Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Green New Deal

In very broad strokes, the Green New Deal resolution offered by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass. asks members of Congress to recognize the duty of the Federal Government to set goals to slow and stop global warming. In that vein, the resolution stresses that it aims to meet its ambitious goals while paying special attention to groups like the poor, disabled and minority communities that might be disproportionately affected by massive economic transitions like those the Green New Deal calls for.

Importantly, the resolution is nonbinding, meaning that even if it were to pass, it wouldn't itself create any new programs. Instead, it would affirm the sense of Congress that carbon output should be cut in the coming years to slow global warming and the ravages of climate change.

The resolution is simply a statement of intent, explaining the justification and goals of an infrastructure program to transition to a sustainable low carbon output future. This is at once incredibly ambitious and politically practical, in that resolution co-authors seem to have in their minds a long-term plan to get it accomplished.

(Lawmakers pass nonbinding resolutions for things as simple as congratulating Super Bowl winners, as well as to send political messages — for example, telling the president they disapprove of his trade policies, as the Senate did in summer 2018.)

The Green New Deal resolution outlines a framework of big climate-change-related ideas combined with a list of progressive public policy proposals that, taken together, would touch nearly every American and overhaul the economy.

While the Green New Deal has in the last year or so grown central to progressive Democrats' policy conversations, the idea of a Green New Deal itself is well over a decade old. Environmentalists were talking about it as far back as 2003, when the term popped up in a San Francisco Chronicle article about an environmentalist conference.

It gained traction with a 2007 New York Times column from Thomas Friedman, where he used the phrase to describe the scope of energy investments he thought would be necessary to slow climate change on a large scale.

The phrase was also used around President Barack Obama's 2009 stimulus, which had around $90 billion worth of environmental initiatives.

This latest iteration is different both in the political energy that it has amassed and the grand scope it is taking. While it was a product of the progressive activist community, Ocasio-Cortez has been perhaps the most visible proponent of the plan and has helped it gain nationwide attention.

The Green New Deal proposes a 1940’s World War II or “1960s going to the moon in a decade” scale mobilization that focuses the robust and creative economic engine of the United States on reversing climate change by fully rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, restoring our natural ecosystems, dramatically expanding renewable power generation, overhauling our entire transportation system, upgrading all our buildings, jumpstarting US clean manufacturing, transforming US agriculture, and putting our nation’s people to work doing what they do best: making the impossible possible.

The Earth is facing a climate change deadline , with a looming tipping point into a dramatically changed, less hospitable planet – and Democratic lawmakers are beginning what's likely to be a long discussion over how best to deal with it.
The resolution is intentionally short on details but long on vision for a cleaner environment that caps global warming while promoting jobs, higher education and social justice for all U.S. citizens. What’s crazy about that?
RESOLUTION

Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal.

Whereas the October 2018 report entitled “Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 ºC” by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the November 2018 Fourth National Climate Assessment report found that—

(1) human activity is the dominant cause of observed climate change over the past century;

(2) a changing climate is causing sea levels to rise and an increase in wildfires, severe storms, droughts, and other extreme weather events that threaten human life, healthy communities, and critical infrastructure;

(3) global warming at or above 2 degrees Celsius beyond preindustrialized levels will cause—

(A) mass migration from the regions most affected by climate change;

(B) more than $500,000,000,000 in lost annual economic output in the United States by the year 2100;

(C) wildfires that, by 2050, will annually burn at least twice as much forest area in the western United States than was typically burned by wildfires in the years preceding 2019;

(D) a loss of more than 99 percent of all coral reefs on Earth;

(E) more than 350,000,000 more people to be exposed globally to deadly heat stress by 2050; and

(F) a risk of damage to $1,000,000,000,000 of public infrastructure and coastal real estate in the United States; and

(4) global temperatures must be kept below 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrialized levels to avoid the most severe impacts of a changing climate, which will require—

(A) global reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from human sources of 40 to 60 percent from 2010 levels by 2030; and

(B) net-zero global emissions by 2050;

Whereas, because the United States has historically been responsible for a disproportionate amount of greenhouse gas emissions, having emitted 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions through 2014, and has a high technological capacity, the United States must take a leading role in reducing emissions through economic transformation;

Whereas the United States is currently experiencing several related crises, with—

(1) life expectancy declining while basic needs, such as clean air, clean water, healthy food, and adequate health care, housing, transportation, and education, are inaccessible to a significant portion of the United States population;

(2) a 4-decade trend of wage stagnation, deindustrialization, and antilabor policies that has led to—

(A) hourly wages overall stagnating since the 1970s despite increased worker productivity;

(B) the third-worst level of socioeconomic mobility in the developed world before the Great Recession;

(C) the erosion of the earning and bargaining power of workers in the United States; and

(D) inadequate resources for public sector workers to confront the challenges of climate change at local, State, and Federal levels; and

(3) the greatest income inequality since the 1920s, with—

(A) the top 1 percent of earners accruing 91 percent of gains in the first few years of economic recovery after the Great Recession;

(B) a large racial wealth divide amounting to a difference of 20 times more wealth between the average white family and the average black family; and

(C) a gender earnings gap that results in women earning approximately 80 percent as much as men, at the median;

Whereas climate change, pollution, and environmental destruction have exacerbated systemic racial, regional, social, environmental, and economic injustices (referred to in this preamble as “systemic injustices”) by disproportionately affecting indigenous peoples, communities of color, migrant communities, deindustrialized communities, depopulated rural communities, the poor, low-income workers, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities, and youth (referred to in this preamble as “frontline and vulnerable communities”);

Whereas, climate change constitutes a direct threat to the national security of the United States—

(1) by impacting the economic, environmental, and social stability of countries and communities around the world; and

(2) by acting as a threat multiplier;

Whereas the Federal Government-led mobilizations during World War II and the New Deal created the greatest middle class that the United States has ever seen, but many members of frontline and vulnerable communities were excluded from many of the economic and societal benefits of those mobilizations; and

Whereas the House of Representatives recognizes that a new national, social, industrial, and economic mobilization on a scale not seen since World War II and the New Deal era is a historic opportunity—

(1) to create millions of good, high-wage jobs in the United States;

(2) to provide unprecedented levels of prosperity and economic security for all people of the United States; and

(3) to counteract systemic injustices: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that—

(1) it is the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal—

(A) to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions through a fair and just transition for all communities and workers;

(B) to create millions of good, high-wage jobs and ensure prosperity and economic security for all people of the United States;

(C) to invest in the infrastructure and industry of the United States to sustainably meet the challenges of the 21st century;

(D) to secure for all people of the United States for generations to come—

(i) clean air and water;

(ii) climate and community resiliency;

(iii) healthy food;
(iv) access to nature; and

(v) a sustainable environment; and

(E) to promote justice and equity by stopping current, preventing future, and repairing historic oppression of indigenous peoples, communities of color, migrant communities, deindustrialized communities, depopulated rural communities, the poor, low-income workers, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities, and youth (referred to in this resolution as “frontline and vulnerable communities”);

(2) the goals described in subparagraphs (A) through (E) of paragraph (1) (referred to in this resolution as the “Green New Deal goals”) should be accomplished through a 10-year national mobilization (referred to in this resolution as the “Green New Deal mobilization”) that will require the following goals and projects—

(A) building resiliency against climate change-related disasters, such as extreme weather, including by leveraging funding and providing investments for community-defined projects and strategies;

(B) repairing and upgrading the infrastructure in the United States, including—

(i) by eliminating pollution and greenhouse gas emissions as much as technologically feasible;

(ii) by guaranteeing universal access to clean water;

(iii) by reducing the risks posed by climate impacts; and

(iv) by ensuring that any infrastructure bill considered by Congress addresses climate change;

(C) meeting 100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources, including—

(i) by dramatically expanding and upgrading renewable power sources; and

(ii) by deploying new capacity;

(D) building or upgrading to energy-efficient, distributed, and “smart” power grids, and ensuring affordable access to electricity;

(E) upgrading all existing buildings in the United States and building new buildings to achieve maximum energy efficiency, water efficiency, safety, affordability, comfort, and durability, including through electrification;

(F) spurring massive growth in clean manufacturing in the United States and removing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing and industry as much as is technologically feasible, including by expanding renewable energy manufacturing and investing in existing manufacturing and industry;

(G) working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible, including—

(i) by supporting family farming;

(ii) by investing in sustainable farming and land use practices that increase soil health; and

(iii) by building a more sustainable food system that ensures universal access to healthy food;

(H) overhauling transportation systems in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector as much as is technologically feasible, including through investment in—

(i) zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing;

(ii) clean, affordable, and accessible public transit; and

(iii) high-speed rail;

(I) mitigating and managing the long-term adverse health, economic, and other effects of pollution and climate change, including by providing funding for community-defined projects and strategies;

(J) removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and reducing pollution by restoring natural ecosystems through proven low-tech solutions that increase soil carbon storage, such as land preservation and afforestation;

(K) restoring and protecting threatened, endangered, and fragile ecosystems through locally appropriate and science-based projects that enhance biodiversity and support climate resiliency;

(L) cleaning up existing hazardous waste and abandoned sites, ensuring economic development and sustainability on those sites;

(M) identifying other emission and pollution sources and creating solutions to remove them; and promoting the international exchange of technology, expertise, products, funding, and services, with the aim of making the United States the international leader on climate action, and to help other countries achieve a Green New Deal;

(3) a Green New Deal must be developed through transparent and inclusive consultation, collaboration, and partnership with frontline and vulnerable communities, labor unions, worker cooperatives, civil society groups, academia, and businesses; and

(4) to achieve the Green New Deal goals and mobilization, a Green New Deal will require the following goals and projects—

(A) providing and leveraging, in a way that ensures that the public receives appropriate ownership stakes and returns on investment, adequate capital (including through community grants, public banks, and other public financing), technical expertise, supporting policies, and other forms of assistance to communities, organizations, Federal, State, and local government agencies, and businesses working on the Green New Deal mobilization;

(B) ensuring that the Federal Government takes into account the complete environmental and social costs and impacts of emissions through—

(i) existing laws;

(ii) new policies and programs; and

(iii) ensuring that front line and vulnerable communities shall not be adversely affected;

(C) providing resources, training, and high-quality education, including higher education, to all people of the United States, with a focus on frontline and vulnerable communities, so that all people of the United States may be full and equal participants in the Green New Deal mobilization;

(D) making public investments in the research and development of new clean and renewable energy technologies and industries;

(E) directing investments to spur economic development, deepen and diversify industry and business in local and regional economies, and build wealth and community ownership, while prioritizing high-quality job creation and economic, social, and environmental benefits in frontline and vulnerable communities, and de-industrialized communities, that may otherwise struggle with the transition away from greenhouse gas intensive industries;

(F) ensuring the use of democratic and participatory processes that are inclusive of and led by front-line and vulnerable communities and workers to plan, implement, and administer the Green New Deal mobilization at the local level;

(G) ensuring that the Green New Deal mobilization creates high-quality union jobs that pay prevailing wages, hires local workers, offers training and advancement opportunities, and guarantees wage and benefit parity for workers affected by the transition;

(H) guaranteeing a job with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security to all people of the United States;

(I) strengthening and protecting the right of all workers to organize, unionize, and collectively bargain free of coercion, intimidation, and harassment;

(J) strengthening and enforcing labor, workplace health and safety, antidiscrimination, and wage and hour standards across all employers, industries, and sectors;

(K) enacting and enforcing trade rules, procurement standards, and border adjustments with strong labor and environmental protections—

(i) to stop the transfer of jobs and pollution overseas; and

(ii) to grow domestic manufacturing in the United States;

(L) ensuring that public lands, waters, and oceans are protected and that eminent domain is not abused;

(M) obtaining the free, prior, and informed consent of indigenous peoples for all decisions that affect indigenous peoples and their traditional territories, honoring all treaties and agreements with indigenous peoples, and protecting and enforcing the sovereignty and land rights of indigenous peoples; ensuring a commercial environment where every businessperson is free from unfair competition and domination by domestic or international monopolies; and

(O) providing all people of the United States with—

(i) high-quality health care;

(ii) affordable, safe, and adequate housing;

(iii) economic security; and

(iv) clean water, clean air, healthy and affordable food, and access to nature.

https://www.congress.gov/116/bills/hres109/BILLS-116hres109ih.xml
There are three main ideas of the Green New Deal Resolution introduced by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey.
  • The first is to decarbonize the US energy system -- that is, to end the emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) from burning coal, oil and natural gas, in order to stop global warming.
  • The second is to guarantee lower-cost, high-quality health coverage for all.
  • The third is to ensure decent jobs and living standards for all Americans, in part by making colleges and vocational schools affordable for all.
The right wing and corporate lobbies are already hyperventilating: It is unachievable; it will bankrupt us; it will make us into Venezuela. These claims are dead wrong. The Green New Deal agenda is both feasible and affordable. This will become clear as the agenda is turned into specific legislation for energy, health care, higher education, and more.

The Green New Deal combines ideas across several parts of the economy because the ultimate goal is sustainable development. That means an economy that delivers a package deal: good incomes, social fairness, and environmental sustainability. Around the world, governments are aiming for the same end -- a "triple-bottom line" of economic, social, and environmental objectives.

In the US, the economy is feeding the wealth of billionaires while leaving tens of millions of households with no financial cushion at all. Meanwhile, the fossil-fuel lobby continues to endanger the planet by promoting the use of fuels that contribute to climate change, raising the risk of mega-floods, droughts, hurricanes, and heat waves, claiming many lives and costing the US more than $450 billion during 2016-18, or more than $150 billion per year on average.

The key ideas of the Green New Deal -- decarbonization, lower-cost health care, and decent living standards for the working class -- have been studied for years. The Green New Deal Resolution is the opportunity, finally, to put that vast knowledge into effect.

What is absolutely clear is that the Green New Deal is affordable. The claims about the unaffordability of these goals are pure hype. The detailed plans that will emerge in the coming months will expose the bluster.

Decarbonizing Energy

Consider the challenge of decarbonizing the energy system. As noted in the Green New Deal resolution, the recent report of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change calls for global decarbonization by 2050, an achievable goal that requires coherent and accelerated actions by the US and other nations.

The Green New Deal is the occasion to put America's utilities, builders, and automakers to the challenge of accelerating their technological overhauls to complete decarbonization by 2050 or earlier. The resolution calls for a 10-year mobilization effort to achieve "net-zero greenhouse gas emissions" but not for a precise timeline for completing decarbonization. The timing will depend on the pace of new zero-carbon investments and the phase-out of existing fossil fuel-based technologies.

Decarbonization will include the following measures. Electricity generation will shift from coal and natural gas to wind, solar, hydro, and other zero-carbon technologies. Cars and trucks will shift from gasoline to electricity, using batteries or fuel cells (with hydrogen manufactured by electrolysis). Planes will use electricity for short flights and advanced zero-carbon fuels for longer flights. Buildings will be heated by electricity (such as heat pumps) rather than boilers and furnaces.

The costs of renewable energy are plummeting, making decarbonization eminently feasible. Detailed estimates put the costs of substantial decarbonization (80% or more by 2050) at around 1% of GDP per year or less. (See here for one recent study). In many cases, renewable energy is already at "grid parity," meaning that it is at a cost point comparable to fossil fuels. Most of the modest costs of decarbonization will never hit the federal budget, as they will be absorbed by the utility industry, the automobile producers, and other parts of the private economy.

Decarbonization is already underway in the US, just not yet with the pace and scale required. US utilities are no longer building coal-fired power plants; many are now scrapping plans for gas-fired plants in favor of renewable energy. Investors and in-house lawyers are warning companies not to invest in fossil fuels, as these investments would be stranded in future years.

Automobile companies are rapidly shifting to electric vehicles. New buildings are going electric, with tough efficiency codes. These transformations are being driven mainly by environmental regulations, integrated resource planning by utilities, and market forces, not by federal outlays.

Medicare for All

Lower-cost, high-quality health care for all, for example through Medicare for All, is also within reach. As with decarbonization, the right wing and corporate lobbies are using scare tactics to hide the basic fact: Health care costs in the US can be cut considerably, while improving services.

The US spends around 17% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on health care coverage, while other countries spend 10-12%. The main difference lies with the high prices of US health care, for drugs, hospital stays, medical procedures, and other goods and services, rather than with greater utilization of health services.

These high prices have resulted in part from the rising concentration and market power of health care providers at the metropolitan level. The result is outlandish salaries, bloated administration, heavy costs of advertising, and other inefficiencies that result in high incomes for the health care industry and exorbitant costs for taxpayers and for workers paying for private health care plans.

The question is therefore not whether we can afford Medicare for All, but whether we will get there before the private health care industry bankrupts us. As one approach, the private insurance premiums now flowing to private health insurers could be re-directed to a Medicare account that would reimburse the health providers at Medicare rates, with much lower management salaries and administrative costs. The nationwide cost savings of Medicare for All -- hundreds of billions of dollars per year -- could be remitted to taxpayers or used to reduce the federal budget deficit.

College for All

Similar budget analyses demonstrate the feasibility of other parts of the Green New Deal. Can debt-free higher education for all be achieved? The other rich countries all accomplish it. One proposal for "College for All," presented by Senator Bernie Sanders, would cost around one-quarter of 1% of GDP, a price point that is tiny compared with the burdens of a society weighed down by student debts that create lifelong anxieties until retirement years.

In one generation, the climate experienced in many North American cities is projected to change to that of locations hundreds of miles away -- or to a new climate unlike any found in North America today. A new study and interactive web application aim to help the public understand how climate change will impact the lives of people who live in urban areas of the United States and Canada. These new climate analyses match the expected future climate in each city with the current climate of another location, providing a relatable picture of what is likely in store.
Green New Deal impossible? Too radical? Don’t let conservative shills fool you. “Outlines of the Green New Deal carbon-free electric sector are already becoming apparent outside the nation’s capital. Minnesota, New Mexico, New York and Washington state are all considering legislation this year to decarbonize their power sectors. With the exception of Minnesota, where Republicans control the Senate, those bills stand a reasonable chance of passing. The states offer a potentially important blueprint for national climate hawks. Each bill proposes dramatic increases in renewable energy generation. Yet they also leave the door open to traditional low-carbon resources like nuclear and hydro, as well as potential new technologies. “We plan to pursue a portfolio approach, where the most cost-effective resources that are zero carbon come forward,” said Alicia Barton, president and CEO of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.”
Another Green New Deal type idea that just might work: Instead of a wall, line the southern border with wind and solar electric generation plants and water pipelines from the Gulf to the Pacific, creating a corridor of economic opportunity instead of angst. Use some of the energy to desalinate water from the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean and ship it through pipelines to thirsty towns, businesses and new farms along the entire border zone. Hire hundreds of thousands of people from both countries to build and run it all. Companies would make money and provide security to safeguard their assets. A contentious, costly no-man’s-land would be transformed into a corridor of opportunity. The idea is more than a pipe dream. A consortium of 27 engineers and scientists from a dozen U.S. universities has developed a plan. Last week they delivered it to three U.S. representatives and one senator. “Let’s put the best scientists and engineers together to create a new way to deal with migration, trafficking—and access to water. These are regions of severe drought,” says Luciano Castillo, a professor of energy and power at Purdue University who leads the group. “Water supply is a huge future issue for all the states along the border in both countries.” —
Texas is already implementing parts of the Green New Deal. In some ways Texas has created a model of parts of the Green New Deal that the nation can replicate. Last year, a big report from Environment America, a nonpartisan research center, ranked Texas first among all states in “clean energy progress” between 2007 and 2016. The report affirms what state and national headlines have been saying for years: Texas is a renewable energy powerhouse.

Most of this boom comes from wind: in 2016, Texas produced a whopping 58,000 gigawatt hours of wind power generation, far more than any other state in the country. All that wattage packs a punch. “During the early morning hours on one day in February 2017, wind power supplied more than half of Texas’s electricity demand,” Environment America notes.

Eighteen percent of Texas’s energy last year came from wind and solar power. That matters because “for years critics of renewable energy have argued that grid costs and reliability will spiral out of control before we hit 20 percent wind and solar,” according to Scientific American. “But in Texas, retail electricity prices have actually decreased, coming in well below the U.S. average.”

It’s important to note that solar still plays a very small role in Texas’s energy landscape, accounting for just 1 percent of the state’s energy last year. Nonetheless, sunny Texas ranks 3rd in the country for predicted solar growth over the next five years.

Is renewable energy in Texas a “liberal” issue? Republicans have been at the forefront of building Texas’s renewable capacity. In 1999, then-Texas governor George W. Bush signed a massive bill deregulating the state’s energy sector. It empowered individual consumers to decide who to buy their electricity from, instead of being forced to use options chosen by local officials. This means retail electricity providers like Champion and TXU Energy are motivated to keep costs low, which has spurred investment in new technology—including renewable energy. Today, there are over 12,000 wind turbines spinning in Texas.

Republican governor Rick Perry, who took over in 2000, oversaw the deregulation that Bush signed into law. He also supported the Competitive Renewable Energy Zone, a $7 billion project that connects the windy plains of West Texas with places like Tyler through an electrical transmission grid stretching nearly 3,600 miles.

Both Bush and Perry also supported increases in the state’s required renewable energy capacity. In 1999, Bush set a goal of of 5,000 megawatts from new renewable sources by 2015, and Perry expanded that goal slightly in 2005. Both goals were seen as relatively modest at the time, and the state blew past those benchmarks in short order. By 2017, Texas was capable of generating over 26,000 megawatts from new renewable sources.

Texas has also been making strides in renewable energy on the local front. Last year, the Republican mayor of Georgetown, Texas, two hours north of Austin, successfully pushed through a plan to make Georgetown (population: 67,000) the biggest city in America powered entirely by renewable sources. Smithsonian Magazine tells the story:

Previously, the largest U.S. city fully powered by renewables was Burlington, Vermont (pop. 42,000), home to Senator Bernie Sanders, the jam band Phish and the original Ben & Jerry’s. Georgetown’s feat is all the more dramatic because it demolishes the notion that sustainability is synonymous with socialism and GMO-free ice cream. “You think of climate change and renewable energy, from a political standpoint, on the left-hand side of the spectrum, and what I’ve done is toss all those partisan political thoughts aside,” Ross says. “We’re doing this because it’s good for our citizens. Cheaper electricity is better. Clean energy is better than fossil fuels.”

It’s also worth nothing that there has been bipartisan support across the state for moving further away from coal-fired power and toward renewables and natural gas. “Eighty-five percent of Texans (including 81 percent of Republicans) believe Texas should develop its own comprehensive clean energy plan,” according to a survey of 800 Texans developed by Republican pollsters.

Don’t most Texans believe climate change isn’t real? Why is Texas bothering with renewable energy?

Actually, according to a study by Yale University, most Texans—70 percent—believe climate change is happening. Only 14 percent are sure it’s not. A slight majority (56 percent) believes climate change is caused by human activities. Half of all Texans believe climate change is already harming people in the U.S., and more think it will harm Americans in the future.

But here’s what’s really interesting: Texans don’t have to accept the scientific consensus on climate change to adapt their own behaviors in ways that make a difference. For instance, here’s the story of a large West Texas ranching operation that began working with a smaller breed of cow—one that requires less food (and therefore less water)—after climate-change-driven water shortages made it necessary to adapt its business.

“You’re talking about a very practical group of people—farmers and ranchers,” says one climate scientist quoted in the story. “Anything that makes sense, when it comes to conserving water or protecting their livelihood, they’ll do. But they’re not going to do it just to be green and fluffy.”

Cost effectiveness drove Dale Ross, the mayor of Georgetown, Texas, to make his city the largest in the country powered entirely by renewable energy. “First and foremost, this was a business deal,” he’s said. “We have an obligation to our ratepayers to provide the least expensive utilities that are possible, and this provides cost certainty for 25 years. That’s a no-brainer.”

Meanwhile, farms and ranches across West Texas have erected wind turbines on their land over the last decade, sometimes seeing their acreage become profitable for the first time in a long time after doing so. In Comanche County, desperate peanut farmers who were suffering the loss of a federal subsidy banded together with local ranchers and convinced county officials and energy companies to support a huge new wind farm in the area. Today, cows, crops, and turbines generating enough annual power for 50,000 Texan homes share the same land. One energy company says the wind farm will bring $80 million to the county over the next 25 years.

Nolan County, three hours west of Dallas, watched its tax base grow to nearly $3 billion dollars—a nearly eight-fold increase—in just seven years after building four of the largest wind farms in the world.

Whether or not they accept the scientific consensus on climate change, when it comes to renewable energy, Texans across the political spectrum are seeing green.

So how does wind power from West Texas reach us all the way over to East Texas? Texas’s $7 billion, 3,600-mile wide electrical transmission grid is so effective that it’s seen as a model for other long-distance wind power efforts, like the Google-backed Atlantic Wind Connection, a plan to create offshore wind farms off the East Coast. On its site, Atlantic Wind Connection tells the story of how Texas’s grid came to be:
How did Texas succeed when other states struggle? Planning. Texas adopted large renewable energy goals coupled with a plan to build transmission to serve the state’s wind energy rich zones. The best wind energy zones are in windy, but remote west Texas, and the power is needed a long way away in the cities of east Texas. At the time, the grid in west Texas was weak and no individual wind energy project developer could afford to build the transmission required to reach east Texas. And, even if they could afford it, there was little sense in building many small capacity circuits for multiple wind energy projects when fewer, high-capacity circuits could transmit the energy with greater efficiency, lower cost, and lower environmental impact. Responding to this need, the Public Utility Commission of Texas solicited proposals for high-capacity transmission lines that would connect several thousand megawatts across multiple west Texas wind farms. These high-capacity “backbone” circuits became the foundation that made it possible to efficiently develop Texas’ remote, clean wind energy resource.
In East Texas, Oncor, the company that delivers electricity to homes (but doesn’t generate it), was involved in building out a lot of the infrastructure related to the electrical transmission grid.

Could Texas ever be powered entirely by wind and solar? By early 2019, Texas energy production from wind is expected to overtake production from coal for the first time ever. And the state’s Electricity Reliability Council, which oversees Texas’s grid, recently showed that 85 percent of Texas’s future capacity—meaning new projects currently in the works—will come from wind and solar. Just 12 percent will come from gas, and zero percent will come from new coal projects.


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