Dear Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez:
I’ve read your Green New Deal. It would be difficult to imagine a plan more divorced from reality or more clearly demonstrative of a complete lack of critical reasoning skills. Still, I find myself compelled to respond, not out of any hope that you personally will reconsider your positions, but out of a desire that others might not be misled into believing that your proposals have merit.
Let’s consider a few illustrative points.
Your plan proposes a massive governmental program to expand passenger rail and to effectively eliminate air travel (I assume only within the United States). The implication is that in doing so you believe you are somehow proposing a step forward in American transportation. In fact, you are advocating a move backward in time of roughly seventy-five years.
Up until World War II, the United States had a very robust and highly developed passenger rail system. For travel beyond short distances, rail was the method of choice. Between the end of the war and the late 1960’s that system was largely dismantled. In fact, between 1945 and 1964, non-commuter rail passenger travel in the United States declined by 84 percent.
This rapid and massive change happened for at least three reasons:
- Americans gained access to cheap, personal automobiles, such that it became the norm for every American family to own at least one.
- We dramatically expanded our road system including constructing a massive, interstate highway system.
- Commercial air travel became widespread and cheap.
A new, robust and user-friendly transportation system emerged based on personal automobiles, taxi companies, bus lines, rental car companies and airlines. Americans found the convenience, economy and freedom these systems afforded preferable to train travel, which began by contrast to seem slow, expensive and inflexible. Our passenger rail system was not suddenly dismantled. It withered and died, outside of major metropolitan areas, because Americans stopped using it.
The contrast of American passenger rail with freight rail only serves to highlight the economic forces at work. While Americans were abandoning trains for personal and business travel, freight rail was exploding in size and profitability. It may be cheaper and more enjoyable for people to move by automobile, bus or plane. It remains much more economical to move freight long distances by rail.
In fact, the American freight rail system is the largest in the world. There are at least seven major, national railroad companies and in excess of five hundred regional and local companies. There are 140,000 miles of track in our country. The cost of moving cargo by rail has actually dropped 46% since 1981 and American railroads move items at roughly one-half the cost of European railroads. Projections are that the existing freight rail system will expand dramatically over the next two decades.
Americans know how to build and run railroads. We are actually better at it than anyone else on the planet. We also know what makes economic sense and what does not.
Your plan proposes to abandon all fossil fuel and nuclear-based energy sources within ten years. At present, almost ninety percent of American energy comes from these sources, meaning that you are proposing to make up the difference entirely from things like solar and wind power, which at present are only minor contributors.
Nowhere in this proposal is there any consideration of the national security or macro-economic issues involved. We have, after fifty years of dependence on foreign oil, recently become energy independent. In fact, we are now shifting to being a net exporter of energy. Costs of manufacturing in the United States have dropped significantly due to the availability of cheap energy from natural gas. Carbon emissions have even begun to drop. We are now, apparently, to simply abandon all of these gains and advantages and to bet our entire future as a nation on unproven and impractical expectations.
The scope of the energy requirements of this nation and the industrialized world seems to have completely eluded you. As of today – worldwide – wind power, for example, actually produces less than one percent of the world’s energy. Even when you add in photovoltaic solar power, those two energy sources together still supply less than one percent of world energy demand.
Supporters of plans such as yours often trot out numbers like “14% of the world’s energy is renewable” to give the impression that we are only moments from some green, utopian future. What they don’t stress is that most of that “renewable” energy is wood or animal dung burned by the world’s poor. Hardly the stuff of your fantasy future.
World energy use is growing by leaps and bounds every year. Just to keep up with that growth worldwide we would need to be building something like 350,000 wind turbines a year. At the typical density for wind turbine farms, that many turbines would take up an area the size of the United Kingdom and Ireland.
We have had windmills for a very long time. We stopped relying upon them as a primary means of energy production for a reason.
Finally, let me add a word about state control of the economy versus capitalism. Your Green New Deal is in effect a ten-year national economic plan along the lines of the five-year plans of the old Soviet Union. We could debate for a considerable period of time the merits of central planning versus capitalism, but the fact is we don’t have to. This is not an abstract concept. This is not the first time we have considered these issues. In fact, we conducted what amounts to a giant, seventy-year, worldwide experiment. which pitted the capitalist economies of the United States of America and its western allies against the planned economies of the Soviet Union and its Communist allies in a battle for economic supremacy.
The results weren’t even close. The Soviet Union does not exist anymore. It was not destroyed in battle. It was ground into dust by economic competition with the West.
Even Russia does not claim to have a centrally-planned economy anymore. Its former Eastern European allies have all universally adopted capitalism. The only remaining centrally-planned, communist economies on earth, places like Venezuela and North Korea, are disaster areas. Even the Communist Chinese, while they cling to autocratic rule, have adopted a capitalist, free market economic model in order to survive.
In short your ideas do not simply represent a shocking lack of knowledge and critical reasoning skills, they demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of the history of this planet over the last 75 years. We have seen this movie before. It does not end well.