For the past few months, many mainstream Democrats have been pushing the Green New Deal — a radical, socialist policy that aims to dramatically reduce the United States’ emissions and convert American energy usage solely to wind and solar.
The policy has massive economic implications with an estimated price tag of $5.7 trillion and countless jobs that would need to be replaced. In addition, its hope for solar and wind to carry the burden of all energy production is completely unrealistic. Despite that, its biggest flaw may be its promotion of socialism, which inherently goes against emissions reduction and the success of climate change mitigation. In fact, for anyone who wants true climate change reform, socialism is the last route that should be taken.
The free market, however, has been at the helm of impactful success in the environmental sphere. From clean energy to transportation, the market has led the way on environmental action.
To the shock of many, the Toyota Prius is a perfect example of this. In the late 1990s, the market demanded a more fuel-efficient and cost-effective vehicle. Shortly after, Toyota and Honda released their respective hybrids, which have led to countless innovations in the transportation sector. Today, with Tesla, Nissan and nearly every automobile manufacturer creating electric cars through the demand of the free market, transportation is on its way to driving down emissions at a substantial level.
When it comes to clean energy sources like nuclear and hydropower (which are completely left out of the socialist Green New Deal), the free market has allowed them to innovate at an impressive level as well. Despite some incredibly intrusive regulations to hinder its growth, the nuclear industry has become the safest way to create reliable energy production — all through market reforms. Whether it be reducing released radioactive material to minuscule amounts or the transition of nuclear plants to a gravity-based system to prevent meltdowns, the market has led the way. Hydropower is the same way, where the market has found ways to pass fish populations through dams, as well as increase the overall effectiveness of the energy source.
The same can be said for solar, wind, biomass and other forms of energy, which were all introduced thanks to market demand for cleaner and cheaper forms of energy. As a result, each has continued to improve with breakthrough innovations and technologies. Today, for the first time ever, transportation emissions have surpassed electric power emissions in the United States, thanks to a dramatic drop in energy emissions via clean energy innovation through the free market. In conservative Texas, through deregulation, the state is rapidly transitioning to renewables unlike anywhere in the country.
Broadly, the United States’ willingness to support the market on the environment has led to improvements on climate change, too. Although not near enough to mitigate the effects or dangers of climate change, the United States led the world in emissions reduction in 2017. Much of this came from corporate leadership, where more than 150 large corporations have pledged to transition to clean energy sources by 2030. None of the companies have transitioned due to government regulations, but a market incentive to innovate and utilize inexpensive forms of clean energy.
On the flip side, socialism has killed opportunities for environmental and technological growth by accepting past and present-day technologies, all while ignoring important future-minded innovations.
Take India, for example, where the democratically socialist country is projected to double its emissions by 2030. In Portugal, where the government is also led by democratic socialists, emissions have risen well over 10 million metric tons since 2014. Proponents of a socialist economy often point to Nordic countries like Sweden for environmental success, yet Sweden is often ranked higher than the United States in regards to economic freedom, which ironically proves the positive impact on the environment that capitalism can have. In fact, studies have shown that most socialist environmental policies, despite asking for more regulations and government involvement, actually rely on capitalism and technology to make key changes.
Here in the United States, albeit not a socialist-leaning state, the government’s involvement has been harmful as well. The U.S. government’s regulation has completely halted the nuclear industry and limited its potential to innovate. A frustrating permitting process, through numerous state and national agencies, has prevented an explosion of hydropower as well. Even with solar, the Harvard Business Review approximates stringent U.S. regulations have cost the solar market $70 billion.
Of course, there’s a way to involve the government in environmental decisions, rules and regulations without depending on a socialist-state that has failed on environmental initiatives for decades. Alternatively, our policies should focus on economic and environmental successes driven by markets, public-private partnerships and smart federal policies. Additionally, as consumers, we should encourage more companies to take the lead on emissions reduction. There is no doubt our country needs to take substantial action on climate change (and other environmental issues), but it’s important we refrain from turning to socialism and other big-government policies. However, without broad support and prioritization for better alternatives, we may be stuck with terrible programs — like the Green New Deal.
Socialism has been an absolute failure for economies and environments across the globe, and it won’t be any different here in the United States.
• Benjamin Backer is president and founder of the American Conservation Coalition.
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