By Justin Louis Pitcock
The Green New Deal proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) gets a lot of attention from both parties. The prospect of such momentous legislation excites climate activists and angers anti-big government groups. Of course, the deal outlined in House Resolution 109, where the Green New Deal was brought forth, is unrealistic and does not properly consider the negative consequences it will impose. The goal of “meeting 100 percent of power demand” with zero-emission energy sources, for example, would raise challenges for reliability requirements, something on Texans’ mind more than ever after winter storm Uri. Look no farther than Germany, which is held as a model modern grid and still relies on carbon-based sources for one-third of its generation capacity because of its baseload all-weather reliability and lower cost.
The climate is changing, however, because of the greenhouse gasses we emit. Most major oil and gas companies agree. Many also agree there are responsible measures we should take which will mitigate our impact on the climate without killing the jobs and industries that support our families and sacrificing reliability by moving too aggressively to solar and wind before cost-effective battery technology catches up. Conservatives should approach this issue with the trademark clear thinking and conservation mindset that has served our country so well since Republican President Teddy Roosevelt popularized it.
One such approach is a win-win for Texan oil and gas and climate activists alike. There are more than 2 million unplugged, abandoned oil and gas wells in the United States which emit 100 times more methane than a plugged well. Texas currently allocates funds received from drilling permits for state-funded plugging efforts, but the number of abandoned wells is increasing. Federal dollars earmarked specifically for this purpose would directly reduce fugitive methane emissions from abandoned wells, put oilfield hands to work on workover rigs supporting the effort, and increase property values by clearing land of old equipment.
Conservatism means getting the most bang for every tax buck. Federal dollars toward a nationwide plugging effort to reduce emissions, create jobs and increase property values are much better allocated than toward upgrading a serviceable building with a more efficient one like the New York congresswomen’s GND suggests we do
Another commonsense solution to provide reliable electricity generation and reduce emissions simultaneously is simple: end the 30-plus year drought and build nuclear power plants again. Republicans should champion nuclear power and seek to modernize the antiquated regulatory process to reflect new technologies. There are a half dozen U.S. companies introducing Small Nuclear Reactors, for example, which are much more cost-effective and quicker to build than a conventional nuclear plant, emit no greenhouse gases, and provide power rain or shine to a more versatile set of end consumers.
Conservatism means reducing unnecessary regulation and promoting American technological advances while keeping public safety as the top priority. The added impact of reasserting our nuclear technical prowess on the world stage makes this effort even more imperative. Capable leadership seeking to proliferate safe nuclear power sources could lead a coalition across the aisle and make a real impact on these issues most Americans care about.
Conservatives across the country realize that power from wind, solar, hydro, geothermal and battery technology are critical parts of our future energy mix while maintaining that carbon sources, too, have an important role to play for years to come. It is prudent conservative leadership to embrace the changing energy landscape while resisting efforts to let the pendulum swing toward heavy-handed central planning that eliminates industries with a myopic focus on emissions at the expense of livelihoods and toward a myopic focus on emissions at the expense of grid reliability.
Plugging abandoned wells and rebuilding America’s nuclear capability are just two of many areas where Republicans can offer conservative solutions to the important issues we face. We can claim a conservative Green New Deal of our own. It only requires a commitment to lay down our partisan swords and lead. Our country deserves leaders who will do so.