The Greens helped draft the New York Off Fossil Fuels Act, which was introduced in the state Legislature in 2017. It would halt new fossil fuel plants and achieve 100 percent clean energy by 2030. The Greens chose 2030 for clean energy in all sectors based on studies by climate scientists like NASA's James Hansen who conclude that in order to avert dangerous climate change, carbon emissions must be zeroed out by 2030 in developed countries.
A 2009 study by Mark Jacobson and colleagues showed that with existing technologies, the whole world could be run on 100 percent clean energy by 2030. Jacobson and colleagues followed up with a 2013 study of New York showing that 100 percent clean energy by 2030 is not only feasible, it would create 4.5 million construction and manufacturing jobs during the build-out and cut electric rates in half.
Jacobson put the capital cost for a New York clean energy system at $460 billion. The $14 billion clean energy loan guarantee program in the 2009 Obama stimulus leveraged 47 times more in private investment. Using a conservative 10-to-1 leveraging ratio, a state investment of $46 billion would generate the $460 billion in private investment.
Another bill for a progressive state carbon tax would generate $7.1 billion a year, more than enough to invest $4.6 billion a year for $46 billion over 10 years. The carbon tax will enhance the leverage of public investments by creating predictable market prices for calculating break-even points for private clean energy investments. A state public bank could extend the credit for public and private clean energy investments at lower cost than borrowing through Wall Street, with the interest and principal returning to the state for public purposes.
The Greens also propose public ownership of electric generation and distribution utilities. By operating at cost for public benefit instead of at cost-plus-profits for absentee owners, a public energy system would make the clean energy transition at lower cost and enable effective planning without obstruction from the vested interests of the incumbent utility, fossil fuel, and nuclear industries.
These democratic socialist measures may seem radical, but they are not unprecedented. The War Production Board nationalized a quarter of U.S. manufacturing plants during World War II in order to turn industry on a dime into the "arsenal of democracy" that defeated the Nazis. We need nothing less now to defeat climate change.
Howie Hawkins is a longtime Green Party leader, its candidate for U.S. Senate in 2006 and for governor since 2010.