In the United States the failure of President Biden’s climate legislation has led Democrats to an appreciation of untrammeled executive authority that eluded them in the Trump years. But it’s one thing to sweep aside checks and balances and hope nothing bad happens. It’s quite another to know what you’d do with power if it turned out you could get away with it. In fact Spencer Bokat-Lindell, “a staff editor” with the New York Times (and no cheap shots about English majors covering climate, please; his BA is in French), argues that Biden can either make conventional energy way more expensive or alternative energy way cheaper and he seems unable to do either. Zut.
As we also noted about the wailing and gnashing of teeth over a Supreme Court ruling that the EPA couldn’t do stuff Congress hadn’t authorized it to do, if there is broad popular support for his agenda he wouldn’t need to go into “Executive beast mode”, as Democratic Senator from Rhode Island Sheldon Whitehouse rather unfortunately urged him to on Twitter. If a Trump backer had used the phrase, or expressed the idea, of stretching his formal powers to bypass voters, Democrats would have been horrified. And if they’d done it over something the President had no idea how to do even if he tried, we hope they would have been on that score also.
In his piece, M. Bokat-Lindell, whose expertise also includes studying the “History of French Gastronomy” at CUPA, tosses the kitchen sink at fossil fuels rather than the fact checker, saying option one “is making fossil fuels more expensive by ensuring that their environmental costs – global warming, for one, but also the staggering harms of air pollution – are reflected in their price.” If he’d studied the History of French Air Quality he’d know that in the Western world, the staggering harms of air pollution from burning wood and dirty coal and then petroleum without proper controls on particulates and other types of smog were largely dealt with 50 years ago. They’re not inherent and they’re hardly relevant now. But any stick to beat an oil patch with.
Speaking of history, he also argued that “Because the United States has spewed more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than any other nation, it plays a uniquely prominent role in global climate politics”. He then admitted China now emits more, but not how much more (answer: more than double and rising fast), before pivoting back with “America’s per capita emissions still far exceed China’s”. It’s extraordinary the extent to which climate alarmists like the Union of Concerned Scientists now cite cumulative historical statistics, as though we might perhaps go and change Nixon’s climate change policies retrospectively instead of worrying about Xi Jinping’s.
Meanwhile, revenons à notre 2022. In the piece, Bokat-Lindell then suggests that option two was actually option one, getting to “the other approach: reducing emissions by driving down the cost and improving the efficiency of low-carbon energy sources, like wind, solar and nuclear power. Initially, the centerpiece of his plan was a clean energy standard, which would have legally required utilities to draw 80 percent of their electricity from zero-carbon sources by 2030 and 100 percent by 2035.” Which would only have made fossil fuels illegal, not improved the efficiency or lowered the cost of the alternatives.
Then he took a quick, stale cheap shot at motives: “But when Manchin – who made millions from his family coal business and took more campaign money from the oil and gas industry than any other senator – pulled his support from that scheme in October, Democrats pivoted to a $300 billion package of tax credits to encourage the adoption of renewable energy and electric vehicles.” Which, if he’d studied the History of Economics, would have struck him as failing to drive down the cost or improve the efficiency of such sources, instead subsidizing them to conceal the high cost resulting from their inefficiency.
This stew gets worse. “Manchin’s reason for scuttling the negotiations, according to his spokeswoman, was his desire to ‘avoid taking steps that add fuel to the inflation fire.’ But in The Atlantic, Robinson Meyer argues that… Manchin’s reversal will actually worsen inflation: By reducing long-term demand for oil, Biden’s plan would probably have lowered gas prices” because as everybody knows who skipped economics, scarcity makes stuff cheaper. It’s why nice diamonds are such a bargain.
Then we get to “an earlier version of the package would have led to hundreds of dollars in annual energy cost savings for the average U.S. household by 2030, according to an independent analysis from researchers at Princeton.” Alas, Americans failed to embrace central planning of central air conditioning so what can you do?
Not much. “Now, the United States’ international climate credibility is even more damaged, which will in turn impede global decarbonization efforts, The Times’s Somini Sengupta writes.” See, “Li Shuo, the Beijing-based senior policy adviser for Greenpeace East Asia, told her… ‘the biggest historical emitter can hardly fulfill its climate promises.’” Especially, we say again, about what it already did. Whereas China, well um yes awkward isn’t it?
So back to the bad old U.S. of A., and that lovely presidential ability to short-circuit democracy. “The Biden administration will have to rely on its less powerful arsenal of executive actions to make progress on its decarbonization efforts… Biden may also use his pulpit to push for action at the state level, where climate policy has assumed new importance in the absence of federal leadership.” Which brings us back to the question of public support. The author quotes other of his New York Times colleagues, as well as other liberal journalists, that the climate crisis is so overwhelming that surely the people will demand action, then says “climate change seems to remain a relatively minor concern among the U.S. electorate: Just 1 percent of voters in a recent New York Times/Siena College poll named it as the most important issue facing the country; even among voters under 30, that figure was 3 percent.”
Evidently voters aren’t as smart as journalists. When someone hypes a crisis based on unconvincing evidence, then offers a solution they can’t think of, they seem not to rally behind it. Looooosers.