The Connection Between “Keep It in the Ground” and the “Green New Deal”

The biggest news to come out the 2018 midterm elections is the meteoric rise of Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and her Green New Deal. But if you scratch the surface, you’ll find that the Green New Deal is neither new nor “hers.”

Here are four facts you need to know about the Green New Deal. 

  1. The Green New Deal is the latest incarnation of the “Keep It in the Ground” movement.

On November 4, 2015, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced the “Keep It in the Ground Act” which, according to The Weekly Standard, “would enact [ founder Bill] McKibben's vision in toto.” Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA) introduced a companion bill in the House a few months later.

But soon after, the #NoDAPL protests at Standing Rock—which were supposed to galvanize public support behind the “Keep It in the Ground” movement and usher in the dawn of the “post-fossil fuel era”—turned violent.

Recognizing that extreme activism was not generating the public support they needed to upend U.S. energy policy, the leaders of the KIITG movement made a deliberate decision to change their tactics. Almost overnight, orchestrated militant actions were replaced with promises of guaranteed green jobs for all.

Since then, Sanders and Rep. Huffman have abandoned the “Keep It in the Ground” campaign entirely and instead now publicly and enthusiastically endorse the Green New Deal.

2. The Green New Deal movement is being orchestrated by Bill McKibben and his network.

A month after the election, Sanders hosted the National Town Hall on Climate Change Solutions—featuring Bill McKibben, activist Van Jones, and Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—to introduce the Green New Deal to the world. While this event looked like a gathering of disparate groups throwing their support behind this new movement, it was actually a gathering of compatriots working together to promote their common agenda.


·       Bill McKibben was one of just five people Sanders named to the Platform Drafting Committee at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

·       Van Jones, who served as President Obama’s environmental adviser and who wrote The Green Collar Economy, was hand-picked by McKibben to be one of only 20 “messengers” for, who acted as global spokespeople espousing’s “Keep It in the Ground” philosophy.

·       Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who found her political awakening “fighting the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline” at Standing Rock, was a campaign organizer for Sanders’ 2016 presidential run and campaigned with him in the summer of 2018. 

3. The Sunrise Movement is built upon’s college divestment network. is so invested in the Green New Deal that it is quietly transforming its college divestment campaign, the Fossil Fuel Divestment Student Network, into the Sunrise Movement, which serves as shock-troop protesters for the Green New Deal. For example, as college divestment campaigns close up shop, they encourage their followers to “check out Sunrise Movement!” In addition, two co-founders of the Sunrise Movement, Sara Blazevic and Varshini Prakash, left the Fossil Fuel Divestment Student Network to create the Sunrise Movement. 

Sunrise activists have protested on Capitol Hill and, encouraged by Ocasio-Cortez, have engaged in sit-ins in congressional offices, including three in the offices of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), to push House Democrats to create a special committee next year focused entirely on climate change initiatives.

4. The Green New Deal is based on the book The Green Collar Economy by Van Jones.

Van Jones was one of the early proponents of the Green New Deal concept, which he outlines in his 2008 book, The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems. An Amazon book review describes the book as a “re-imagining of FDR's original New Deal that makes the government ‘a partner’ of the people, and sets about defining the principles of a ‘smart, supportive, reliable’ partnership.” This also happens to be exactly what Ocasio-Cortez promises in her version of the Green New Deal. Wiki said, “The book is a detailed proposal for a ‘Green New Deal.’”

In 2009, Jones resigned from the White House under a cloud for supporting the view that President Bush was complicit in the September 11 terror attacks, and his treatise on the Green New Deal failed to get traction.

Why this matters:

Under the Green New Deal, Congress must develop a plan “for the transition of the United States economy to become carbon neutral” by 2030. And to accomplish that, the U.S. “will need to make big investments today to jump-start and develop new projects and sectors to power the new economy,” which are estimated to be in the tens of trillions of dollars.

Some of these activists are hoping to get that money by diverting the trillions of dollars needed to build and upgrade our current energy and transportation infrastructures to entirely rebuild the U.S. economy to suit their Utopian and unrealistic world view.

With hundreds of state and local officials and likely 2020 presidential candidates signing on to support the Green New Deal, this campaign isn’t going anywhere. And neither is its supporters’ strong aversion to the oil and natural gas that has made the US a leader in affordable energy, environmental progress, and economic advancements.