These are some environmental demands that I want to see more talk about.
Aggressive, phased-in carbon taxes. It’s boring and penny-pinching and not as sexy as “investment in green infrastructure”, and maybe it will be a regressive tax, but I don’t care. Taxation is one of the most powerful levers our government in our current capitalist system, and by god we have to use every lever we have. Of course, the revenue from this tax should be earmarked for green infrastructure, but that’s besides the point: pollution should have a price tag that is commesurate to its cost to society.
Immediate large-scale investment in nuclear, and a repeal of the doctrine that nuclear be “as safe as possible”. Nuclear should be held to similar safety standards as fossil fuel plants. For more information on how regulation on nuclear has crippled what should be a bountiful source of green energy, see Why has nuclear power been a flop. Ideally, once nuclear has a reasonable level of regulation, energy companies will fall over each other in a rush to decarbonize.
The EPA should be revamped to have powers and independence similar to the Fed. The director of the EPA is a 10-year appointment, and is free from political meddling during those 10 years. The EPA has a mandate to maintain the environmental safety of the territory of the United States, and has broad authority to implement regulations, quotas, and taxes to this end. Perhaps this would require a constitutional amendment, and I don’t know exactly how to separate out powers granted to the new EPA, and powers that should still be reserved for the other branches of government, but just as the complexities of modern finance should not be left to the political process, so should the complexities of modern ecosystems not be left to the political process. If this is successful, then environmental protection should fade into the background, and become a default fact of life.
When I contrast these proposals to “Green New Deal”-style proposals, my feeling is that these proposals are more compatible with a “lean, powerful state”, and “Green New Deal” will end up with tons of opportunities for inefficient, flabby, corrupt infrastructure deals whose main benefit goes to the government contractors awarded the various contracts.
Though, maybe the real solution here is to revamp the US’s ability to build things by carefully learning from the Japanese, Chinese, or Germans and implementing similar managerial policies… A boy can dream…