The Green New Deal and its Exclusion of Nuclear Energy

By: Gregory Glova

The Green New Deal proposed by Congresspeople such as rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ed Markey, while encouraging in the fight against climate change, could actually be more flash than substance. Their vision of the Green New Deal threatens to actually increase emissions and increase the cost of energy which could have far-reaching impacts of disenfranchising the clean energy movement. The primary issue with their vision of the green transition is the exclusion of nuclear energy, as they desire to phase it along with fossil fuels. Nuclear energy is the largest, most consistent form of zero-emission energy and attempting to replace it with solar and wind energy is and has proven to be expensive and ineffective.

First, wind and solar energy are still reliant on production and deployment subsidies. With a decline in federal clean tech spending, many of these green industries could be poised for bankruptcies and market contractions. Furthermore, even though wind and solar energy are always promised to become cheaper with widespread implementation, in practice they always drive up costs of electricity which slows economic growth and drives down wages. This rise in costs is due to the simple fact that wind and solar are unreliable; they require extensive infrastructure to implement since they require back up energy sources which are usually fossil fuels. Furthermore, clean energy jobs are often temporary and low-skill, they involve setting up the turbines or panels and then simple maintenance. Meanwhile, nuclear energy has proven time and time again to be much cheaper every time its implemented, and the jobs it provides are sustained, high-skill, and high-paying.

These are points are illustrated in Germany’s valiant but ultimately failed attempt to smoothly transition to renewables. Germany spent 580 billion dollars on wind and solar energy, yet its emission have not decreased for a decade. Furthermore, the cost of electricity in Germany is the second highest in Europe. This is a trend repeated in the U.S., where states investing the most in wind and solar have seen their electricity costs skyrocket. An analysis by Environmental Progress found that if Germany had spent the 580 billion dollars on nuclear energy, it would have been enough to completely phase out fossil fuels in both its electricity and transportation sector. Similarly, if California had invested in 100 billion dollars in nuclear energy as opposed to wind and solar, it would have already replaced all of its fossil fuel plants.

It's important to note that the two nations who have successfully transitioned from Fossil Fuel: France and Sweden, have utilized Nuclear energy. In a rapidly warming world, a nuclear energy push is the most timely solution to cut emissions in a sustainable way without economic harm. While the problems facing solar and wind are by no means impossible to overcome, they are significant enough to prevent their rapid and effective adoption. Thus, for now, they should be seen as supplements to nuclear energy, with their time for widespread adoption coming in the further future.

❖     Sources

➢     https://www.brookings.edu/research/beyond-boom-and-bust-putting-clean-tech-on-a-path-to-subsidy-independence/

➢     https://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/07/health/07iht-biofuel.5.9849073.html

➢     https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelshellenberger/2019/02/08/the-only-green-new-deals-that-have-ever-worked-were-done-with-nuclear-not-renewables/#7a0bd44c7f61

➢     https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/30/opinion/how-not-to-deal-with-climate-change.html

➢     https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelshellenberger/2018/09/11/had-they-bet-on-nuclear-not-renewables-germany-california-would-already-have-100-clean-power/#4cdf83c9e0d4