Monday, December 12, 2022

My Speech that I delivered on Xcel's 21% rate hike proposal


Back in May of 2019, at the early stages of their resource planning process, then Xcel CEO Ben Fowke said their proposed changes wouldn't lead to significantly higher customer utility bills beyond the cost of inflation. Now that I see Xcel’s increase request of 21.2% (or $677.3 million) over a three-year period, that makes me wonder what’s changed.

Having attended numerous rate case hearings, I have seen the pattern of what is at play here:

It is the industry standard for the utility to ask for a far bigger rate hike than they could justify, as a negotiating tactic to move the goalposts in their direction. And like clockwork, just because the PUC eventually doesn’t grant the utilities’ FULL request, the media will spin this eventual outcome as “a win for the people” while the utility gets what they actually intended to all along. 

It is true that we can’t take energy for granted, and it is true that Xcel does need some capital to provide upgrades and reliable service. 

But what Xcel does not need is an increase in their guaranteed shareholder profit to 10.2% — up from 9.06% currently while 1 in 8 residential Xcel customers are currently behind on their bills. The increase in profit for shareholders alone costs Minnesota $87 million just in the first year and more in following years.

Xcel experienced an 8.4% profit growth last year, reporting 1.6 billion in record profits, having the 8th highest paid executive in MN last year, and the 2nd highest CEO-to-median-worker pay ratio among US utilities (139 to 1) apparently at the same time as disconnecting 16,693 residential customers due to an inability to pay.

Why should we pay an average of $140-$240 more per year or ~$15 to $21 per month when Xcel hasn’t paid federal income taxes in over 14 years as CBS News reported

In evaluating what Xcel CEO Bob Frenzel should be rewarded for, as the electric utility for at least Minneapolis and much of the west metro, Xcel would have great business savvy and expand its rate base by supporting beneficial electrification efforts taking some market share away from our gas company. But the CEO sits on the board of the American Gas Association which had a conference in Minneapolis last month and is specifically targeting the High-Efficiency Electric Home Rebate Act in its ongoing campaign against electrification.  

The company has claimed back in 2013 that being able to promise profits is needed to attract top talent. We should limit the lining of Xcel’s shareholders pockets unless the company shows equal enthusiasm for making actual updates to the grid that would allow for Minnesotans to participate in and own clean energy, efficiency, and storage. 

Here is the prism for which the PUC to view whether Xcel’s capital costs are responsible and prudent: 

If Xcel simply spends more on replacing old equipment rather than upgrading it, then it locks in an outdated system that I fear can't accommodate local clean energy for decades. 

In my comments on Xcel’s 15-year integrated resource plan, I recommended that an approach of strategically sizing and siting new renewable power generation to fit within the existing capacity of each adjacent substation as a way to save customers money by making fewer million dollar per mile high voltage transmission lines necessary. 

Such a distributed approach to renewable power would even out supply, increase reliability and thereby make gas plants less necessary and thereby be a save for customers but it was not fully reflected in their recent integrated resource plan. Xcel has had opposing incentives to this distributed model because it would make it harder for Xcel to keep new renewable power under their market share, while new HVT lines and gas plants are infrastructure that utilities get guaranteed profits on. 

This increase in total residential electric bills by an average of $140-$240 per year can really make a difference for a household on electric heat who can no longer afford to increase the temp in their house above 64 degrees, are on a fixed income and in a drafty home that needs repairs.

On Thursday of last week, I attended a hearing at the PUC where the commissioners passed up an opportunity that would have helped make these very same needed home repairs more accessible to a greater number. We had a room full of community members and organizations who all wanted more resources for low-income energy efficiency, but sharply disagreed on whether to pilot a new inclusive financing approach or to only expand existing CIP programs. So, the PUC settled things by finding a way to let everyone down.  

Because of a need for a social safety net, it’s hard to argue for any benefits of increasing rates until I am more assured the PUC is willing to be an ally in relieving energy burden. 

I’d recommend rejecting at least the 15-18% increase in the flat monthly fixed fee because it cannot be reduced by using less energy. This monthly base charge for residents would make residential and lower income customers bear a disproportionate share of the increase compared to commercial/industrial customers and harm low-wealth households disproportionately.

Xcel may argue that this unprecedented rate increase is a necessary reward for the company’s mission to add renewables and meet carbon free pledges. I have to be careful in how I address that because building more renewable capacity will actually raise rates less than doubling down on the status quo. 

We are coming to an inflection point in our decades-old social contract. Utilities are wanting to obligate ratepayers to pay off the stranded costs of the old system at the same time as investing in the new. Organizations like the Center for the American Experiment will try to use that to make an inaccurate claim that adding more renewables are responsible for rate hikes when they overlook the whole other half of the ratemaking equation. In contrast, Xcel’s spokespeople have rightly pitched renewable power as a way to keep rates low. 

 I am curious why Xcel’s political action committee is contributing heavily to state level candidates who oppose legislation holding other utilities accountable to the carbon free standards they laud as good for Xcel. This makes it hard to know who to trust. The PAC is paid voluntarily by upper lobbyist level Xcel employees who ultimately get paid from our ratepayer dollars. 

I’d say reject much of this rate increase until Xcel comes back with a proposal that updates our electricity grid in ways that will actually be useful, affordable, and accessible to communities and the clean energy transition we know is needed to shield us against unstable fossil fuel costs, and climate change.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

The Inflation Reduction Act Delivers Long-Awaited Federal Action on Clean Energy & Climate

 After a year of fits and starts, after many months of breakthroughs and reversals, the US Senate has passed long-awaited federal action on clean energy back on August 7th. That was a dramatic reversal from mid-July of 2022, when climate activists were in near total despair suspecting that all hope was thought to be lost. This legislation, which started as “Build Back Better” and has since been retitled as the “Inflation Reduction Act” was also passed by the US House and Signed into law by President Biden on August 16th.

It was passed as a reconciliation bill so as to avoid needing to clear the legislative filibuster. While clean energy and emissions reductions standards could not get into a budget reconciliation bill, clean energy investments could. So it has a lot of carrots and few regulatory sticks.

The Bipartisan infrastructure package from Nov of 2021 was a bit different. The IRA is more of a tax and spend bill whereas the Bipartisan Infrastructure package was a capital bonding bill. The IRA involves about 10 times more carbon reduction capacity.

When Build Back Better first started, Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders wanted 6.5 Trillion for it. Then Biden proposed 3 trillion instead. Then Senator Joe Manchin said he would only accept 1.5 trillion. The IRA is about 10th of this original amount. However, the climate provisions from BBB are the only part of the package that crossed the finish line intact thanks to public pressure.

Tax credits for clean energy is essentially the same as Gov’t spending. While there is no tax credits for E-bikes, just about about everything in the way of clean energy and climate gets one- Wind, Solar batteries, nuclear power, heat pumps, clean vehicles, insulation, low income families switching appliances and upgrading electric panels etc.

Some of these clean energy federal tax credit expired 3 times in 10 years. Now the Tax credits of around 30% are extended until 2032 which has potential to put the energy transition on steroids.

It is estimated to save households $50 Million on electric bills.

As for clean vehicles, the incentive will now be at the point of sale rather than a buyer having to pay the full costs of the Eclectic Vehicle up front and then filing taxes to get it the incentive.

After close to 30 years of trying to put a price on carbon and other ways to make fossil fuels more expensive, the political resolution ended up being to make the clean stuff cheap rather than the dirty stuff expensive.


Read the full statement from MN350 on the IRA here.


The IRA has got its fair share of critique lately, namely because a raft of provisions that makes it easier to site harmful facilities in environmental justice communities and promote more oil, gas, and coal extraction. This was the result of the political sausage making process and it is no consolation to front line activists who have been maintain top removal in Appalachia or fighting a pipeline.

One deal was that if we could use the public lands for Renewable Energy then fossil fuel companies should also get leases for drilling on public lands. The side deal, which was agreed to in principle but not in formal bill involves enabling fossil fuel infrastructure to be build more easily, along with reform on easing of permitting for renewable energy infrastructure.

 Because the economics of fossil fuels is becoming increasingly grim, the worst-case scenarios for pipelines and fossil fuel extraction from the bill will not likely happen. But we are trying to drive down the demand for fossil fuel consumption.  

 We are already seeing (for example) many cases of oil and gas leases opening with no bidders, or bidders who ultimately conduct no extraction. For every ton of carbon increased as the result of the IRA, it would be coupled with 25 units of carbon going down.

 The IRA could have gone further in protecting environmental justice communities who have long borne the brunt of dirty energy pollution and climate risk, despite some limited funding for environmental justice projects. It falls short of 40% going to disadvantaged EJ communities. That is below what Build Back Better and Justice 40 would have given.

It is regrettable to see local communities impacted by fossil fuels and climate change are understandably incensed at once again being a bargaining chip sacrificed to make progress on climate. To dig more into the things about the bill that throw impacted communities under the bus and fail to address the root causes of climate change, read this summary in the Guardian or this direct response to the bill from the Indigenous Environmental Network.

Despite it being far from perfect, the IRA is still the single largest federal investment in climate solutions and clean energy action in US history, which is not exactly a high bar. It could be a long-awaited game changer for community-based renewable energy projects:

  • For the first time ever, the federal government has ever made an extension of clean energy investment tax credits to be longer than 2-3 years. The Investment Tax Credit cannot be used to help cover the cost of clean energy project is extended long-term through the early 2030. This will create predictability for clean energy developers in helping plan projects for the long term.
  • While the base level of the Investment Tax Credit available to any clean energy project regardless of type drops dramatically, the value is increased from 26% to 30% for any project that:
    • Is under 1MW AC and thereby supports development of more local and community-scale energy.
    • Meets prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements (even if it is over 1MW), which supports family-sustaining jobs and increases racial equity in the workforce.
  • There are bonus credits of 10% for projects that are located in designated low-income communities or 20% for projects that deliver at least half of their benefits to low-income residents. Projects that stack these aspects together will qualify for a 40-50% tax credit, which is a major win for ensuring equitable access to clean energy.
  • Most importantly, solar tax credits will become refundable, meaning Clean Energy Developers can receive the value of the tax credit directly rather than having to go through an expensive, extended, and uncertain process of trying to find a private investor to partner with to use the tax credits. This will make the process of financing solar projects dramatically cheaper and easier in the years to come.

Overall, what President Biden said at Glasgow was that we will cut our emissions by 53% by 2030.

But the goal is getting emissions to zero most likely closer to 2040 than 2050.  

The bill gives us a chance but is not an endgame. Biden could declare a national climate emergency.

But it is humanity’s best chance to solve the problem.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Minnesota Senate Climate Bills to Advocate for


Who represents me?

Minnesota State Senate Elections 2022 (to find candidates in the event your current senator is not running in 2022),_2022

Climate bills that have been presented/proposed in the MN Senate and may be presented again in the 2023 session. Click on any of the bills to see its exact language.


◻ SF 3711 Appropriating money for the Forever Green Agriculture, perennial regenerative crops 

◻ SF 1594 Treated Seed Policy Changes, tracking distribution and disposal of seeds 

◻ SF1113 Soil-healthy farming goals establishment and financial incentives creation

◻ SF 956 Urban Reforestation bond issue and appropriation (not funded)

◻ SF4310 Funding to farm-to-school grants increase

◻ SF 2272 Lawns to Legumes grant program appropriations


◻ SF 4422 Community water systems requirement to inventory service lines and establish plans to replace lead service lines by 2032

◻ SF 3326    Products containing PFAS disclosure requirement   

◻ SF 3669 PFAS prohibition in juvenile products

◻ SF 2809 Statewide Drinking Water Safety Action Plan Appropriation 

◻ SF 839 Pollution control agency whole effluent toxicity (WET) rules adoption 

◻ SF 1630 Greenhouse gas emissions-reduction goal; terrestrial sequestration    


◻ SF2144/HF1427 Solar for Schools establishment and public utility requirements

◻ SF4089/HF4461 Solar for Schools funding provided

◻ SF4119/HF4402  Solar Energy Production Incentive program extension

◻ SF4102/HF3907 Solar PV Installation Cost Contingency Fund Establishment 

◻ SF3661/HF3621 State Policy for Carbon Capture and Sequestration Technology   

◻ SF3655/HF3084 Energy Provisions Modifications in State-owned buildings

Land Management Bills


SF3711 A one-time appropriation of $20,000,000 from the general fund in fiscal year 2023 for the Forever Green Agriculture Initiative at the University of Minnesota, available until June 30, 2028. By incorporating perennial and winter-annual crops into existing agricultural practices, it will protect the state's natural resources while increasing the efficiency, profitability, and productivity of Minnesota farmers. Of this amount, up to $5,000,000 is for equipment and physical infrastructure to support breeding and agronomic activities necessary to develop perennial and winter-annual crops.

 SF1594 Treated Seed Policy Changes A bill amending existing statutes to make policy changes related to treated seed and requiring treated seed enrollment to stop unreasonable adverse effects on the environment. "Treated seed" means seed that has an agricultural pesticide directly applied to the seed before planting and classified by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as a "treated article or substance" under Code of Federal Regulations. The intention is to mitigate any unreasonable risk to humans or the environment, taking into account the economic, social, and environmental costs and benefits of the use of any pesticide or treated seed.

SF1113  A bill establishing goals for and creating financial incentives for soil-healthy farming.

Building soil health and thereby preventing or minimize erosion and runoff will increase farm income, retain and clean water, increase vegetation on the landscape, sequester carbon, and foster healthier rural residents and pollinators and other wildlife. To accomplish this:

(1) at least 50 percent of Minnesota farmers are to implement cover crops, perennial crops, no-till, or managed rotational grazing by 2030;

(2) 100 percent of Minnesota farmers implement cover crops, perennial crops, no-till, or managed rotational grazing by 2035; and

(3) 100 percent of the state's tillable and grazeable acres employ cover crops, perennial crops, no-till, or managed rotational grazing by 2040.

It also adds a subdivision to existing Statute to require collection and classification of data for soil healthy farming involving The Board of Water and Soil Resources, the University of Minnesota, and Soil and Water Conservation Districts.

SF956   A bill authorizing the sale and issuance of state bonds for urban reforestation. The commissioner of management and budget shall appropriate up to $16,000,000 from the bond proceeds fund to the commissioner of natural resources to give grants to cities, counties, townships, and park and recreation boards in cities of the first class. Planting of shade trees, and replacing of trees lost to forest pests, disease, or storm on public land will provide environmental benefits. A more diverse community forest better able to withstand disease and forest pests.  The commissioner must give priority to grant requests to remove and replace trees with active infestations of emerald ash borer and any tree planted with money under this subdivision must be a climate-adapted species to Minnesota.

SF 4310 A bill appropriating money to increase funding for farm-to-school grants; and authorizing reimbursement of childcare providers who purchase from local farmers; amending existing statute.

SF2272 Lawns to Legumes

A bill appropriating $1,000,000 each in both fiscal years 2022 & 2023 from the general fund to the Board of Water and Soil Resources for the Lawns to Legumes grant program. It provides onetime grants or payments for demonstration projects planting residential lawns with native vegetation and pollinator-friendly forbs and legumes to protect a diversity of pollinators. Grants or payments will cover up to 75 percent of the costs of the project, except that in areas identified by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service as areas where there is a high potential for rusty patched bumble bees to be present for which grants may be awarded for up to 90 percent of the costs of the project.


Water and Air Bills 


SF 4422   Inventory and establish plans to replace water pipes  A bill requiring community water systems to inventory service lines and establish plans to replace lead service lines by 2032. The presence of lead in drinking water represents a threat to the public health, especially to the health and development of children in Minnesota; that pipes containing lead that connect water mains to homes and other buildings are a primary source of lead in drinking water. A full and complete inventory of all lead service lines in the state does not exist. It will require notices to customers, consumers, and owners; requiring reports; authorizing rulemaking; appropriating money; proposing coding for new law in existing Statutes.

SF3326 Products containing PFAS disclosure requirement   A bill requiring notice of products containing PFAS. It requires rulemaking & proposing a new statute where a manufacturer of a product for sale in the state that contains intentionally added PFAS to a product must submit to a written notice the commissioner of the Pollution Control Agency.     "Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances" or "PFAS" means substances that 
include any member of the class of fluorinated organic chemicals containing at least one 
fully fluorinated carbon atom.

SF 3669 PFAS prohibition in juvenile products (forever chemicals}

A bill prohibiting PFAS in products designed for use by infants and children under 
12 years of age; proposing a new Statute.
Examples of these products include but are not limited to a baby or toddler foam pillow; bassinet; bedside sleeper; booster seat; changing pad; child restraint system for use in motor vehicles and aircraft; co-sleeper; crib mattress; highchair; highchair pad; infant bouncer; infant carrier; infant seat; infant sleep positioner; infant swing; infant travel bed; infant walker; nap cot; nursing pad; nursing pillow; play mat; playpen; play yard; polyurethane foam mat, pad, or pillow; portable foam nap mat; portable infant sleeper; portable hook-on chair; soft-sided portable crib; stroller; and toddler mattress; and


SF2809 Statewide Drinking Water Safety Action Plan
A bill appropriating money from the general fund to the commissioner of health in fiscal year 2023 to develop a statewide drinking water safety action plan to protect and improve the state's drinking water through research, implementation, and outreach.

 It will establish or expand a multiagency sentinel well network to detect changes in 
water quality in the most vulnerable shallow aquifers that provide drinking water to private 
wells This will be done in consultation with the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota and the commissioners of agriculture, natural resources, and the Pollution Control Agency. It will provide resources for well owners to identify hazards associated with aquifers and 
wells of particular designs and ages.
This requires a report, (plan) to be submitted to the chairs and ranking minority members of the house of representatives and senate committees and divisions with jurisdiction over health, agriculture and environment, and natural resources.

SF 839  Requiring the commissioner of the Pollution control agency to adopt rules on whole effluent toxicity (WET) with a statewide consistency requirement for evaluating and applying whole effluent toxicity (WET) as water-quality-based effluent limitations and permit conditions for discharges occurring outside the Lake Superior basin;


SF1630  State greenhouse gas reduction goals modification to include terrestrial sequestration; governmental actions consistency with greenhouse gas reduction goals requirement.  This includes   net zero GHG emissions by 2050  and a 45% reduction from 2005 levels by 2035.   Terrestrial sequestration" means the amount of annual statewide greenhouse gas emissions that is removed from the atmosphere by plants and micoorganisms located in Minnesota, excluding on active croplands, and stored in vegetation, biomass, and soils so as to prevent emissions from reaching the atmosphere, as estimated by the commissioner of the Pollution Control Agency.


Energy Bills


SF2144   Solar for Schools    A bill for the Department of Commerce to establish the “Solar for Schools” program to promote the use of solar energy on school buildings; with new Statutes and public utility requirements. The purpose of the program is to provide grants to stimulate the installation of solar energy systems on or adjacent to school buildings by reducing the cost, and to enable schools to use the solar energy system as a teaching tool that can be integrated into the school's curriculum.

A Solar for Schools program account is to be established in the special revenue fund. Money received from the general fund must be transferred to the commissioner of commerce and credited to the account.

SF4119 Solar Energy Production Incentive Program extension

A bill extending the solar energy production incentive program and establishing an energy storage incentive program, appropriating money; amending existing statutes plus a new statute. Utilities are to operate a program to provide solar energy production incentives for solar energy systems of no more than a total aggregate nameplate capacity of 40 kilowatts alternating current per premise. Owners of a solar energy system installed before June 1, 2018, are eligible to receive a production incentive. 


SF4102 Solar photovoltaic array installation costs contingency fund establishment

A bill establishing a contingency fund to pay certain costs associated with installation of a solar photovoltaic array. It amends and adds to existing Statute.

An amount from the renewable development account not to exceed 
$3,000,000 must be withheld to serve as a contingency fund to facilitate the installation of 
a certain solar photovoltaic array within the city of St. Paul.

The commissioner may distribute money from the contingency fund to the owner of the solar array if it has started design or construction, or is constructed and put in service, prior to a corrective action determination made by the Pollution Control Agency. The owner of the solar array may use money to pay for:

(1) storage and transportation costs incurred for equipment removed;

(2) any costs incurred should reinstallation necessitate redesign or new equipment;

(3) lost revenue or any damages incurred under the power purchase agreement from not 
selling energy during the solar array's removal and reinstallation; and

(4) replacement energy costs during the disruption period.

SF3661    Carbon Capture and Sequestration

A bill establishing state policy supporting the deployment of carbon capture and sequestration technologies as a method of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in order to achieve the state greenhouse gas emission-reduction goals; proposing Statutes.

SF3655 A bill modifying energy provisions in state-owned buildings; All new building and major building renovation projects must use renewable energy sources to the extent required to meet the sustainable building 2030 performance standards. Geothermal 
energy efficiency sources may also be considered. amending and repealing Statutes.

Thursday, August 18, 2022




* The Budget Committee will take up their input on the Mayor’s Budget Sept 12th at 1:30 PM. The finance team will provide a high-level overview of the recommended budget.

* This will be followed by Department hearings starting the next day through the end of October (listen for when the sustainability department gets its hearing?)  

* The first public hearing on the budget will taken up by the budget committee on Nov 10th at 10 AM

* The Second Public hearing will be in front of the whole council on Nov 15 at 6 05 PM. For bringing forth any new ideas, we will want to make use of the Nov 15th public hearing so that the council could have time to make some substantial changes.  

* The Budget Markup hearing, where the council will make changes to the budget (show up to let them know we are watching) will be on Dec 1 at 10 AM and will continue on the next day Dec 2nd at 10 AM.

* Tuesday Dec 6th at 6:05 PM will be the third and final public hearing followed by a formal vote by the council that same evening. This is the required truth in taxation hearing. The December 6th Public Hearing is the opportunity to respond to the results of the budget markup hearings, but the council will usually have limited options for making any substantial changes at the final hearing.  

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Xcel's Fixed Revenue Lyrics (as a Comment to the MN Public Utilities Commission !)


·        Lee Samelson, live in Minneapolis and I am following up my 19-page comment from February on Docket Number 19-368 with singing a rendition of Electric Avenue by Eddy Grant  


Working so hard for fair studies,

To prove what’s in the public need,

Legalized monopoly power,

Blocks truth and transparency,

‘Cause we’ve been locked into Xcel’s Fixed Revenue, and what do they conspire?

We don’t want to pay for Sherco Gas Units for 40 years hereafter!


Out on the grid’s good locations,

Let’s own that great solar PV,

Unhook the market share power,

Build local-owned clean energy,

Cause we’ve been locked into Xcel’s Fixed Revenue, as our monopoly supplier,

We don’t want to build new Fossil Gas Burners and watch our Earth expire!


New Sherco Gas costs a Billion

Be wary of stranded assets,

They see us as captive ratepayers,

On the hook to pay off their debt,

Cause we’ve been locked into Xcel’s Fixed Revenue, but will that now backfire?

We don’t want to pay for Sherco Gas Units for 40 years hereafter!



Xcel looked at only one option.

But 3 other plans have arrived,

Now we have say in the process,

Grassroots leverage wins progress!

As we comment onto Xcel’s IRP, we’re feeling so inspired,

They set the standard to go carbon-free, and then we’ll take it higher!



o   I ask the Public Utilities Commission to say NO to any new fossil gas power plants or infrastructure. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Green New Deal - and the Battle for a New World


Back in 2019, pre-COVID, I had been looking forward to an election season where the Green New Deal as the centerpiece of a platform from which to defeat Trump and his GOP enablers with. I see it as a 2-for-1 package where you can both save the planet and strategically jam an 800-pound needle right into where the neo-fascist right is at their most vulnerable at the same time.

Donald Trump’s steadfast denial of the climate crisis, marginalization of scientific experts and rollback of environmental protections is perhaps the area where his actions (not rhetoric) are most out of step with the positions of voters (plus COVID putting this on fast forward).

Notice how the far right’s pundits and campaigners can talk on and on about their favorite wedge issues like guns, abortion and immigration. Yet the ever-worsening climate crisis is the one topic in particular which they have nothing to say about other than to pretend that it does not even exist in the first place and try to awkwardly change the subject. This is an admission where they are vulnerable. It is the same reason why the Fox News crowd has been working overtime to smear the Green New Deal out of existence, because it would put them on the defensive.

If we had a Green New Deal campaign that was robust enough to set the narrative for what the election issues are, then it would force the far right to answer for key questions on climate which would send them into a profound crisis. The far and neo-fascist right are so wholly unequipped to rise to this challenge of climate emergency.

Predictably, this year’s RNC, made no mention of global warming – it all fell behind an “Oil-Well-ian” veil of silence. In actuality, polls show solid support for regulating CO2 emissions, even among Republican Voters. Concern for Climate hasn’t gone away just because COVID happened. We have seen a surge in young Republicans worried about our environment. Yes, there are young self-identified conservatives too who actually place some importance on the issue.


But where credit is due. the Neo--fascist right has been able to channel international discontent over neo-liberal economic globalization into political success at the nation-by-nation level in a way the global left has thus far failed to match. The neo-fascist right has had a simplistic story to offer that can be effectively replicated across so many nations. It is the story that there is some “great replacement” where some group of invading minorities are usurping the privileges of the pre-existing dominant group, at the behest of the so-called “globalists”.

What we saw in 2018 with the international school climate strikes in favor of the Green New Deal provides the framework that could defeat this new right global-scale narrative. If a global Green New Deal is given a chance, it will create enormous numbers of well-paying jobs and thus concretely benefit populations who were left behind by the relentless rush toward economic globalization. The progressives can use the Green New Deal to champion infrastructure financing, job retraining, and targeted subsidies for green industries. That would be a way to win back voters disillusioned by neoliberalism. This new narrative would undermine the new right’s anti-globalist rhetorical appeals while offering up a positive vision to rally around across many nations.

It is important to adopt the language of young people and tap into their grievances before the far right gets to them. May Boeve of speaks to how the climate strikes had been a good vehicle for that. “To have very young people publicly shaming political leaders for doing nothing has struck a moral chord now that’s really quite powerful.

Overall, a vision that is apocalyptic and critical without the positive narratives that give hope will not win against a ‘Make America Great Again’ type message.

 Ethnic, racial, and religious minorities occupy an important priority among progressives because their opponents in the far right have turned them into scapegoats. The Green New Deal can also serve as a power strip that these corresponding social movements can plug into- immigrant rights, the women’s movement, anti-racism activists.

     A chief problem is that activism needs activists and we lack any international institutions that can employ or otherwise support the activists on the scale that is needed, with one likely exception. Labor Unions are the strongest institutional power base which could do so. But as the institutional powerbase of labor unions has gradually eroded, working class and blue-collar middle-class voters started to feel anxiety about their declining status. This anxiety about declining status was, in turn, a great predictor of support for Donald Trump in the 2016 election. From this standpoint it is understandable how the narrative put forth by new right has resonated most strongly in rural areas and small towns that have not benefitted from recent economic growth as much as the more culturally liberal and cosmopolitan urban centers.

When the political establishment only allows a centrist opposition to the new right and uses institutional inertia to blocks a progressive left response to the new right at every turn, then how can we uproot the problem?

A centrist opposition to the new right is defined as proposing watered-down versions of the same neoliberalism that is only narrowly differentiated from what the establishment center-right offered. Such an approach may have been relevant in earlier times, but it outdated now given how we could have a more convincing message on protecting people from the harsher side of free market system.

The transnational left has been good at publishing manifestos, issuing laundry lists of demands and creating policy papers. But that is no substitute for getting more adept at telling stories that are linked to a vision, connecting at an emotional level which touches people’s hearts as well as minds, and boiling down sometimes complex ideas down into simple messages. “America first (or fill in the blank nation first)” is a prime example of what encapsulates the shared story and vision among the new right. It begs a positive alternative narrative that combines messages of hope and urgency while mobilizing people of different backgrounds under a common banner. Because the new right is tapping into primordial fears and hatreds, we need to make a visceral analysis. The people we need to persuade to come over to our side don’t have time to read long documents. Perhaps it is necessary to communicate a paradigm shift into a sound bite in order to get traction.


But first, what does the opposition say against the Green New Deal?


Even before the Green New Deal became a household phrase, the opponents of Green New Deal type policies used a particular rhetorical sleight-of-hand.

It was a sort of binocular trick of feigning crocodile tears over all the lost jobs in established industries while turning a blind eye to the much greater job creation power of green jobs that could be created if the GND were given a chance.

We saw it during the RNC when speakers did not seem to mention the topic of environment at all except when playing their latest episode of cynical jobs-versus-environment divide-and-conquer.

The jobs-creation capability of these clean and renewable sectors has overpowered that of fossil fuels by a factor 3 to 1. So, in terms of substantive policy discussion the conspirators against the GND had to find some other bugaboo to latch onto.

Their newer rhetorical sleight-of-hand is to simply claim the price tag of the GND is simply too high and that we can’t afford it. But this is another binocular trick which involves turning a blind eye to the far more astronomical costs we face if the powers-that-be deny us transformational action to get GHG emissions under control. In this case, austerity means extinction.

Whenever the “can't-do” opponents try to wave fear of financing as their excuse to say no, it is a red herring intended to divert attention away from the true issue at hand. The real issue at hand with funding the Green New Deal is to shift the burden of underwriting the transition onto those who are most responsible for creating the problem in the first place, onto those who profit from using the atmosphere as a free dumping ground. Going after the profits of those most responsible for the mess can be accomplished via legal damages, higher royalties, having their subsidies slashed, a transaction tax, and shutting down tax havens. Whenever a propagandist shrill tries to put a chill on having public discussion on the GND, those accountability measures just mentioned are the possibilities which these elitist mouthpieces do not want to be on the table for consideration. Let me emphasize, those conspiring against the GND are the real elitists, not the ones who are campaigning for it!

As scary as such a discussion would be for a small group of narrow-interest elites, the GND will be catharsis and provide a sense of relief for a far more, particularly for young people. The biggest obstacle is hopelessness and a feeling that it’s all too late. Mobilizing for a Green New Deal would inspire hope by providing something to be in favor of, not just something to rail against.

Centrism brings a bit more insidious and sideways type of challenge to the GND principles. The Thomas Freidman sort of centrist approach considers the economic and social justice components of the GND to be add-ons to the more immediate, objective and narrowly-focused priority for making emissions cuts.

Those who share this approach often presume that calls for economic and social justice would make an already hugely uphill battle against intransigent conservatives an even harder political sell than it currently is. That is rooted in the old assumption that change in general has to be as minimal and unchallenging to the big donor establishment as possible for efforts to get emissions reductions to not to be sabotaged outright.

But social and economic justice is precisely what lifts the GND. Excluding the vectors of social and economic justice is what led to some recent and failed neo-liberal attempts at climate policy which that pass on the costs of making the transition onto working people. 

Marcon in France tried to raise funds for carbon reduction initiatives within the confines of a classic free market agenda. It came about in the form of a fuel tax designed to make driving more expensive. France’s working class, even many of whom in fact identified as environmentalists, came to see that approach as an attack on them given that at the same time the super-rich were still able to have their tax havens and private jets. This disparity enables the conservative resistance to transformative climate policy an opening to play their selective game of divide-and-conquer and drive a wedge between economy and environment.

The GND meanwhile, will not generate this sort of backlash because it is intended to lower economic strain at the same time as meeting climate goals.

***(This is why my own work focuses heavily on trying to get Inclusive Financing for energy improvements) ***

The technocratic approach to get climate policy that which blew up in Marcon’s France was also the same one which failed to get cap-and-trade passed in 2009 and 2010 when we had a near Democratic supermajority Senate under the first two years of Obama. These past uninspiring approaches did not have the power of an intersectional mass movement mobilizing behind It that was needed to overcome reactionary and conservative opposition. But the GND could if it is given a chance.

Given COVID-19, we have on our hands what could be a second great depression. Support for the Green New Deal will not melt away like support for other green initiatives have done during past recessions because it is a large-scale stimulus modeled on FDR’s approach to the original New Deal. 

The centrists are driven by this a defensive fear that that linking climate action with just about every other progressive policy goal would provide cannon fodder for reactionaries and some conservatives who have for decades accused calls for climate action as being some Trojan Horse plot to smuggle in socialism.

But if the GND is actually given a chance, it would undercut this fear associated with socialism. Nothing heals ideological divides faster than an actual concrete project that brings jobs and resources to economically hurting communities such as offering decent paying jobs with ecosystem/ land regeneration and building infrastructure. During the original New Deal, FDR clustered his New Deal projects in rural and/or conservative areas so that they see the concrete benefits to their daily lives. The people who benefited were no longer susceptible to fearmongering about a socialist takeover of government. Elite attempts to either attack or slow the original New Deal did not succeed because it was actually helping people’s lives in concrete and tangible ways. If the Green New Deal creates good jobs and detoxifies the environment, then who cares if the climate crisis were a hoax? (It is not though for the record!)

The GND could become the collective purpose that finally overcomes these alienating ideological divides and provides some sort of a shared mission and shared destination that we need so desperately right now.