A Green New Deal is taking shape, and it has captured the energy and enthusiasm of a new generation of voters who care deeply about sustaining the environment for ourselves and future generations.
The movement could very well represent a watershed moment in U.S. history, as opposition to common-sense climate policies crumbles under the weight of clear and compelling science. Or we could find ourselves replaying painful memories of earth-friendly proposals like the Kyoto Protocols and cap-and-trade legislation that crashed into the realities of American politics, leaving advocates to pick up the pieces.
Based on the latest United Nations report, we may not get another opportunity to change course before the most devastating impacts of climate change become inescapable. That’s why we need to make sure this effort succeeds. As dynamic new leaders focus on a national Green New Deal, I hope they take a hard look at the lessons available in California.
No other state has done more to fill the vacuum left by Washington, D.C. and create a proving ground for climate policies that unite smart science and smart politics.
Just last year, California lawmakers agreed to raise the bar for clean electricity, demanding a 100 percent move to emissions-free power. It wasn’t California’s first leap forward, and it won’t be our last. But the move was made possible by the fact that, as California reduced carbon emissions, we have also led the country in innovation, economic growth, and job creation.
To succeed, advocates must reject the myth that green energy represents a move toward “big government” or higher costs. Fossil fuels, not renewables, are the largest recipients of subsidies in this country and abroad. For decades, the federal government put its finger on the scale, shielding fossil fuel investors from risk. In contrast, renewable energy backers gambled on a cleaner future, yet still emerged with more cost-competitive solutions. Policy changes may be needed to break the stranglehold fossil fuels have over our economy, but a sensible path forward can open markets to clean energy solutions, create jobs, and drive down consumer costs.
We have seen it work here in California, where the clean energy industry already supports more than 475,000 jobs – many in rural areas, representing solid, middle-class jobs that serve as anchors of the community.
To make it work, one thing we’ve learned is that cracking the code on greenhouse gas emissions requires more than zero-emissions electricity. As industrial emissions have fallen, transportation has emerged as the next great obstacle. To overcome the challenge, California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) complements the national Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to support clean, homegrown biofuels for transportation. This has meant jobs for farmers, biorefinery workers, and other innovators transforming renewable feedstocks into clean alternatives for petroleum-based products. Oil companies like to claim that biofuels require too much cropland, but independent analysis proves that U.S. farmers are harnessing more renewable energy on existing land year after year.
For a Green New Deal, the California example provides a roadmap for uniting urban and rural, coastal and countryside, and even red and blue. We can create blue-collar jobs, reduce costs for consumers, and protect the planet. But for that to happen, we must tap into clean energy sources that represent all of America – from wind power, to battery manufacturing, to farm-raised biofuels.
Green energy jobs already outnumber fossil fuel jobs in 40 states, supporting stronger wages for construction workers, linemen, factory workers, farmers, and engineers across solar, wind, efficiency, biofuels, and electric vehicles. While the opponents try to make the bold solutions proposed in a Green New Deal sound extreme, California has shown that we can reduce emissions, create jobs for working families, and build a future-oriented economy that will lift people up.-
Copyright 2019 George Miller. Miller (D-CA), the former chairman of the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee, is a member of the board of advisors of, New Energy America, a non-profit organization dedicated to policies that support clean energy jobs in rural America.