The Green New Deal for buildings is so simple

2019 feels like a very long time ago, but it is actually 10 years after the term “green new deal” started getting used in Europe, and a little after American politicians started using it. So Jeremy Rifkin didn’t beat everyone to the punch when he titled his book “The Green New Deal” (2019) that way, but he was actually hanging out with the newly elected Angela Merkel in 2005 when she started a program of transforming the EU program on energy. So maybe he wrote the book to claim kudos.

2019 is long enough ago that this paragraph from the book feels prophetic, look for “super-spike”:

Maybe that was Putin’s logic for the recent invasion of Ukraine; his hand is kind of strong now as folks are reducing fossil fuel investment rapidly, but it will keep getting weaker so best to hurry.

It’s really worth reading but here are a few shortcuts I thought were relevant for proptech types (like me).

There’s a detailed section on carbon from the buildings industry and his vision of the future for it. Lots for us to modernize.
1. Buildings are the #1 source of carbon (residential and commercial heating mostly, and increasingly cooling). #2 is cows/beef and #3 is transportation/cars/oil (cars are 70% of oil use)
2. That needs to switch from gas/oil building heat to “green electrons” (use electricity, and make the electricity from from renewable) –> so buildings need to replace gas fired boilers/heating (and certainly oil, which I think lots of old home still have)
3. The buildings also need to start producing energy: solar panels everywhere, storing power: batteries, and sending power back to the grid: make more power than you use. This decentralized power generation is very valuable because energy transmission over long distances loses 70%+ along the way; so if you make it locally it’s 3x as valuable.
4. The buildings need to be smart, have sensors and controls, so they change their usage based on what’s going on, so we don’t hit peak loads as easily — since the peaks really drive the whole system more than the ‘averages’.
5. Buildings of course need to NEED less energy also – upgrade insulation, windows, leaks, waste everywhere in the system. That’s it!

The nice thing about Rifkin’s writing is how totalizing it is, a complete unified theory that builds on itself over time. Everything shows its face again here on Green New Deal: “Beyond Beef” from 1990…”The Zero Marginal Cost Society” from 2015, “The Third Industrial Revolution” (2011 – and no there is no fourth one yet, Klaus, as he reprimands the WEF here in a very digestible 1 hour talk on these topics.)

As for cars (electric + ridesharing + autonomous = way fewer cars, but more utility/use for everyone and 100% less oil), and for cows (1 unit of vegetarian protein uses 1/20th the energy as beef, so basically switch to vegetarian meats and we won’t have any more cows to deal with), the answers are equally straightforward to understand and very “technology and innovation will solve it”.

Oh and here’s something amusing — definitely better to wash your clothes cold all the time (90% less energy than hot water) and apparently dishwashers use less water than hand washing once you get to 8 dishes in the dishwasher. But those two facts have been true for years and the behavior change is still pending.