Green energy is a key to a Green New Deal, not only for reduction of carbon emissions but also conversion of the economy in ways that will create new high-paying jobs. Energy is the key to making the New Deal “Green,” as it impacts the way that economies convert to low-carbon infrastructure.

Energy usage in the U.S. now totals 100 quadrillion BTU’s:

As can be seen in the graph, fossil fuels comprise 80 percent of U.S. energy, of which petroleum and gas are the largest segments and coal a diminishing but still significant component. Renewable energy is only 11 percent while nuclear is 8 percent. Some would argue that nuclear energy is a low-carbon source but its environmental effects are severe. It would be inaccurate to say that nuclear is a no-carbon source since its extraction and processing involves fossil fuels.

Hydroelectric energy is a significant component of renewable energies at 22%, but it has been overtaken by wind (24%) and growth in solar (9%) is rising quickly. Few hydroelectric sites remain to be exploited and some dams are being removed, notably in Washington State. Snake River dams are controversial because of their impact on threatened salmon and orca populations.

In terms of the Green New Deal, the principal challenge is the high 80% portion of fossil fuels in the energy mix. Most of the petroleum (37 percent) is used in transportation and most of the use of natural gas (32 percent) is split between electricity generation and buildings. These are three areas where low-carbon infrastructure can have the most effect. Transportation can be almost completely electrified, as indicated in the jobs page, with two major developments: high-speed passenger and freight rail on electrified railroads, and complete replacement of fossil fuel passenger and freight vehicles with electric vehicles on roadways. Renewable energy can replace gas-generated electricity and can be distributed through smart grids, as noted above. Building electrification would involve replacement of gas furnaces and appliances with heat pumps and induction stoves.

In summary, the energy mix heavily favors fossil fuels but nearly all can be replaced with low-carbon conversion powered by smart investments. For discussion of how the economics of replacement would work, please see The Green New Deal: Why the Fossil Fuel Civilization Will Collapse by 2028 and the Bold Economic Plan to Save Life on Earth by Jeremy Rifkin, Macmillan, 2020. Rifkin’s plan is based primarily on reorienting the investment community away from fossil fuels to renewable energies and electrification. There are too many details for this text but I would encourage readers to dive into the Rifkin book for more information.