Energy Socialism Kills

Socialism kills.  From the former Soviet Union to Cuba to Venezuela, anywhere socialism has been tried, it has robbed people of freedom and their property; produced economic stagnation and misallocation of resources; and resulted in millions of deaths, caused either directly or indirectly.

Energy socialism, as touted by 28-year-old self-described socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic candidate for the House of Representatives in New York, would be just as deadly.  Arguing in her platform, "Climate change is the single biggest national security threat for the United States and the single biggest threat to worldwide industrialized civilization," Ocasio-Cortez has proposed a plan to transition the United States to a 100-percent renewable energy system by 2035.

Recognizing that a massive transformation of the U.S. energy system, which took more than 80 years to build, would be a herculean undertaking, Ocasio-Cortez has proposed a "Green New Deal," similar to the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe after World War II, requiring "the investment of trillions of dollars."

Showing the extent to which socialist thinking has captured the Democratic Party's imagination, hundreds Democratic candidates for local, state, and federal office in 2018 have signed a pledge to push for the 100 percent renewable energy makeover.  Even worse, dozens of Democratic lawmakers are attempting to pass radical climate legislation, the Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act, which they're calling "the most aggressive piece of climate legislation ever introduced in Congress."  The Off Act would require "100 percent renewable energy by 2035 (and 80 percent by 2027), places a moratorium on new fossil fuel projects, bans the export of oil and gas, and also moves our automobile and rail systems to 100 percent renewable energy."

These policies, supported fully by numerous environmental extremists, would destroy millions of jobs and put the United States at a huge disadvantage when competing against other countries, especially China, India, and other nations whose environmental laws are much less stringent than the United States'.

Make no mistake about it: these policies would impose a form of environmental socialism.  On their own, wind, solar, and other forms of renewable energy can't compete with traditional energy sources like natural gas and coal.  Instead of finding ways to make these technologies cheaper, socialists like Ocasio-Cortez and far-left congressmen want to use government to destroy whole industries composed of hardworking Americans and then take trillions of dollars from taxpayers to keep failing renewable energy companies afloat.  They couldn't care less that they would be putting honest people out of work, driving up energy costs, and hurting the poorest among us more than any other group.  They are willing to do almost anything to appease Mother Earth.

The United States has been traveling by fits and starts down the road to energy socialism for decades, and the result has been predictable: increasing unreliability of the power grid, resulting in blackouts and power failures; higher prices for electricity, fuel, food, and other goods and services; people having to choose between buying food and medicine and paying their light bills; and unnecessary premature deaths.

For example, to limit gasoline use in order to cut oil imports, the federal government established fuel mileage mandates, forcing automakers to reduce vehicles' size, weight, and power, along with the strength of the materials used in automobiles.  Oil imports continued to rise following these mandates, because families continued to drive, but something truly horrific also occurred: tens of thousands of additional premature deaths of drivers and passengers.  That's just a small sample of what energy socialism looks like.

The U.S. economy is the envy of the world, built on a power system reliant on relatively inexpensive, reliable energy sources, primarily and necessarily fossil fuels.  Adopting energy socialism even more so than it already has would threaten to bring the power grid, and the economic prosperity it brings, crashing down.

Energy socialism gained an even larger foothold in the electric power market when federal and state governments began providing lavish subsidies, tax credits, and tax abatements to politically connected Big Green solar and wind energy companies.  Many states compounded this grave error by mandating that utilities operating within their borders ensure that ever growing percentages of the electricity they provide come from select renewable energy sources.  People in states with renewable power mandates have since seen their electricity bills rise by a greater amount compared to those living in states without renewable power diktats.  And because the poor spend a larger percentage of their incomes on energy and energy-intensive items than the relatively wealthy, these mandates were necessarily and predictably regressive, forcing hard choices on impoverished families.

In Europe, which is much further down the road to energy socialism than most of the United States, thousands of people die in winter due to a lack of reliable heat, and during the summer, more die from not having access to reliable air conditioning.  How are many European politicians reacting to these problems?  By telling their fellow citizens they will have to make do with less and plan for shortages.  Europe's energy problems don't result from some inability to produce energy; rather, they come from a decision by politicians to shutter reliable fossil fuel and nuclear power plants as part of their misguided push to fight climate change.

These are the kinds of third-world problems that come with energy socialism – less reliable power, higher energy costs, greater poverty, massive job losses, and lower economic productivity.  Socialism can't fix our problems, but it sure can make things a lot worse.

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. ( is a senior fellow on energy and the environment at The Heartland Institute.  Justin Haskins ( is executive editor and a research fellow at The Heartland Institute.

If you experience technical problems, please write to