is a public function by necessity. In modern times it has always been subsidized. The real question is, what kind of energy and transportation infrastructure do we, the people, need today? One that is still geared toward promoting gas guzzling cars, poisonous coal-fired plants, and socially irresponsible oil and gas drillers that are collectively turning up the thermostat on the entire planet? Or one that is geared to promote the health of the planet and the living things that inhabit it – including us?

To a degree, people’s mistrust of government is justified. When government is under the control of big moneyed interests, multinational corporations and banks that have an agenda of undermining public functions, so that they can reap private profits at public expense, then government can indeed be oppressive. Under the reign of the two corporate‑sponsored parties, that is exactly what we have been getting. But government can also be a force for the public good, when we, the people, control it. That is one of the reasons why we formed the Green Party, a party that refuses corporate campaign contributions; a party based on positive principles aimed at serving the public good. If we stop looking at government as “it,” or “them,” and start looking at it as “us”; if we take the steps needed to make it an expression of “us,” then government will indeed become a force for the public good. This program provides one example of what a positive government could look like. Please support my efforts to help bring this positive vision about.