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Green New Deal, RIP

The Hill

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to pay our final respects to the Green New Deal. We had such high hopes for it: hope that it would save our economy; hope that it would save our planet; and, most of all, hope that it would save our party from the coming November red tsunami.

What killed the Green New Deal? 

High gas prices. One of the necessary ingredients for the Green New Deal was high gasoline prices. We need those high prices to push millions of reluctant Americans to embrace electric vehicles.

Actually, we need high prices on all fossil fuels to make taxpayer-subsidized renewable energy look competitive.

When we surveyed the pubic over the years, many people (44 percent in a 2018 survey) said they would be willing to pay somewhat higher gasoline prices to fight climate change. So, we thought the recent jump in gasoline prices would be, if not welcomed, at least tolerated. 

But we were dead wrong. It turns out that high gasoline prices hit low-income families the hardest — the very people we progressives claim we want to help. More importantly, those high prices have enraged most voters.

Now it appears that an angry public is likely to take its revenge out on us at the polls this November.

The Supreme Court. The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has now done as much as high gasoline prices to undermine our Green New Deal agenda, maybe more. 

One of the great ironies (some would say hypocrisies) of our time is that even as we complained about the looming threat to our democracy, we relied on unelected bureaucrats and federal judges, and especially Supreme Court justices, to implement and sustain our environmental agenda.

We knew it would be difficult getting the Green New Deal through Congress, even with Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. Especially since we included so many items that aren’t actually related to the environment, like higher wages and social justice and equity demands.

But we thought that we could still depend on federal agencies and the Supreme Court to impose what couldn’t pass Congress. 

For years it seemed the Supreme Court was willing to interpret the law favorably for us. That era appears to be over. The six-justice majority in the West Virginia v. EPA decision made that clear.

In the court’s opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, “Capping carbon dioxide emissions at a level that will force a nationwide transition away from the use of coal to generate electricity may be a sensible ‘solution to the crisis of the day.’ But it is not plausible that Congress gave EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] the authority to adopt on its own such a regulatory scheme ….”

And in his concurring opinion, Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote, “Again, in observing this much, the Court does not purport to pass on the wisdom of the agency’s course. It acknowledges only that agency officials have sought to resolve a major policy question without clear legislative authorization to do so.” 

The point, Dearly Beloved, is that if we want sweeping environmental reforms, we will have to turn to our democratically elected representatives in Congress or the state legislatures to pass them.

The November election. The SCOTUS requirement that major policy changes must pass Congress leads us to the third reason why we are paying our final respects to the Green New Deal.

There is very little chance of resurrecting the Green New Deal before the November election, and, if current polls are anywhere near accurate, even less of a chance afterwards.