I suppose by now almost everyone has heard or, or read about, the “Green New Deal” first proposed by Rep. Occasio-Cortez and endorsed by other up-and-coming (or hopeful) members of the Democrat Party in the US. The basic idea is that within ten years, or perhaps twenty but ten is preferable, the US will have completely retooled its economy to use nothing but renewable “green” energy, all buildings will be energy-efficient, and no carbon will be produced. All internal combustion vehicles will be replaced by green, zero-emission ones. And even if people do not care to participate in the labor required, they will still be paid.
That summary alone is enough to make a sci-fi writer weep in her ginger beer. Orson Scott Card proposed that each story is permitted one large piece of handwavium (or balognium as he put it), and then the rest of the technology or magic has to make sense. There’s far too much handwavium in the Green New Deal for my comfort.
The one gap that leaped out at me was in the realm of logistics. Even those who favor the plan admit that specifics are vague, although they maintain that the lack of details is a good thing. However, what Slate calls “the elephant in the room,” transportation and land use, is not what I see as the biggest problem. How much power will it take to run an electric combine, hmm? Especially since the Green New Deal as currently discussed eliminates nuclear.
There are tens of thousands of tractors used in agriculture in the US. And thousands of combines (the big harvesters) as well. Plus cotton picking machines, and other specialized pieces of equipment. All of these will have to be electric, natural gas, or carbon neutral, per the Green New Deal. In ten years. That is a lot of power. These are slow, high load machines. They are specialized. They have lots and lots of parts, and do a number of things based on equipment attachments and power-take-off units (PTOs) that drive smaller machines. It is an enormous leap from a hybrid or electric passenger car to a big wheat-harvesting machine.
And then there is fertilizer. There’s not enough manure in the American West to fertilize all the farms in the country. We have to use manufactured chemicals, in addition to fallow of different kinds, and manure.
Some will probably suggest “humanure,” aka processed sewage or night soil. Right. Public health concerns get in the way of that. Where do these people think the E. coli in their produce comes from? It is not just something in the soil, if you will pardon the pun.
Then any food that is grown away from the cities must be transported to those cities. You see the problems already. And produce takes energy to process, and so on…
The Green New Deal is not a cure for what ails the US. It would be an excuse to turn the US into a statist paradise in the name of saving the world. Which would make it close to hell on Earth, as it is currently described.