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Bernie Sanders Unveils His Own $16.3 Trillion Green New Deal

Yuval Rosenberg

Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday released his own version of the Green New Deal, calling for $16.3 trillion in spending — more than any of the plans released by other Democratic presidential candidates — as part of a World War II-style federal mobilization effort to fight climate change.

Sanders said he is putting “meat on the bones” of the Green New Deal framework introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others earlier this year. His nearly 14,000-word plan calls for:

  • Declaring climate change a national emergency.
  • Reducing carbon emissions by at least 71% by 2030.
  • Building new solar, wind and geothermal energy sources and using 100% renewable energy for electricity and transportation by 2030, eliminating fossil fuel entirely by 2050.
  • Spending $526 billion to modernize the U.S. electric grid.
  • Investing in research to “drastically reduce the cost of energy storage, electric vehicles, and make our plastic more sustainable through advanced chemistry.”
  • Ensuring what activists call “a just transition” for workers in fossil fuel industries displaced by these changes, including a guarantee of five years of their current salary, housing assistance, job training, health care, pension support and job placement or early retirement packages.
  • Providing $200 billion to the Green Climate Fund to help poor nations cope with climate change.
  • Ending billions in subsidies to fossil fuel companies and imposing a ban on offshore drilling, fracking and mountaintop removal coal mining. It would also reinstate the ban on U.S. oil exports.

Sanders says his proposal “will pay for itself over 15 years” and create 20 million new jobs. The costs of the plan, he says, would be offset by a combination of cutting back military spending; raising corporate taxes; generating new revenue from sales of green energy by publicly owned utilities; litigation, fees and taxes on the fossil fuel industry; eliminating federal subsidies to fossil fuel businesses; collecting new income taxes as a result of the new jobs created; and reducing social safety net costs as a result of those new jobs. The plan does not include a carbon tax, which Sanders has supported in the past.

Big money: The proposal’s “eye-popping price tag is several times bigger than those of his leading opponents,” Lisa Friedman of The New York Times says. “Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has called for spending $1.7 trillion over 10 years. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has a $2 trillion green manufacturing plan. Other candidates, including former Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas, have also put forth ambitious proposals.”

Using presidential power: Sanders plan has no chance of passing a GOP-controlled Senate, but The Washington Post’s Dino Grandoni writes that Sanders is going further than other Democrats not just in terms of spending, but also by promising to use executive power to enact much of his plan if elected. That approach is bound to be met with legal challenges.

What critics say: “The Sanders plan appears to be big, but it’s not serious,” Joshua Freed, vice president for clean energy at the centrist Democratic think tank Third Way, told the Times He argued that Sanders is making a mistake by opposing nuclear energy and technology to capture carbon before it comes out of coal plant smokestacks: “We need to have every option on the table.” And getting gas-powered cars and trucks off U.S. roads by 2030 is unrealistic.

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