One time, as I was riding in an Uber from the airport, the driver began explaining perpetual motion.
Even though we were in a motor vehicle which needed regular infusions of gasoline to keep going, the driver, who was a devotee of ancient Egyptian technology, claimed that the pyramids were really generators, that modern technology had been stolen by the white man, and that free energy was real.
He also had a video of a perpetual motion machine powered by a bicycle chain. “It generates energy by sliding down,” my driver assured me. “And then it gets pulled up by its own weight. It’s real simple.”
I never got around to asking him why he didn’t use the perpetual motion bicycle chain to power his car.
But now, Senator Bernie Sanders has announced his own perpetual motion energy plan.
In Bernie’s new Green New Deal, 20 million new jobs will be created to fight, what the elderly socialist claims is, a “climate crisis”. These jobs will be "good paying, union jobs" in "energy efficiency retrofitting, coding and server farms, and renewable power plants", not to mention the eternal New Deal fantasy of government work camps under a "a reimagined and expanded Civilian Conservation Corp".
And this perpetual motion plan will pay for itself by, among other things, "collecting new income tax revenue from the 20 million new jobs created by the plan."
The bicycle chain slides down. And then gets pulled up. And creates 20 million jobs. It’s real simple.
Bernie’s plan calls for spending a mere $16.3 trillion (also known as most our national debt) and that will create 20 million union jobs in such booming sectors as sealing windows and coding (when the coders have been unionized, all our software will work as well as all other union sectors), and then the income tax from those 20 million jobs will help cover that $16.3 trillion. Presumably with some tax hikes.
But it’s okay. We’ll just pay the workers more so they can afford to pay the higher taxes. It’s real simple.
Much like my Uber driver’s perpetual motion machine, the energy will be free.
First, Bernie will “ban the imports and exports of fossil fuels”. There will also be bans on fracking, coal mining and offshore drilling. And he’ll also “ensure fossil fuels stay in the ground by stopping the permitting and building of new fossil fuel extraction, transportation, and refining infrastructure.”
You wouldn’t want those fossil fuels escaping the ground and sustaining human civilization.
Then, President Bernie will use the SEC to force "financial institutions, universities, insurance corporations" to divest from oil and gas and buy "clean energy bonds". Those “clean energy bonds” will be subsidizing the failed “renewables” strategy that doesn’t work, but will now have been mandated.
Federal pension funds will also be forced to throw away the futures of their workers in the same way.
By 2030, the entire country’s electricity and transportation grid will be powered by “100 percent renewable energy.” Which is to say you’ll spend a lot of time sitting around in the dark.
But the whole thing will pay for itself “through litigation, fees, and taxes” on the fossil fuel industry.
First Bernie will bankrupt the energy industry and then pay for everything by taxing the industry he bankrupted. The bicycle chain goes up and then it goes down. Which part of that don’t you understand?
At least the energy will be free. Or virtually free.
Bernie’s Green New Deal proposal claims that, “after 2035 electricity will be virtually free, aside from operations and maintenance costs.”
Operators are standing by to take your call.
Bernie promises to “end greed in our own energy system”. Goodbye Edison, vamoose Tesla. There’ll be no more profiteering from the infinite free energy generated by the Green New Deal. Forget energy greed. And the energy grid. There’ll be neither greed nor grid in the Green New Deal.
How will this free energy work?
Simple. "The renewable energy generated by the Green New Deal" will be sold to "cooperatively-owned" utilities that " demonstrate a commitment to the public interest". Ban oil, coal and gas, then force all the financial institutions to subsidize “clean energy” which will be sold to lefty cooperatives.
And they say Communism doesn’t work.
There will be no more “energy greed” because the Green New Deal, whose key pieces of energy infrastructure, windmills and solar panels, are the least reliable ways to produce energy, and only work intermittently when there’s sunlight and wind, will resell its energy to politically correct utilities.
Everything will be subsidized and pay for itself by taxing the oil industry that no longer exists. And forcing everyone to invest their savings and pensions in a boondoggle worthy of Venezuela.
The bicycle chain goes up. The bicycle chain goes down. And you’re really gonna need those bicycles.
As Bernie puts it, "We will move beyond oil toward an electric car." There'll be $2 trillion in grants to buy electric cars. And $681 billion for electric car trade-ins. Then $407 billion to replace all buses with electric buses. And $216 billion to replace trucks with electric trucks. Plus, another $100 billion to “decrease the cost of a new electric vehicle to at most $18,000.”
(It's only money. Taxpayers have lots of it.)
Actual cars will be eliminated through the, "regulation" and "enforcement" of personal vehicles.
But don't worry about the cost of charging your new electric car, built by unionized "indigenous peoples" and "communities of color", because with charging stations everywhere, "drivers will no longer need to worry about where to charge their car or if they can pay for it."
The electricity is "virtually free".
The entire country, including all its vehicles, and long-haul trucks and school buses, and your car, will be dependent on an energy grid run by political apparatchiks who worked on the Bernie Sanders campaign and whose power supply varies depending on the weather, and are managed in defiance of economics.
What could possibly go wrong?
Better hang on to your bicycle. You’re going to need it once the blackouts, brownouts and restrictions on power usage kick in. After a while that $2 trillion worth of electric cars will be banned through “regulation and enforcement”, while everyone except seniors will be told to ride bicycles.
The bicycles will be powered by that unique form of renewable energy known as human muscle.
Human ingenuity and folly are the only true sources of renewable energy. Both are infinite. And sometimes it can be hard to tell one from the other. That is why socialism continues to endure. Not because it works, but because there will always be people who want to believe that the bicycle chain can go up and down, and that your trillion-dollar spending plans will be paid for by your fantasies.
Any intelligent adult would see Bernie’s Green New Deal as raving lunacy. Take the plan to subsidize 20 million jobs with income taxes from those 20 million jobs. Or the claim that the Green New Deal can be paid for with taxes on the energy industries it proposes to wipe out. Or a call to spend $150 billion to “decarbonize” shipping and aviation “as soon as possible”. (Just put windmills on the planes.)
Portions of the Green New Deal read like socialist gibberish poorly translated from the original Russian.
“We will establish a ‘take back’ program to require large corporations that produce goods with the materials needed for this clean energy transition to pay to take those goods back from consumers who no longer want them to establish a nation-wide materials recycling program so we can use as many recycled materials as possible to build the renewable energy equipment needed to transform our energy system,” one particular breathless sentence insists.
There’s no room for periods or commas in this excited vision of a world in which consumers eagerly rush to turn over the goods they no longer want so they can be used to construct windmills for free energy.
After the Bernie revolution, the people will have been educated to realize that they no longer need material goods. (Bernie however will have upgraded from three houses to four.) And they’ll rush to turn over all their iPhones and convertibles, while the evil corporations which convinced them that they needed those things will atone by beating their lawnmowers into solar panels and windmills.
This isn’t a political vision. It’s environmentalist messianism. It doesn’t work. But it isn’t really meant to.
My driver didn’t try powering his car with the perpetual motion bicycle chain. The idea of it was what mattered. Once upon a time, American socialists were cranks confined to lecturing students or random people about their magical economics with no real risk of having to put their delusions into practice.
The truly vital thing was the pseudo-religious vision of a remaking the world into a magical place.
We all like believing that wonder can transcend material reality. For religious people, God is the source of wonder. Others, like my driver, find validation in imagining the technological miracles of ancient Egypt. And millions of lefties believe that given total power they could reshape reality to create their vision of a magical world unbounded by the materialism of economics and energy.
In the real world, the only way the bicycle chain keeps going is if your feet are working the pedals. And lefties invariably realize that the only “free energy” doesn’t come from wind or solar.
The only “free energy” with which lefties build their utopias is slave labor.
Ancient Egypt wasn’t powered by magical batteries or lost ancient technologies. It worked because of slave labor. Communist dictatorships got things done not because they had good ideas, but because they enslaved millions of people. Bernie proposes bringing back the Civilian Conservation Corps. Perhaps he forgot that Norman Thomas, America’s leading socialist, had called CCC a “system of forced labor”.
Or maybe Bernie remembers all too well.
The bicycle chain rattles. Keep pedaling. It’s the only way to generate power in the Green New Deal.
Daniel Greenfield is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. This article previously appeared at the Center's Front Page Magazine.
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