Over the last few weeks, climate activists have demanded the proposed Green New Deal include an outright ban on fossil fuels. Failing to support, or deliver on an outright ban, and activists were quick to label policy makers a climate denier:
We’ve entered a new phase of #climatechange denial.
-Anyone who doesn’t support a complete ban on #fracking
-Anyone who doesn’t support a #GreenNewDeal swift transition away from fossil fuels.
Yes that means you, establishment Democrats. (And all GOP, of course)
— Josh Fox (@joshfoxfilm) February 7, 2019
Today, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) put out a proposal titled “Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal,” which sets the stage for the legislative battle of the Green New Deal.
Facing pressure to create something that could gain even a modicum of support, Ocasio Cortez was forced to abandon the fossil fuel ban in her resolution. In doing so, she has also forced activists into an awkward spot: reversing course to praise the “weakened proposal.” Activists have been obliged to gloss over the fact that their chief demand was excluded.
That tactic is not new.
Climate activists have long criticized Democrats for being “weak” on climate change, especially if they chose not to ban fossil fuels outright. David Bookbinder, the lawyer behind several climate-related lawsuits against oil and gas companies, even wrote a detailed piece on how he believed President Obama failed to address climate change:
“Overall, the Obama climate change legacy is weak. The Obama administration simply did not make climate a priority.”
The ridiculous message: Democrats who compromise, or who recognize the necessity of fossil fuels in America’s economy, are weak on climate change.
The exception to this criticism, of course, is Rep. Ocasio-Cortez.
The proposal for the Green New Deal released today includes a radical wish list of policies to tackle climate change. What it doesn’t include is a ban on fossil fuels. Why? Because even Ocasio-Cortez recognizes that in order for the proposal to receive much support, it must include a bit of realism – and a ban on fossil fuels is far from realistic.
Since 2010, every one percent rise in global GDP has typically generated a 0.6 percent increase in energy demand. Renewables can’t meet that growth. Even if they should sustain the highest growth among all fuels, they would represent less than 20% of global energy needs in 2040. Fossil fuels, like oil and natural gas, have to close the gap.
Even Vox’s David Roberts, who covers energy and climate change, concedes that despite pushes from environmental groups, fossil fuels are necessary:
“Many, probably most energy analysts believe that renewables will need to be supplemented with nuclear power or fossil fuels with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), but some lefty environmental groups pushed for the GND to explicitly prohibit them.”
As the champion of the progressive movement on climate change, Ocasio-Cortez partnered with the Sunrise Movement and other radical activist groups to craft many of the points that became the components of the Green New Deal. Activists have stood by her side tirelessly and been one of her biggest promoters.
The Green New Deal is supposed to be the pièce de résistance of their champion. Environmental groups like 350.org and the Sierra Club are forced to enthusiastically endorse the proposal – even as it recognizes how vital oil and gas are to our economy and energy mix.
Unwittingly, Ocasio-Cortez may serve as the advocate for fossil fuels the industry didn’t know it had.