What Texas teaches us about the Green New Deal

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As Texas faced off against a brutal winter storm that left millions without power, water disruptions statewide and nearly 70 people dead, the Republican Party took the offensive and condemned the Green New Deal.

These attacks were clearly little more than an attempt at deflection; only around five percent of Texas’ power comes from renewable sources, and the power shortages were more related to uninsulated fuel lines prone to freezing than frozen wind turbines. But the Republican attacks, in conjunction with the climate disaster that Texas is still struggling to recover from, provide a perfect opportunity to make the case for an energy revolution in the United States.

The Green New Deal (GND) takes its name from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s signature policy, the New Deal, a collection of legislation that sought to fight against the Great Depression and provide federal assistance to Americans in need. The GND is similarly ambitious in scope, seeking to merge solutions to climate change with programs to radically counter poverty and inequality in the United States.

If anything, the crisis that unfolded in Texas should lay bare the inadequacies of private companies and the tendency for such firms to place profits above people in times of crisis. After a push by the company Enron in the 1990s, Texas severely deregulated their energy grid, relying on market competition to set fair, adequate prices. Yet when the storm hit Texas, industry leaders gleefully celebrated the opportunity to charge astronomical prices, with some bills nearing $10,000. It seems likely this trend will continue as climate change inflicts more and more similar crises and governments fail to take adequate measures to prevent this.

American economist Milton Friedman once said, “Only a crisis — actual or perceived — produces real change.” Republicans’ attack on the GND seems largely an attempt to deflect from their own ideological failings as well as their inability to articulate a coherent and satisfying response to the catastrophe; they know all too well the tremendous policy opportunities crises present (see the PATRIOT Act). Roosevelt implemented perhaps the most expansive set of policies in American history in the context of the Great Depression — could the events in Texas or similar ones elsewhere present a similar opportunity for the GND?

Probably not, at least currently. But it is clear that Republicans’ insistence on attacking the GND rather than lobbying for strong solutions has made clear they have little intention of addressing the base causes of this disaster. The under-regulation and over-reliance on the state’s fossil fuels, coupled with decades of austerity politics that have crippled Texans’ finances and left many homeless individuals permanently on the streets, have directly created many of the conditions that greatly exacerbated this recent tragedy. Changes must be made to prevent similar disasters in the future.

Simply put, the GND makes sense. It not only provides a path to save the environment, but provides opportunities to challenge poverty nationwide — and prices for renewable energy continue to fall at rates higher than predicted. Of course, the transition to renewable energy, especially in a place like Texas where fossil fuels are so ubiquitous, could have some short-term problems, and certainly the political effort required alone would be more substantial than one could expect currently. But this in no way means that it is not worth it. Humanity is facing an existential crisis, and the tragic events in Texas are merely a prelude to the chaos that will continue to wreak havoc on people across the globe. Under these circumstances, radical change must be taken to avoid utter disaster. A Green New Deal must be implemented as fully as possible, or else the consequences may very well be totally ruinous.


krouss1@stolaf.edu

Jarrett Krouss ’23 is from Minnetonka, MN.

His majors are philosophy and political science.

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