Research & Commentary: Heartland Brief Exposes Green New Deal’s Environmental Extremism and Authoritarian Socialism

Published June 12, 2019

A new Policy Brief from The Heartland Institute argues that the “Green New Deal” (GND) resolution promoted by leading Democrats is a “dangerous combination of environmental extremism and socialism,” that would destroy the U.S. economy, have little to no effect on global temperatures, and actually be environmentally harmful.

In “The Green New Deal: A Grave Threat to the American Economy, Environment, and Freedom,” James Taylor, senior fellow for environment and energy policy at The Heartland Institute, contends the GND would actually be an “environmental catastrophe.” By requiring Americans receive all of their electricity through wind and solar sources, the GND would “be an unprecedented assault on land conservation and the world’s greatest threat to biodiversity.”

“Building the wind turbines and solar facilities needed to power the United States under the provisions of the Green New Deal would result in the destruction of tens of millions of acres of habitat for countless species across the country, including some endangered species,” Taylor writes. To replace one conventional natural gas or coal plant with a wind farm capable of generating similar capacity requires approximately 300 square miles of land. Taylor notes replacing every conventional power plant in the United States with wind and solar facilities would require an amount of land about the size of California.

The component materials needed to produce a windmill or a solar panel are rare earth minerals such as neodymium, terbium, indium, dysprosium, and praseodymium, and the mining for these materials, Taylor notes, “is one of the most toxic, disruptive, and environmentally destructive activities on the planet.”

Taylor mentions that the American Action Forum estimates the cost of going to 100 percent zero-carbon “renewable” electricity sources would be at least $5.4 trillion, or roughly $42,000 per household. However, these are not the only costs associated with the GND. Taylor estimates the total cost of building new transmission lines for all this new wind and solar generation, of replacing nuclear power with wind and solar, of building the high-speed rail lines the GND proposes, of replacing all gasoline-powered vehicles with zero emission vehicles (ZEV), of creating the infrastructure to run these ZEVs, and of “the Green New Deal’s provisions for guaranteed government jobs, single-payer health care, guaranteed “green” housing, free college tuition, and various other programs,” would be somewhere near $99 trillion dollars, or approximately $838,000 per U.S. household.

“Calculating the costs over a decade, the Green New Deal would require at least $10 trillion in new spending per year,” Taylor writes. “By comparison, the cost of the fiscal year 2018 federal budget was $4.1 trillion. The Green New Deal would therefore require at least a doubling, and likely a tripling, of current levels of government spending and taxation.”

Going to this level of spending and taxation would “dismantle what’s left of the American free-market economy and hinder individual liberty.”

“In our current, relatively free-market economy,” Taylor says, “billions of economic decisions concerning the production of raw materials, steel, plastic, petroleum, machinery, autos, and thousands of other products are made by millions of consumers, entrepreneurs, and businesses every single day. Under the Green New Deal, the government would need to make many of these choices, especially in the agricultural, education, energy, health care, housing, and transportation sectors. This would require a massive, authoritarian system situated in Washington, DC, where a seemingly endless army of bureaucrats would need to operate, likely without being held accountable to the American people. … To transition the U.S. economy in 10, 20, or even 30 years to the unworkable Green New Deal model would necessitate an abandonment of what is left of Americans’ constitutional protections guarding against abuses of power and the centralization of authority.”

“The GND would require massive and unprecedented increases in government spending, taxation, and power,” Taylor concludes, “bankrupting the United States and putting the national government in charge of much of the economy. The Green New Deal’s mandates to force all Americans to rely on wind turbines and solar facilities would greatly harm the environment while providing absolutely no possibility of significantly limiting climate change.”

The following documents provide more information on the Green New Deal, climate change, and fossil fuels.

Policy Brief: The Green New Deal: A Grave Threat to the American Economy, Environment, and Freedom
The Heartland Policy Brief argues the Green New Deal is a dangerous combination of environmental extremism and socialism. The tremendously expensive proposal would devastate the U.S. economy and cause more environmental destruction than protection. The provisions of the Green New Deal pose a dangerous threat to the American values of individual freedom and limited government. 

The Green New Deal: Economics and Policy Analytics×8.5-FINAL.pdf
In this monograph, Benjamin Zycher, an economist at the American Enterprise Institute, examines the Green New Deal (GND) and concludes the current proposal would yield no benefits while imposing substantial economic and social costs. Zycher explains that while the ostensible goal of the GND policy proposals is to ameliorate what its proponents call an ongoing climate crisis, the GND in reality would have no effect on climate phenomena. Instead, the GND at its core substitutes central planning in place of market forces to allocate resources in the US economy, narrowly in the energy and transportation sectors and in the broad industrial, business, and housing sectors writ large.

The U.S. Leads the World in Clean Air: The Case for Environmental Optimism
This paper from the Texas Public Policy Foundation examines how the United States achieved robust economic growth while dramatically reducing emissions of air pollutants. The paper states that these achievements should be celebrated as a public policy success story, but instead the prevailing narrative among political and environmental leaders is one of environmental decline that can only be reversed with a more stringent regulatory approach. Instead, the paper urges for the data to be considered and applied to the narrative.

The Social Benefits of Fossil Fuels
This Heartland Policy Brief by Joseph Bast and Peter Ferrara documents the many benefits from the historic and still ongoing use of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are lifting billions of people out of poverty, reducing all the negative effects of poverty on human health, and vastly improving human well-being and safety by powering labor-saving and life-protecting technologies, such as air conditioning, modern medicine, and cars and trucks. They are dramatically increasing the quantity of food humans produce and improving the reliability of the food supply, directly benefiting human health. Further, fossil fuel emissions are possibly contributing to a “Greening of the Earth,” benefiting all the plants and wildlife on the planet.

The 100 Percent Renewable Energy Myth
This Policy Brief from the Institute for Energy Research argues that a countrywide 100 percent renewable plan would put the U.S. economy in jeopardy. The brief investigates the intermittency, land requirements, capacity factors, and cost of transition and construction materials that limit the ability of the U.S. to adapt to 100 percent renewable energy.

Climate Change Reconsidered II: Fossil Fuels
In this fifth volume of the Climate Change Reconsidered series, 117 scientists, economists, and other experts assess the costs and benefits of the use of fossil fuels by reviewing scientific and economic literature on organic chemistry, climate science, public health, economic history, human security, and theoretical studies based on integrated assessment models (IAMs) and cost-benefit analysis (CBA). (Also see the Climate Change Reconsidered II: Fossil Fuels “Summary for Policymakers”:

Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science
Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science is an independent, comprehensive, and authoritative report on the current state of climate science, published in October 2013. It is the fourth in a series of scholarly reports produced by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, an international network of climate scientists sponsored by three nonprofit organizations: the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, the Science and Environmental Policy Project, and The Heartland Institute. (Also see the executive summary of Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science

Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts
Released on April 9, 2014, Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts is an independent, comprehensive, and authoritative report on the impacts of climate change on plants, terrestrial animals, aquatic life, and human well-being. (Also see the Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts “Summary for Policymakers”:

Legislating Energy Poverty: A Case Study of How California’s and New York’s Climate Change Policies Are Increasing Energy Costs and Hurting the Economy
This analysis from Wayne Winegarden of the Pacific Research Institute shows the big government approach to fighting climate change taken by California and New York hits working class and minority communities the hardest. The paper reviews the impact of global warming policies adopted in California and New York, such as unrealistic renewable energy goals, strict low carbon fuel standards, and costly subsidies for buying higher-priced electric cars and installing solar panels. The report’s authors found that collectively these expensive and burdensome policies are dramatically increasing the energy burdens of their respective state residents.


Nothing in this Research & Commentary is intended to influence the passage of legislation, and it does not necessarily represent the views of The Heartland Institute. For further information on this subject, visit Environment & Climate News, The Heartland Institute’s website, and PolicyBot, Heartland’s free online research database.

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