The freshman congresswoman moved late last month to create a House Select Committee on a Green New Deal that would draw up a national climate plan, Sputnik reported. However, her attempts were stifled by her own party's leadership, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declining to create the committee and instead forming a House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis — without Ocasio-Cortez in it.
Pelosi later dismissed the concept of a Green New Deal entirely, calling it "the green dream" in comments to reporters.
Unphased, Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey unveiled a resolution on Thursday "Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal."
The plan, which draws its inspiration from the 1930s New Deal programs by US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, aims to tackle climate change by expanding renewable power sources, building an energy-efficient power grid, removing greenhouse gas emissions and investing in "green" jobs and infrastructure. It aims for 100 per cent of US energy needs to be met by zero-emissions energy sources in the next decade, in accordance with the recommendations of climate scientists.
FDR's New Deal mobilized the nation with massive government spending on programs to tackle the crises of the Great Depression and looming Second World War, and Democratic legislators like Ocasio-Cortez hope their Green New Deal will be much of the same, except environmentally friendly.
Flowers said the Green New Deal is "definitely an idea we need right now. We are facing severe climate catastrophe if we don't take really significant action in the next decade to reduce our carbon emissions, our greenhouse gas emissions, down to net zero."
"I wish I could be as enthusiastic about the Green New Deal resolution that was put forth, but actually it's really more of a framework that kind of puts forward some good ideas but doesn't have any actual specifics in it. So, I think the president of the Bipartisan Policy Center described it best, that it's a mirror through which anybody can see what they want to see. But it's good that the idea is out there and being discussed, but we have a lot of work to do to actually fill in that framework and make it happen."
While some have attacked the bill's radical implications, including the supposed eventual transition away from air travel, Flowers said that kind of language simply isn't in the bill.
"I think that we need to significantly rethink our transportation globally, and a lot of that is moving to electrified rapid transportation, which would significantly reduce the need for air travel. But of course, that electric transportation needs to be fueled by really renewable energy resources, and that's one thing that the Green New Deal is completely vague about. It doesn't specify what they consider to be renewable energy resources and there's a lot of debate within the climate justice movement about which resources are truly clean and which aren't."
However, it is worth noting that in some places both in and outside the US, efficient high-speed rail has made an impact on air travel. The New York Times noted in 2012 that Amtrak's Acela Express, the country's only high speed train route, captures 75 percent of travel between Washington, DC, and New York, and 54 percent of travel between New York and Boston.
In China, the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway services 180 million riders per year, or roughly the same number that fly Delta Airlines each year, according to company statistics.
Noting the immense costs that both climate change and decaying infrastructure are imposing on the United States every year, Flowers said the bill should "appeal to anybody who understands the severity of the crisis that we're facing and the need for action."
Ocasio-Cortez's plan has met resistance on both sides of the aisle and especially from the media, with outlets from Fox News to Bloomberg becoming apoplectic over its implications, such as the transition to all-electric automobiles. However, Flowers noted that in many places this transition is already underway. China surpassed US sales of electric cars last year, selling over a million, and Beijing has set regulations in place that will transition all cars on the roadway to electrics by the end of the next decade, Sputnik reported.
However, Flowers cautioned that "Democrats are not friends to this. Even though Senator Markey and Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez have put this forward, Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, has refused to create a Green New Deal committee. She created this Select Committee on Climate Change, but she took away all of its power to subpoena witnesses or draft legislation. The Green New Deal was supposed to have specific language, at least in the fact sheet, about moving off of nuclear power, and that was quickly curtailed and that has been removed from the fact sheet."
"We need to start doing this now, recognizing that the faster we act, the faster we can get where we need to go," Flowers said.
But while electric automobiles are important, Flowers told hosts John Kiriakou and Brian Becker that the key was cheap, accessible mass transportation.
"We need to really rethink the whole idea of how we get ourselves around, to make it one that uses much fewer resources and is much more energy efficient," the activist said.
"[T]hese big industries that are profiting from the present system still have lots of power, and I say it's more important what we as people do to change the political culture, than actually who's in power."
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