Green New Deal's infrastructure plan could cost trillions

WASHINGTON -- Only a week after the roll-out of the Green New Deal, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, threw a wet blanket on a big part of the ambitious resolution. He scaled back California's high-speed rail project by about 80 percent and appeared to justify keeping the remaining 20 percent only because of money spent.

"Abandoning high-speed rail entirely means we will have wasted billions and billions of dollars with nothing but broken promises," he said.

Just as critics feared, the rail project ballooned from a projected cost of $10 billion 10 years ago to $77 billion today. Critics say it’s a symbol for the utopian vision of the entire Green New Deal, which they feel will cost trillions and have no positive effects on infrastructure.

"I helped to cofound a Green New Deal about 15 years ago," said Michael Shellenberger, president of Environmental Progress, a pro-nuclear fuel group.  "We did about $150 billion of investment in renewables and other forms of clean tech from about 2009 to 2015 and a lot of that money was wasted, maybe most of it."

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But even if the Green New Deal were to be fully implemented and achieve a drawdown of carbon emissions to net zero in 10 years, skeptics doubt it would have any tangible effect on climate change or carbon emissions.

"We've already done that calculation," said Dr. John Christie, who heads the University of Alabama, Huntsville Department of Atmospheric Studies. "If the United States disappeared from the planet right now, the effect of global temperatures would only be about a tenth of a degree by 2100."

Germany provides a glimpse of what the U.S. future might hold under a Green New Deal.

"It will have spent $580 billion by 2025 on its transition to renewables," Shellenberger said. "But its emissions have been flat over the last 10 years. In other words, they haven't gone down."

He said that's because wind and solar require fossil fuel back-up for when it’s not windy or sunny. Germans pay twice as much for electricity as neighboring France, which gets 75 percent of its power from nuclear.  Wind and solar energy also require vast expanses of land.

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The Green New Deal also proposes retrofitting every existing building in the U.S. One estimate finds it would cost $1.4 trillion for residential buildings alone.

The 2017 Grenfell Tower fire in London offers a cautionary tale. The building was retrofitted with energy-saving cladding. The cladding helped accelerate the fire, like kindling. The tower went up like a bonfire. Over 70 people died.

High-rise infernos in Dubai were also worsened by energy-saving cladding.

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Australia scrapped a government home retrofit program after nearly 100 fires broke out, many of them caused by poor workmanship by badly trained installers who jumped at the opportunity to cash in on the government program.

In the case of Grenfell Tower, more effective fire retardant cladding was available but was rejected because of its higher cost.