After World War II, the United States provided massive aid to rebuild the shattered economies of Europe. Most experts believe this “Marshall Plan” was an overwhelming success. Most Americans at the time believed that sending aid to Europe would provide more jobs for Americans in the long run.
World War II is long gone, but the world now faces another enemy–the specter of climate change. Whether you believe we only have 12 years to live or that “global warming” is just a Communist plot, nations and international alliances are under unprecedented pressure to respond to rising levels of CO2. Some Americans support a “Green New Deal” which would spend countless trillions to decarbonize just one economy–our own. Others oppose this, arguing that this “green new dream or whatever” might do more harm than good, especially to disadvantaged people around the world. Solar powered scooters in the US won’t prevent India and China from building new coal-fired plants, and won’t keep poor people in Haiti and Gambia from burning their last bush to cook their last meal.
We believe a Green Marshall Plan can solve more problems for less money than the Green New Deal. Read on to find out what it involves!
A Green Nuclear Deal
Step one towards a Green Marshall Plan is a “Green Nuclear Deal” here in America. This would be a grand compromise between left and right; between skeptical “climate deniers” who don’t think CO2 is a problem and skeptical environmentalists who don’t think nuclear power is the only solution. As we adults fight over our old partisan differences, our children live in fear of the future. It’s time for us to act like grown-ups and come up with solutions.
The broad outlines of a Green Nuclear Deal have been addressed elsewhere, but the essentials are that:
- New reactors (“Gen IV”) can be built which can’t melt down; they also consume nuclear waste.
- No matter how inherently safe a reactor may be, it must be protected from terrorists, tsunamis, tornados, and other foreseeable threats. Every reactor needs to be adequately protected.
- Property values surrounding reactor sites must not suffer; neighbors deserve tax or other incentives to make up for the impact on their homes.
- More reactors produce more nuclear waste, but more reactors can pay for a National Greencycling Center that will initially store and ultimately transmute hazardous isotopes into safer forms of matter.
An International Carbon Tariff
Once the United States adopts the Green Nuclear Deal, it will be on its way to decarbonizing the economy. Some other nations are well ahead of the US; France has already converted the vast majority of its electrical grid to fully nuclear sources. Other nations are capable of decarbonizing but do not choose to do so. Still others lack the capital to invest in nuclear or renewable power.
The United States can impose a carbon tariff on goods produced by carbon-intensive means in countries that can afford to decarbonize but do not choose to do so. China and Russia both have large economies and nuclear capability, for example. A tariff on Chinese goods would generate a new stream of revenue that the United States can use to help the countries that can’t afford atomic power.
The United States State Department should lease cargo ships and equip them with small modular reactors that can operate on board ship. These “Greenpower” vessels should be anchored in “safe harbors” in the developing world where they can provide power to the mainland while staying safe from natural and man-made threats.
There are thousands of ports, bays, and natural harbors around the world that are sheltered enough to keep a ship safe during storm surges or other weather events. Not all of them can be protected from concerted terrorist attacks, such as happened to the US embassy in Benghazi, Libya. The State Department should consult with the national government of each host country to ensure that US forces will be allowed to protect the Greenpower ships if they are suddenly attacked, and that the ship will be free to leave the harbor if there are long-term threats.
Two of the many possible sites that could host a Greenpower vessel are (1) the mouth of the Gambia River, in West Africa and (2) Bahia Intera de Santo Tomas in Guatemala (near the border of Honduras and not far from Belize).
Trash to Treasure (and Dawsonite)
A Greenpower vessel in a safe harbor can provide plentiful, affordable energy for the citizens of the host nation, which should stimulate some economic growth without any other incentives. But the Green Marshall Plan funds can pay for a major Dawsonite plant at each host location. Dawsonite (chemical composition NaAlCO3(OH)2) may be the most cost effective way to remove CO2 from the environment. Using only seawater, aluminum scraps, and electricity, a Dawsonite plant can remove over 800 million tons of CO2 from the environment each year.
The Green Marshall Plan would pay to ship mixed recyclables to the developing nation, where nationals would sort the materials which would then be turned into steel, glass, plastic, etc. by means of the plentiful power from the reactor. Unusable aluminum would feed the Dawsonite plant, which would run at nights when power is not needed for other purposes.
States and countries with carbon offsets should pay handsomely for Dawsonite–which is good, because it has no known uses, at present. In time, scientists may discover a way to turn millions of tons of this inert material into something valuable.
Gen IV reactors may be dramatically safer than earlier models, but they still contain hazardous materials that could be used for dirty bombs or other evil purposes. The Green Marshall Plan includes a transition to an energy supply that cannot be misused. When and if fusion power becomes effective and affordable, the fission reactor shall be removed and replaced. The cost of decommissioning shall be recouped over time from the sale of power from the replacement plant.
Fusion power may not be available for some time, however, and national governments need to be able to say “no” to America, even when America comes bearing gifts. For this reason, every Green Marshall Plan agreement with a host nation shall include an optional plan to transition to some renewable power source (wind, solar, hydro, or biofuel power) under the exclusive control of the host nation or a corporation with a majority ownership of that nation’s citizens.
The Greenpower ships in safe harbors don’t just provide opportunity for the poorest people on our planet. They bring down the unit cost of each new reactor and spread the burden of cleaning up nuclear waste. Each Greenpower reactor would need to generate enough revenue to pay the National Greencycling Center to warehouse and (ultimately) transmute any waste generated.
Americans after World War II believed that their economy would benefit if they helped Western Europe. Subsequent events have proved them right. Americas would probably benefit from global growth under a Green Marshall Plan, as well. People in Gambia save up their money to buy a machete to chop down firewood today; with a Greenpower vessel floating in Gambia Harbor, they might be buying iPhones or electric cars instead.
One final, sobering thought–the Green Marshall Plan would address the underlying issues that lead some to want a Wall with Mexico or a ban on travel from Muslim nations. Whether you think such notions are exactly right or a violation of human rights, you probably agree that they merely treat the symptoms of distress instead of curing the disease. Providing power to the people of Gambia (96% of whom are Muslim) would reduce the risk of a Gambian terrorist attack here in the US by giving Gambians something to live for. Providing power to Guatemala, Honduras, and Belize with a ship in Saint Thomas Bay would give the migrant caravans a better place to go.
The United States is the most generous nation in the history of this planet, and the richest. Some argue that our generosity has helped us prosper. It certainly did with the original Marshall Plan. The Green Marshall Plan draws on the best of American history, technology, and national spirit to lower CO2 and lift up hope around the world. Support the Green Marshall Plan today!