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Date: 2022-01-27 Page is: DBtxt003.php L0700-II-GND-2019CR-analysis-activities-01a
INTERESTING IDEAS
THE GREEN NEW DEAL
TVM analysis of the Congressional Resolution of 2019

COMMENTARY ON GND GOALS AND PROJECTS (CR#2)
11. The goals described in subparagraphs (A)through (E) of paragraph (1) (referred to in this resolution as the ‘Green New Deal goals’) should be accomplished through a 10-year national mobilization (referred to in this resolution as the ‘Green New Deal mobilization’) that will require the following goals and projects

TVM does not use the quite the same analytical framework as the US Congress. This section refers to 'Goals and Mobilization' and a later section refers to 'Goals and Projects'. To conform with the TVM framing these will be merged at a later stage and then organized to reflect 'activities' and 'actors' and a range of 'perspectives' together with some clarity about the 'state' of the socio-enviro-economic system as reflected by social capital, natural capital and economic capital and the impacts associated with not only with profit, but also with people and the environment ... the so-called triple bottom line.

COMMUNITY RESILIENCY
Activity A. Building resiliency against climate change-related disasters, such as extreme weather, including by leveraging funding and providing investments for community-defined projects and strategies

In the TVM framework the cost of not addressing climate change-related disasters is contrasted with the cost of doing all the things. Conventional cost analysis tends to identify the enormous cost of doing something without paying any attention or little attention to the cost of not doing things. Assuming that the future is going to be similar to what exists at the present time is a train-wreck waiting to happen.

Another issue that needs to be addressed is that most communities have been built around ideas that are very much out-of-date. Buildings and infrastructure are built to last for several decades ... and things change substantially over this length of time. Many buildings are no longer fit for purpose in the modern world and need modernization.

UPGRADING INFRASTRUCTURE
Activity B.i. Repairing and upgrading the infrastructure in the United States by eliminating pollution and greenhouse gas emissions as much as technologically feasible

Much of critical industrial infrastructure was built many years ago before GHG emissions were identified as a critical matter. Steps were taken to reduce the emission of particulates that could be seen, but less work was done to reduce the emission of GHGs like CO2 which could not be seen.

The fact of the climate crisis means that reduction is GHG emissions must now be a priority, with less scope for technological conditionality than has been the norm in the past. All sources of GHG emissions must be eliminated as fast as possible. The justification of all action plans must be based on TVM analysis rather than the obsolete economic impact analysis that has been customnary in the past.

Activity B.ii. Repairing and upgrading the infrastructure in the United States, by guaranteeing universal access to clean water

Some parts of the United States have very access to clean water, but many communities have severely degraded water systems that are in urgent need of major remediation. Flint, Michigan has been in the news, but there are water distribution systems in many if not most cities in the country that need to be rebuilt almost from the ground up. The economic cost of doing this work is substantial. The social cost of not doing this work is a lot more.

Activity B.iii. Repairing and upgrading the infrastructure in the United States by reducing the risks posed by climate impacts

There was a time when the infrastructure of the United States was world class, but that time is long past. The USA has not invested adequately in the building of new infrastructure, and worse, has failed to maintain much of the existing infrastructure in an adequate manner. For example, in 2019, more than 50,000 US highway bridges were considered to be structurally deficient. It has been estimated that around $320 billion needs to be spent over the next 16 years in order to clear this backlog. Very few of the main US highways have the capacity to handle the traffic at peak travel times. Passenger rail in the US operates less well than 50 years ago!

Activity B.iv. Repairing and upgrading the infrastructure in the United States by ensuring that any infrastructure bill considered by Congress addresses climate change

It makes no sense to buiild new infrastructure to suit the conditions of yesterday. Rather new infrastructure should be planned and built to suit the conditions that are likely to prevail in the future, and this should included taking the projections being made by scientists about the impact of climate change. Furthermore, it would be prudent to adjust the headline climate predictions being made by scientists to incorporate the fact that headlines reflect scientific concensus of a most probable scenario, while there is a considerable possibility that the actual situation will be a lot worse. Put another way, it makes no sense to plan for an average when there is a quite high possibility that much worse is likely!.

ZERO EMISSION ENERGY GENERATION
Activity C. Meeting 100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources, including: (i) by dramatically expanding and upgrading renewable power sources; and (ii) by deploying new capacity.

This is incredibly important. The use of wind and solar power generation at scale is vital as a foundation for a sustainable world. The efficiency of these technologies has improved substantially over the past few years and will probably improve further.

Conversion of steam generation systems from coal to natural gas should be minimized because while there are some economic advantages, the environmental improvement is not enough especialy as it relates to CO2 emissions.

Effective regulation should be created, but the regulation should be designed to ensure that there are the best possible technical standards, and not to create impediments to progress driven more than anything else by opponents of renewable technologies that will compete with established fossil fuel energy companies.

SMART ENERGY TRANSMISSION AND DISTRIBUTION
Activity D. Building or upgrading to energy-efficient, distributed, and ‘smart’ power grids, and ensuring affordable access to electricity

The US electric power grid needs substantial upgrade. Much of the system is very old and inadequate for current needs.

Some of the recent catastrophic fires in California were apparently caused by sparks from electricity transmission infrastructure. The utility saved maintenance money but eventually it has cost $ billions and put the company into bankruptcy. This sort of corporate decision making needs to be called out and leadership held to account.

It should be noted that much of the existing built infrastructure of the United States is old and inefficient, that is energy inefficient. There are many opportunities to improve the energy efficiency of the US infastructure, and in the process there should be major improvement to the systems being used for the movement and storage of electric power.

IMPROVEMENT IN BUILDING EFFICIENCY
Activity E. Upgrading all existing buildings in the United States and building new buildings to achieve maximum energy efficiency, water efficiency, safety, affordability, comfort, and durability, including through electrification

Buildings in the USA are inefficient by world standards. This has been caused in part by a history of very low energy prices which made efficient heat management unnecessary. This needs to change, but retrofitting a huge built inventory of buildings is a big task. It should, hoever, be undertaken sooner rather than later, and new buildings should be world class in terms of environmental efficiency. For example: most houses in Canada where the climate is much more challenging than the USA use considerably less energy for heating than those built in the USA ... this is simply because the Canadian houses are built to a much higher standard that conserves energy.

IMPROVING PRODUCTION EFFICIENCY / CLEAN MANUFACTURING
Activity F. Spurring massive growth in clean manufacturing in the United States and removing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing and industry as much as is technologically feasible, including by expanding renewable energy manufacturing and investing in existing manufacturing and industry

Many US based industries went out of business in the 1970s after the OPEC oil shock because they were using old inefficient energy technologies. The products continued to be sold to American consumers, but they were made in other parts of the world often with better technology and almost always with lower paid workers. 50 years later manufacutring processes have improved and it is becoming possible with adequate investments for products to be produced profitably in the USA again.

Easy profits can still be made by continuing to outsource supplies from countries with low wages and low workplace standards, but this should be called out by responsible consumers.

IMPROVING PRODUCT EFFICIENCY
There is no reference in the GND Resolution to improving product efficiency. One of the major issues in the modern socio-enviro-economic system is the way products have been designed. Most products are designed to be profitable for the manufacturer and the owner of the brand. The only transactions about which there is much data and conversation is the transaction where the producer sells to the buyer who is the user or consumer.

Most products look good. Whether or not they will last and perform well is not so clear. A surprising number of products do very well for the length of time where warranty applies, but fail soon after that. Durability is not profitable for the producer ... and that is the main driver of economic decision making in the corporate organization.

Products that are designed to be ingested ... food products and beverages ... need to be good for the user. It is said that 'you are what you eat', and most Americans in recent years are eating a very large amount of unhealthy but profitable food. This has to be discouraged ... not so much be regulation and by responsible metrics and decision making at the corporate level.

IMPROVING AGRICULTURE
Activity G. Working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible

Without food, people cannot live. Without nutritious food, people's health will be compromised. America has been a massive producer of food for the world for many many years. Over time, the land has degrade significantly. In many places the depth of the essential top-soil is now just 50% of what it was 100 years ago, with nutrient quality very much diminished and maintained by massive doses of chemical fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides. Modern agriculture has become highly mechanized and computerized ... and productive and profitable ... and most likely unsustainable.

Substantial change is essential, and to some extent is already being implemented by progressive farmers. It is not yet the mainstream of the agriculture sector, and is actively opposed by major players who benefit from the status quo.

Activity G.i. Supporting family farming

The idea of family farming should not be associated with backward looking nostalgia but with truly progressive farming that is good for society, good for the planet and good economics.

Progressive family farming that understands that sustainability is driven by the quality of the soil improving over time rather than being exploited and degraded more and more over time.

Activity G.ii. Investing in sustainable farming and land use practices that increase soil health

Sustainable farming and land use practices are desirable, but the conventional wisdom promulgated by corporate thought leaders is that mechanization, together with chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides is the best way to profitable farming. Changing this to an environmentally friendly sustainable farming model is essential, but going to be very difficult in the face of well financed lobbying.

Activity G.iii. Building a more sustainable food system that ensures universal access to healthy food

There are many different issues that need to be addressed to get to a sustainable food system that gives universal access to healthy foods.

There is a massive amount of waste in the present food system. Some estimates are that around 40% of what is grown is thrown away. Much of this food can be used, but the system to use it does not exist.

Low prices are one driver of consumer decision making especially among those with little buying power. Many low price foods lack nutritional value. Relatively few consumers of food are knowledgeable about the health impacts of poor food choices. Better ways to give incentive to be smart about buying food are needed.

IMPROVING TRANSPORT
Activity H. Overhauling transportation systems in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector as much as is technologically feasible.

The big oil and gas companies have called the shots in transportation for more than a century, riding roughshod over the alternatives. Social costs like pollution and GHGs were not a part of the argument for gasoline and diesel power. Air quality in most urban centers is poor, caused to a great extent from transportation especially in the USA.

Electric vehicles have many technical advantages but the charging infrastructure for battery powered vehicles needs massive expansion.

Much of the advantage of electic vehicles is lost when the electricity is generated using coal and even natural gas. When electricity is generated using either wind or solar then the benefits are susbstantial.

There is a need to invest in research related to electricity storage as well as in the deployment of electricity storage systems at scale.

Activity H.i. Investing in zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing.

Without the required infrastructure for zero-emission vehicle operation, the adoption of zero-emission transportation will be constrained. This is a big challenge and complex. Vehicle batteries are heavy and do not charge quickly compared to filling up a tank of gas or diesel. Gas stations are strategically located on transport routes where the fuel can be pumped in very quickly. Recharging stations need to be in very different locations where the vehicle is not going to move for quite a long time ... maybe a shopping mall, a parking garage, or overnight at a house or in a transit garage.

And the issue of how the electricity is generated needs attention. Using more electricity that is generated using coal merely moves the problem and does not solve the problem of emissions and GHGs.

The possibility of using hydrogen power brings up many other considerations. The infrastructure needs are completely different and in many ways more challenging.

Activity H.ii. Investing in clean, affordable, and accessible public transit.

Public transit is going to be essential to make urban living efficient and sustainable. Conventional economic thinking constrains the development of these systems, yet they are more and more essential for a liveable city. Most urban mass transit systems cannot be profitable and affordable using conventional financial analysis. Something more complete is needed to assess their social value add relative to their economic and environmental costs.

Activity H.iii. Investing in high-speed rail.

Rather than merely investing in high speed rail, there should be an upgrade to every aspect of passenger transsportation. Most of the existing infrastructure is more suited to the 19th century than the 21st and its inefficiency is now a serious drag on the performance of the socio-enviro-economic system in the USA.

The example of China in building a coherent network of high speed rail transportation not only in China but in the larger region of Asia indicates what can be done.

In the long run, it is going to be difficult to justify the environmental cost of passenger air transportation for any overland routes.

IMPROVING ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS
Activity I. Mitigating and managing the long-term adverse health, economic, and other effects of pollution and climate change, including by providing funding for community-defined projects and strategies

Human health should be a priority. GDP considers more spending on healthcare to be a positive increment to economic performance, when the reality is completely the opposite. The goal should be better health. The cost of healthcare is actually economic value destruction for those receiving the care, while being potentially profitable for those selling the care and associated support srvices like pharmaeuticals.

Environmental issues like pollution are the root cause of a lot of health issues. It should be a cause for concern that US expectation of life has now declined for three years in a row.

It is not at all clear what impact there is going to be because of climate change, but initial indications are that the impact is going to be substantial. Wildfires seem to be doing more damage in recent years than in the past, and this might be a result of climate change. No matter the cause ... the economic and social impact has been catastrophic, and neith the government entities nore the insurance companies are prepared as they need to be. Extreme weather involving hurricane scale wind and torrential rain is doing massive damage as well and more frequently than in the past. People are concerned ... but not enough political leaders.

ENVIRONMENTAL REMEDIATION
Activity J. Removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and reducing pollution by restoring natural ecosystems through proven low-tech solutions that increase soil carbon storage, such as land preservation and afforestation

Using natural systems to remove carbon from the atmosphere should be a global priority. The potential of natural systems to do this is getting better understood and is a lot more powerful than commonly appreciated. There are an increasing number of people who are owners of land who are putting these prectices into effect with impressive results.

Not surprisingly such efforts are being denigrated by the established corporate powers in conventional agriculture, resource exploitation and land management.

It should be noted that simply planting trees is not the best way to get the maximum environmental impact. The goal should be the rebuild a larger ecosystem that is not only improving the carbon cycle, but is also improving many different aspects of the ecosystem, both in respect of fauna and flora.

Activity K. restoring and protecting threatened, endangered, and fragile ecosystems through locally appropriate and science-based projects that enhance biodiversity and support climate resiliency

There is an urgent need to reverse the catastrophic decline in biodiversity that has been happening in recent decades and accelerating. At the moment there are many incentives to exploit land for economic benefit while there are no incentives to preserve land for its environmental value. There are few people making economic decisions who have any appreciation of the value add that is being derived all day every day from natural capital, and professional communities like economists and accountants have done nothing so far to change this information gap.

There are scientists who understand the value of complex ecosystems, but there are presently no simple metrics that make it clear how value destruction in one part of the ecosystem links to impact in other parts of the ecosystem and eventually into issues that impact society and the economy.

Activity L. Cleaning up existing hazardous waste and abandoned sites, ensuring economic development and sustainability on those sites

There are a multitude of hazardous waste and brownfield sites that are not being used in a productive manner. The real estate industry has been incentivized for decades to convert natural land into real estate development because it is economically more profitable as long as the cost of environmental value destruction is ignored. The so-called super-fund initiative established many decades ago needs to be re-invigorated so that more efficient urban planning can be implemented.

Activity M. Identifying other emission and pollution sources and creating solutions to remove them

Much of the consumption in a country like the United States is a root cause of emissions and pollution in other countries, either because of the supply chain or because of post use waste disposal. Consumers must take more responsibility for the products they buy and use. Those that make the final sale must take more responsibility for the products they sell. A massive improvement in the information available to consumers about the products they buy and use must be made a part of the decision process. There are a variety of technologies that could be deployed relatively easily to make this hasppen.

ENABLING US MORAL AND TECHNOLOGICAL LEADERSHIP
Activity N. Promoting the international exchange of technology, expertise, products, funding, and services, with the aim of making the United States the international leader on climate action, and to help other countries achieve a Green New Deal.

There are several competing interests in this activity. One is moral leadership where the US implements a complete set of sustainably sound initiatives and invites the rest of the world to become engaged, and indeed to catch up.

Another is to do the research and development of essential technologies so that the US is in a position to have these technologies available for use both in the United States and in the rest of the world on a commercial basis.

Also the US should also be the source of essential funding and management expertise so that every country in the world is in a position to move its own socio-enviro-economic system to a sustainable progressive state.


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