Sen. Bernie Sanders Envisions a Federal Takeover of U.S. Renewable Energy Production

Susan Jones | August 23, 2019 | 7:53am EDT
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Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vy.) speaks during a town hall meeting about climate change on August 22, 2019 in Chico, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

( - "Climate change is a global emergency," Sen. Bernie Sanders declared, and on Thursday, he unveiled a $16.3 TRILLION plan -- that's Trillion with a "T," to fight climate change.

According to Sanders' campaign website, he aims to reach 100 percent renewable energy for electricity and transportation by no later than 2030 and complete decarbonization by 2050 at latest. He would do this by "expanding the existing federal Power Marketing Administrations to build new solar, wind, and geothermal energy sources."

A federal takeover, in other words.

The four existing federal Power Marketing Administrations (PMAs) include the Bonneville Power Administration; Western Area Power Administration; Southeastern Power Administration; and Southwestern Power Administration. They, along with the Tennessee Valley Administration, operate electric systems and sell the electrical output of federally owned and operated hydroelectric dams in 34 states.


Sanders said he will create one more PMA to cover the remaining states and territories -- "and expand the existing PMAs to build more than enough wind, solar, energy storage and geothermal power plants."

Combined with a new EPA federal renewable energy standard, this will fully drive out non-sustainable generation sources," the plan says.

Sanders discussed his plan Thursday night with MSNBC's Chris Hayes:

"So if we believe, Chris, that climate change is real, if we believe what the scientists are telling us, we have got to be bold. We have got to be comprehensive. We have got to be aggressive. That is what that plan is about."

Hayes noted that Sanders is basically proposing a federal takeover of U.S. renewable energy generation, "essentially a Tennessee Valley Authority extension for the whole country, am I understanding that correctly?" Hayes asked.

"Yes," Sanders replied, "you're in the ballpark, that's right. Look, the TVA has done a lot of good work. It produces electricity from hydropower and other sources.

"What we need to do is have an aggressive federal government saying that we are going to produce a massive amount of electricity from solar and from wind and from other sustainable energies, and we will sell it out. And, by the way, we're going to make money doing that.

"But you can't nibble around the edges anymore. We need to transform our energy system. That means a massive increase in sustainable energy," Sanders said.

Sanders, asked how he would pay for such a plan, said it has to be done:

Well, the first thing is, we cannot not afford it. I mean, we are playing for the future of the planet. So, we have got to do it.

And second of all, we pay for this in a number of ways. And one of the ways we pay for it is, as you have just described, a massive federal project that produces sustainable energy is going to make money as well. Furthermore, we do away with the tax breaks and the subsidies that the fossil fuel industry now receives, which in fact is massive.

Thirdly, we create 20 million new jobs as we transform our energy system and improve our infrastructure, and those are going to be good paying union jobs, and those folks are going to be paying taxes.

Fourthly, for a variety of reasons, we've got to cut military spending.

Fifthly, we do away with Trump's huge tax breaks for the rich.

And sixth, we have a progressive tax system which demands large corporations and the rich start paying their fair share of the taxes.

Sanders said his massive program would retrain oil rig workers and coal miners for green energy jobs.

And he said climate change and green energy "is not just an American issue."

"And what is so very dangerous about Trump is that we need a president who is leading the world. That's hard. That is really hard.

"If you think what I'm talking about for our country is difficult, try getting Russia and China and India, all these other countries involved.

"And what I have been saying, and I know that this is not going to happen tomorrow, but maybe just maybe in the midst of this crisis, maybe the countries of the world wake up and understand that instead of spending a trillion and a half dollars every year on weapons of destruction designed to kill each other, maybe we pool our resources together and we combat our common enemy which is climate change."


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