McKibben and Romanoff to Colorado Energy Workers: Impact of Green New Deal Will Be Painful

In a stunning exchange this week, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Colorado pressed a prominent  “Keep It In the Ground” leader on the costs that the Green New Deal would impose on energy workers in the state and even acknowledged that oil and natural gas workers should expect lower-paying jobs under their proposals.

Andrew Romanoff hosted the livestream event to accept the endorsement of’s co-founder Bill McKibben. The event further underlines the fractures that are appearing in Colorado’s Democratic Party as Romanoff competes against former Gov. John Hicklenlooper.

In past months, Romanoff has been endorsed by other leading environmental activist groups including The Sunrise Movement, whose Colorado chapter sent out a fake press release late last year intended to trick reporters. Meanwhile, Hickenlooper has been criticized for his past support for oil and natural gas development and for skipping climate-focused panels.

During the conversation with McKibben, Romanoff repeatedly attacked Hickenlooper’s environmental record – calling him a “fossil fuel-funded candidate” – while touting his own support of the Green New Deal and other extreme and often, in the words of McKibben, socialist environmental positions. Notably, both Romanoff and McKibben have pledged to back Hickenlooper if he is the nominee.

Here are some important highlights from the livestream:

  1. “The Green New Deal Is A Pretty Good Bargain”

After McKibben hypothesized that unchecked climate change would cost the world $550 trillion by the end of the century, Romanoff replied that “The Green New Deal is a pretty good bargain.”

Except, it’s not.

It’s been estimated that the Green New Deal could cost as much as $93 trillion during just the first 10 years alone – never mind the next 70 years or that it would only address issues in America and not the rest of the world.

Not mentioned, natural gas is doing more than any other fuel to reduce emissions.

McKibben then fell back again to the Green New Deal as the answer for everything when Romanoff brought up conversations he’s had with oil and natural gas workers who say they’ll make less money in the renewable energy industry.

  1. “Continue To Pay Their Bills To Feed Their Families”

Romanoff pushed McKibben on the subject of job security and the economic impact of the transition to renewables touted by backers of the Green New Deal. Romanoff asked McKibben if the new jobs in renewables would provide comparable compensation to the jobs being lost in the oil and natural gas industry, and if it wasn’t justifiable that Coloradans would have serious questions about the sweeping policy changes if adequate pay wasn’t available. McKibben countered that the pay gap issue could be resolved by better policy advocacy in Washington, D.C., and that it was Republicans opposing the “just transition” policies he and advocates like him backed, making oil and natural gas workers “hostages” to current policy.

Here’s the full transcript with emphasis added:

Romanoff: I’ve been having conversations with people in person when that was possible and now by text all across the state. A lot of them understand the science, but they’re concerned about the economic impact. They get the fact that fossil fuels are by definition not renewable, but they figured we don’t need to make this switch quite so soon. We certainly can’t make it tomorrow and they want to know when we do that there is actually going to be jobs and income for them because they’re an industry that has supplied a lot of revenue to the state, met energy needs here in Colorado. So, I guess I’m trying to ask you two questions. One is how quickly can we make this change and the second how do you tell folks in this field today that we’re going to be able to employ them so they can continue to pay their bills to feed their families and meet their needs going forward?

McKibben: Absolutely. Crucial questions. The answer to the first is that we have less time than we like because we’ve delayed so long. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report in October 2018 laying out the latest science if hadn’t made “fundamental transformations” was the way they put it in energy use in 2030 and they defined that as cutting carbon emissions in half, then we would have no chance of meeting the targets we set in Paris, which are modest targets. So, we need to make big changes pretty quickly and that is going to be difficult for the people who have done the necessary and useful work of providing energy for a long time. But we have the resources to make sure there is a “Just Transition” possible to do the work that desperately needs to be done to allow a transition.

If we’re going to build out those resources fast, we’re going to need a lot of people doing that work. And truthfully, if we’re going to overcome the recessions/depression we’re slipping into this country, we’re going to need a lot of people at work, too. Oil companies aren’t going to be providing those jobs. Their industry and model is in deep trouble. … But there is in incredible opportunity to employee people doing the work of renewable energy, doing the work of retrofitting homes and buildings in order to make them energy efficient. The good thing about all that is no one is going to put their house on a boat and send it to China to get it insulated.

Romanoff: Just to press you a little bit on this point, Bill. Even if the jobs you’re talking about can’t be offshored as you’ve pointed out, and even if there are twice as many of them by rough estimates in clean energy as there are in fossil fuels, some of those clean energy jobs don’t pay as much and the conversations I’ve been having with oil and gas workers go like this: “Ok, I get the fact the transition is coming, we can see the market already moving in the direction you just described where solar and wind become cost competitive or better with oil and gas, but if you’re going to put us to work installing a solar panel or building a wind turbine, how do we know, and can you assure us that we’re going to make as much money in those jobs as the ones were leaving?

McKibben: Well, that would be a good reason to send somebody to Washington to make good policy along these lines. That’s what good about these proposals like the Green New Deal. The legislation people are envisioning talk very seriously about precisely about those kinds of questions. The people who don’t want action are kind of a voice of the status quo. It’s not like environmental activists haven’t been talking about “Just Transition” for a very long time but the Republican Party in particular has been holding energy workers as kind of hostages, coal miners, whoever. Not allowing that kind of “Just Transition” to happen because it’s more politically convenient to deploy them as kind of hostages.

Romanoff: I’ve seen a study that if we added up all the direct and indirect subsidies we’re providing for oil and gas and coal and the impact of the pollution we’re subsidizing, the amount is roughly $650 billion a year by one estimate. I’m not just talking about direct subsidies, but the indirect effects, which is roughly the size of the federal defense budget and the 10 times the size of the federal education budget. So, it seems to me that putting those dollars into the research and development of this clean energy infrastructure, transforming our electrical grid, our building codes, our transportation system, would be a much better use of those dollars.

McKibben: Well, you’re either going to spend it doing that now, which would be a very good idea, or you’re going to spend it putting out ever bigger forest fires for decades to come. I mean, it’s not like the other choice is free. Allowing global warming to go uncheck would be the single most expensive thing that’s ever happened on the planet. The latest estimates I saw for total cost of climate change unchecked towards the end of the century range upwards of $550 trillion which is way money that exists on planet Earth.

Romanoff: Turns out the Green New Deal is a pretty good bargain.

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