In the first installment, we considered why we subsidize the U.S. fossil fuel industry to the tune of $639 billion, of which $20 billion are cash subsidies, when in the last 10 years the top five oil companies made $900 billion in profit. It is estimated that post-tax subsidies amount to $2.028 per person in the U.S. On Dec. 11, 2019, the Federal Bureau of Land Management leased to oil companies one million acres of the North Slope in Alaska (the territory of the local Inuit tribe) for about $11 million.
The World Meteorological Organization (a U.N. agency) reported in early December 2019 that the heat-trapping gas carbon dioxide had increased a whopping 47% since the Industrial Revolution. By testing various isotopes of carbon in the air, the scientists found that the added carbon is of the kind produced by the burning of fossil fuels and particularly coal. The International Monetary Fund estimates that if we could reduce worldwide carbon emissions by about 30%, about half the 9 million persons who today die of pollution-related illnesses would be saved.
Renewable energy subsidies amount to around $7 billion of which most support biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. Only about $2.8 billion supports wind and solar energy. The renewable energy subsidies were mainly in the form of tax credits that could vary from year to year. (Inside Sources)
At the opening of the COP 25 Climate Change Summit on Dec. 7, 2019, in Madrid, Spain, the U.N. secretary general said that “the planet is hurtling toward the point of no return,” while global leaders are still discussing the mechanisms for achieving the emission reductions needed to comply with the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement. A few days later, Time magazine selected 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, the Swedish climate activist, as Person of the Year. The Trump administration declared a few years ago that climate change is a hoax and that the U.S. is withdrawing from the Paris agreement, even though the U.S. is the biggest source of greenhouse gases in history.
The Star Democrat ran a story on Dec. 1, 2019, in which John Swaine, a third-generation farmer in Royal Oak (Talbot County), said “saltwater flooding is the worst he has seen in 50 years” and that previously productive farmland is now useless. The same story can be heard in Dorchester and Somerset counties. Drinking water is also affected when saltwater floods an aquifer. A television documentary quoted a Florida official saying that when saltwater floods the Everglades, the southern half of Florida will have no drinking water. All this is due to the melting ice and glaciers around Greenland and the Arctic ice cap causing rising water levels around the world. According to the December 2019 issue of Nature magazine, not only is this happening much faster than expected, but the thawing permafrost in the Arctic is also releasing massive amounts of greenhouse gas emissions.
According to a Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation poll last summer, 2,293 Americans were asked about climate change. Two-thirds say that they disapprove of how the administration is ignoring the issue. When asked what contributed most to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, 63% said cutting down forests, which is correct. Only 56% to 58% of those interviewed knew that burning fossil fuel for heat and electric and driving cars and trucks contributed the most emissions. Airplanes were falsely believed to be large contributors along with cows. Planes contribute about 3% of carbon emissions, and livestock (cows and poultry) contribute about 14%, mainly methane from the cows.
When asked, 59% professed that they do not know enough to have an opinion on the Green New Deal. They overwhelmingly support the promises of the Green New Deal but not the price tag. Among other things, the Green New Deal promises to: (support given in percentages)
• Guarantee good jobs with good wages for all U.S. workers — 78%
• Upgrade all buildings in the U.S. to increase energy efficiency — 70%
• Set a goal for 100% of U.S. power to come from zero-emission energy sources within 10 years — 69%
• Increase federal spending on infrastructure to prepare for climate-change-related disasters — 67%
• Result in major new regulations on businesses — 61%
• Reduce the number of coal mining jobs in the U.S. — 55%
• Increase federal spending by trillions of dollars (exact cost is not known) — 30%
Other issues can be included in the Green New Deal, such as the use of pesticides and the recycling of plastics.
Most of us seem to agree that we need to deal with climate change, and quickly. But with a deficit today of about 900 billion dollars in today’s good economy, we have to figure out how to transition from our fossil fuel economy to a clean energy economy without adding to the deficit.
Perhaps the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, a bipartisan bill in the House of Representatives (H.R. 763), or one of the five other similar bills that have appeared this fall in the House may be the solution. I will discuss these bills in the next installment of “The Green New Deal is No Laughing Matter.”
This is the second installment in a series by Lena Gill, a board member of the Talbot County Democratic Forum. She writes from Easton.