The Green New Deal proposed this month in Congress calls for radical changes to how we get our electricity. The non-binding resolution introduced by two progressive Democrats as reported by NPR suggests the energy sector can be converted to 100% zero-carbon power within 10 years while at the same time eliminating future nuclear power plants.
Can the U.S. realistically eliminate generating electricity from natural gas, coal and possibly nuclear sources in the next decade? According to the Energy Information Agency, here are the present sources of power generated in the U.S.: Natural Gas 33%, Coal 29%, Nuclear 20%, Hydroelectric 7%, Wind 7%, Solar 2%, and Biomass 2%
As you can see, 64% of current power generated releases carbon. Nuclear power does not directly emit carbon into the atmosphere and receives mixed to negative support by environmentalists. Currently, renewable wind and solar only accounts for 9% of power generation.
So it is not realistic to propose converting the entire power fleet in a decade to renewables only. Senator Diane Feinstein from California, which leads the nation in renewable power generation, said the Green New Deal must be modified to be more realistic, provide funding such as a carbon tax, and not have such an ambitious timeline. Most of the news coverage showed her defensively debating with children.
I believe that the Green New Deal is timely for creating the debates needed to move the United States from being the second largest emitter of carbon (China is the largest) to leading the future of green power generation and that rational realism, such as including new nuclear technologies as reported in Forbes, needs to be adopted in future legislation and energy planning.