Bernie’s green policies are an assault on the working class

His proposed bans on fossil fuels and fracking will cost millions of jobs and send energy prices soaring.

Sean Collins
US correspondent

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Fans of Bernie Sanders like to say he is a left populist, a politician who defends ‘the interests of working people’. That is a myth.

Sanders’ political agenda squarely reflects the outlook of a particular section of society: the ‘progressive’ wing of America’s upper-middle class, which forms his base of support. A look at his programme shows that Sanders is more aligned with the perspective of the faculty lounge than the shop floor. He is quite willing to override the views and interests of the working class – and even destroy their jobs – to pursue his brand of ‘socialism’.

Perhaps no issue demonstrates this reality better than Sanders’ environmental politics, which includes a ban on fracking and the introduction of a so-called Green New Deal. If enacted, his backward-looking green policies would be a disaster for workers. In France, Emmanuel Macron’s imposition of green taxes and austerity was a key spark to the gilet jaunes protests. A similar reaction among workers in the US could happen if Sanders got his way.

For many Democrats, climate change has become a matter of religious belief, not science or economics. Bernie has become their leading evangelist. To Sanders, the climate represents an ‘existential threat’ to humanity, a ‘global emergency’ and the country’s ‘single greatest challenge’. His rhetoric on climate change is as alarmist as that espoused by Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion. A generation of school indoctrination has encouraged young people to believe that climate change will bring about the collapse of civilisation. For too many, this outlook has unfortunately become a defining part of their identity. The more scared and anxious youth are especially drawn to Sanders.

Rising temperatures and other effects from a changing climate are a serious problem, but exaggerated doom-mongering does not help. As the environmental author Bjorn Lomborg has noted: ‘The vision of climate change as the end of the world is unsupported. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that by the 2070s, the total effects of climate change, including on ecosystems, will be equivalent to a reduction in average income of 0.2 to 2 per cent. By then, each person on the planet will be 300 to 500 per cent richer.’ In other words, climate change is a manageable problem we can deal with over time, especially if we invest our increasing resources and wealth in new technologies.

For all of Sanders’ alarmism over how the climate is an ‘emergency’ that needs to be addressed immediately, he rejects the energy sources that are here right now, such as natural gas and nuclear power, which have already done far more to reduce carbon emissions than renewables like wind and solar. Admitting that natural gas and nuclear can play a role in transitioning to cleaner energy, however, would take away the looming threat of apocalypse, which would render Sanders’ radical green proposals less necessary.

In recent decades, the US has reduced emissions by more than any other country in the world. The largest contributor to this has been the widespread adoption of hydraulic fracturing – aka fracking. US power plants have shifted from using coal – a carbon-intensive energy source – to natural gas, which is much cleaner.

Yet Sanders wants to ban fracking and shut down all gas plants. According to his recently introduced Senate bill, drafted with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders would immediately prevent federal permits for expanded and new fracking, and make fracking entirely illegal by 2025. To justify his ban, Sanders said fracking is a danger to the water supply, creates earthquakes, and adds to climate change.

These are tired arguments that have been disproved. Techniques used by the regulated fracking industry have also become safer over time. In reality, water-contamination incidents are few, seismic activity is insignificant and has more to do with wastewater disposal methods than fracking per se, and relatively minor methane emissions from fracking do not outweigh the net benefits for the climate that the technique brings. There are more than 250,000 fracking wells operating in the US – if there were serious problems, we would hear about them more often.

Fracking has been a huge economic boon for the US. The Brookings Institution, a liberal think-tank, found in 2015 that the benefits from fracking shale gas contributed to a net economic benefit of $48 billion per year, mainly due to lower energy prices, which benefit both industry and consumers. Fracking has also boosted state tax coffers, enabling more spending on social welfare, among other things.

Most worrying of all, Sanders’ proposed ban on fracking would be a job-killer. One study, conducted by PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC), estimates that fracking directly supports 2.8million jobs in the US. Indirectly, over 10million jobs depend on fracking. Another study, from the US Chamber of Commerce’s Global Energy Institute, found that a ban on fracking would cost four million jobs in its first year alone.

During last week’s Democratic debate, Sanders was asked what he would say to the workers who would lose their jobs thanks to his ban. He didn’t back down: ‘The scientists are telling us that if we don’t act incredibly boldly within the next six, seven years, there will be irreparable damage done not just in Nevada, not just to Vermont or Massachusetts, but to the entire world.’ The immediate impact on workers’ livelihoods must be sacrificed to his green ambitions. ‘This is a moral issue, my friends’, he said. But apparently destroying jobs and livelihoods doesn’t factor into Sanders’ moral considerations.

Imagine what this sounds like to the ears of working people in a rust-belt state like Pennsylvania or Ohio, who desperately need the jobs and state revenues that fracking brings. As Donald Trump’s election showed, many workers in the middle of the country feel they are disregarded. And yet Sanders has joined the chorus of the coastal elites. These people enjoy the benefits of cheap and abundant energy, but look down on the icky process of extraction, and don’t think twice about eliminating the jobs of the people who do it. If Sanders does manage to win the Democratic nomination, his fracking policy would be likely to cost him votes in the general election in these areas. As a union official in Pennsylvania told the New York Times, ‘If we end up with a Democratic candidate that supports a fracking ban, I’m going to tell my members that either you don’t vote or you vote for the other guy’.

Sanders says workers in the fracking-related industries shouldn’t fear his axe, because his Green New Deal (also co-written with AOC) will – somehow – create 20million new jobs in the future. But for a plan that demands $16 trillion in new spending, the Green New Deal is remarkably short on details and long on magical promises. In addition to shutting down the low-emission sources of energy (natural gas and nuclear) that currently provide around 55 percent of the country’s electricity, the Green New Deal promises to eliminate all fossil fuels in just 10 years from now. It will make electricity ‘virtually free’ after 2035, and will ‘pay for itself over 15 years’.

Sanders’ plan has similarities with the approach Germany has adopted – the so-called Energiewende – which has hugely backfired. Germany has phased out nuclear power and has spent $580 billion on renewables, only to see electricity prices jacked up to among the highest in Europe. On top of that, the Germans have discovered how unreliable solar and wind are, forcing them to increase their use of coal as a back-up source. As a result, emissions have remained stubbornly high.

As energy writer Michael Shellenberger has pointed out, to see why the Green New Deal won’t work, you only have to look at Sanders’ home state of Vermont: ‘In 2005, Vermont legislators promised to reduce emissions 25 per cent below 1990 levels by 2012, and 50 per cent below 1990 levels by 2028, through the use of renewables and energy efficiency only. What’s happened since? Vermont’s emissions rose 16.3 per cent. That’s more than twice as much as national emissions rose during the same period.’

Shellenberger rightly concludes that Sanders’ plan is regressive, not progressive: ‘It would disproportionately hurt the poor by making them pay more for basic goods like food and energy. And it would slow economic growth by reducing labour-productivity.’ But what about all those jobs Sanders would create? They are low-skill and inevitably would be low-paid. ‘In boasting that [his plan] will create 20million more jobs’, Shelllenberger writes, Sanders ‘is pointing to the reason why energy prices would rise. Making anything more labour-intensive makes it more expensive.’

Sanders’ green politics are not a minor side issue in his campaign – the Green New Deal is one of his most high-profile policies. It shows that his vision of the future is limited: it is not about growing and transforming the economy, investing in new technology, and giving workers more control over their lives. A campaign that is promising to throw hundreds of thousands out of work is not about to give workers more agency. In an era in which more people have voiced demands for more say and more control over their lives, Sanders proposes a top-down approach that centralises more power in the state, prioritising abstract global concerns over real lives in local areas.

Bernie says there is a moral imperative to support his green politics. Those are his morals, not ours.

Sean Collins is a writer based in New York. Visit his blog, The American Situation.

Picture by: Getty.

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Comments

Francis Lonergan

29th February 2020 at 1:21 pm

“Rising temperatures and other effects from a changing climate are a serious problem,”

Can you back this statement up? There has been NO significant warming for over twenty years and there is nothing unprecedented in the recent change in climate.

H McLean

28th February 2020 at 9:19 am

Bernie is a clown who has grifted an entire political career from always being more radical than the next guy. Regardless, if Sanders has the luck to be the Democratic nominee there is a trove of historical information about him just waiting to be brought up in debates, questioned about in interviews, ridiculed in campaign advertising. He doesn’t stand a chance, especially when The Donald has such high approval, jobs are increasing, wages are increasing. People just don’t have enough reasons to say no to Trump, and that goes for double when his opponent is an economic moron and a communist to boot.

Poor Bernie, he’ll die without realising his dream of starving half his country’s population to death just like all his political heroes did.

Marvin Jones

28th February 2020 at 10:28 pm

With the collective asinine and naive moronic ideologies of Corbyn andLittle Dumberg, and old and frail as as a wobbly jelly, should this guy be allowed to ever be the most powerful man on the planet?

Philip Humphrey

28th February 2020 at 7:26 am

This is why the left is “losing it” all over the western world. Increasingly it’s become a middle class cult with a tin ear towards the workers that are supposed to be its “raison d’etre”. The never-ending divisive identity politics are one aspect of it. The poisoning of the climate change issue, turning it into some sort of apocalyptic existential struggle is another. And for supposedly intelligent people from the best of academia, they’re not even logical about how it should be tackled.
In Britain renewables are about 30% of the electricity supply, about 20% is nuclear and the rest is fossil. A sensible expansion of renewable energy combined with a corresponding expansion of nuclear power could gradually reduce dependence on fossils (apart from “standby” gas power stations needed for when renewals are not available). Yet these idiots mostly want to shut down nuclear power completely and make it all from renewables. I don’t think they have any concept of the environmental impact that would have, let alone the impracticality.

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Jonnie Henly

27th February 2020 at 6:50 pm

“A generation of school indoctrination has encouraged young people to believe that climate change will bring about the collapse of civilisation”

Ahh yes, the good old: ‘if people disagree with us they’re indoctrinated’.

I though Spiked hated this sort of thing normally?

“In other words, climate change is a manageable problem we can deal with over time, especially if we invest our increasing resources and wealth in new technologies.”

Damn, if only Bernie proposed doing this. Oh wait, he does. Problem solved.

“Making anything more labour-intensive makes it more expensive.”

Hilarious. His plan is bad because it destory jobs- and it’s also bad because it creates jobs. What a desperate, contradictory argument.

Jerry Owen

28th February 2020 at 10:30 am

Little Jonnie
What a contorted post.

Jonnie Henly

29th February 2020 at 4:31 pm

What’s contorted about it Jerry?

Do explain.

Francis Lonergan

29th February 2020 at 1:39 pm

Indoctrination:

noun,

the process of teaching a person or group to accept a set of beliefs uncritically.

Isn’t this what is happening? In schools “climate change” is beyond question.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-49772299

ZENOBIA PALMYRA

27th February 2020 at 6:41 pm

US will be faced with a choice like we had in December – between a thicko socialist with unaffordable policies and a proven liar and philanderer.

Dominic Straiton

27th February 2020 at 9:44 pm

Blonds are more fun

James Knight

27th February 2020 at 6:36 pm

Patrick Moore was one of the founders of Greenpeace who left when Greenpeace became more anti-human than pro-environment. He is a high profile climate sceptic. It is comical how Greenpeace have tried to pretend he was never a founding member, apparently air-brushing him out of old photographs.

Of all the founding members, he was the only scientist.

Jerry Owen

27th February 2020 at 7:21 pm

He has some great stuff on YouTube.

Paul Duffin

28th February 2020 at 9:19 am

“air brushing him out of old photographs”!?

How very,…. Stalinistic.

James Knight

27th February 2020 at 6:27 pm

Obama boasted that under his preferred scheme of cap and trade, energy prices would “sky rocket”. Both Obama and alarmist-in-chief Al Gore have multi-million dollar beach-front properties. “Where your treasure is, there you will also find you heart”. Or consider the Maldive islands that are supposedly on the front line of climate change and should have flooded years ago according to alarmists. They are building an airport almost directly on the beach to support their burgeoning tourist industry. Lots more flights for people who want to enjoy the sun. If there is a gene for “irony” they must be deficient of it.

I suppose you could say that at least Sanders is putting his climate austerity manifesto to the people in a democratic election. Unlike in the UK where the Heathrow 3rd runway has been ki-boshed by legal diktat from the courts.

Steve Roberts

27th February 2020 at 5:48 pm

Superb article from Collins, the statistics and the consequential social costs are staggering and frighteningly so for ordinary Americans. It is to be hoped the American electorate stop this lunacy and discard it , again, to the political dustbin, unfortunately they will then be left with Trump.

Jerry Owen

28th February 2020 at 7:56 am

‘Unfortunately’?
Trump who has shunned the AGW hysteria, increased employment , started zero wars and made the USA self sufficient for it’s energy.. keep your eye on the ball not the man.
If the green lunacy continues over here I would actually consider moving abroad.
I never thought I’d ever think about leaving the UK .

Aidan Condie

27th February 2020 at 5:21 pm

1. Current temperatures are BELOW average for the earth by 3-5 degree C.
2. Temperature does NOT follow CO2 concentrations: plenty of examples both in the last 100 years and throughout geologically recorded time.
3. Coming out of the mini ice age (since 1850), temperature has risen only slightly; in the last 100 years around one degree C, so you can hardly feel the difference.
4. Mankind has very little impact on CO2 concentrations or temperature. In terms of CO2 think oceans and biomass. In terms of temperature; it’s large, it’s round, it’s yellow, it’s not Homer Simpson, it’s THE SUN.

All this “disaster” nonsense comes from so-called elites who have no track record of success
when it comes to predicting outcomes. If only we could hold them responsible for the pain and misery they are causing and will cause.

Jim Lawrie

27th February 2020 at 7:27 pm

The increase in Antarctic sea ice has caused the climate alarmists to question “the part of their models that predict Antarctic sea ice”. This means they have also had to patch the bit that factors in winds. It is telling about their models is that they can be tweaked to deal with adverse data but still give the desired outcome. This means their models are not systemic. I suspect that the individual modules are both parameter driven, and parameter bound in their output.

Jerry Owen

27th February 2020 at 5:08 pm

Meanwhile in the scientific world the ice caps are getting bigger (NASA satellite images).
Meanwhile in the scientific world sea levels have risen just 3 inches in a hundred and fifty years.
Meanwhile in the scientific world Co2 levels are historically low.
I could go on but …
In the make believe world of AGW we should have lost NY a decade ago to water, snow would be a distant memory.. I could go on.
Has AOC costed her bridge across the Atlantic to replace airplane flights yet in her green new deal?
Thank God for the sanity of Trump.

ZENOBIA PALMYRA

27th February 2020 at 6:38 pm

Give us some evidence for a change, Jerry. How about a link to that assertion that the ice caps are actually getting bigger. Pollution is bad for humans and Jerry Owen, regardless of whether AGW is actually occurring.

Jerry Owen

27th February 2020 at 7:25 pm

The evidence …. As I said NASA for the ice caps. For the rest I have mentioned it a hundred times, if you can’t keep up I’m not helping you .
Oh and who said pollution was good?
You are still the gift that keeps giving…love your huge support for the EU empire then on the other hand tell us it needs reforming .. priceless!
When did we vote to join the EU, remind me?

Jerry Owen

27th February 2020 at 7:28 pm

ZP
Look at geological records for Co2 levels going back some four hundred thousand years, educate yourself you need to start somewhere!

R Rodd

28th February 2020 at 2:18 am

Zenobia – concern about the CO2 threat is actually keeping us from reducing real pollution as much as we could be.

Jerry Owen

28th February 2020 at 10:32 am

And so when faced with facts ZP does a Houdini !

Gerard Barry

27th February 2020 at 4:28 pm

Climate change hysteria has become like a religion. How I hate groupthink and moral panic, especially when they’re supported by governments and others in authority.

Neil John

27th February 2020 at 2:50 pm

More globalist communist rhetoric, as note above, spouted by skiving children like G. Thunder-can’t and E.R., breaking societies seems to be their long term aim, though some demonrats have realised and are leaving that sinking ship.

Dominic Straiton

27th February 2020 at 2:48 pm

“The goal of socialism is communism” Lenin. The American people are not going to go for that crap.

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27th February 2020 at 10:44 pm

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Jim Lawrie

27th February 2020 at 1:31 pm

This is not mistake on the part of the left. It is their politics of the last 100yrs laid bar. Shorn of all faux concern for working class people.

Jim Lawrie

27th February 2020 at 1:44 pm

* bar = bare.

ZENOBIA PALMYRA

27th February 2020 at 6:40 pm

You think people like Harold Wilson or Hugh Gaitskell didn’t care about the working classes? Think again.

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