The Green Surrender
How Progressive energy policy weakens America.
I sometimes wonder which policy of President Biden’s has been or will be the most destructive of them all. There are so many possibilities.
The American Rescue Plan of 2021 contributed to the record inflation of the past year. Biden’s reversal of the Migration Protection Protocols, safe third country agreements, and other immigration policies enacted by the previous administration resulted in historic numbers of illegal entries along the southern border. The withdrawal from Afghanistan abandoned a nation of 39 million people to a murderous, medieval, terrorist-aligned mafia. Biden has pursued a renewed nuclear agreement with Iran despite that regime’s support for militias that fire on U.S. troops, plots to kill U.S. officials on U.S. soil, and ultimate responsibility for the assault on Salman Rushdie. Just the other day, Biden announced a complex, unconstitutional, regressive, and inflationary scheme to forgive student debt. The words “moral hazard” are not in his vocabulary.
Like I said: There are plenty of options for which Biden policy is the worst. Yet Biden’s biggest folly may turn out to be his green thumb. The manic Progressive quest to eliminate fossil fuels and preside over a “green energy transition” will make America dependent, unstable, poorer, needier, and weaker. Indeed, it already is doing so.
Biden reentered the Paris Climate Agreement, canceled the Keystone Pipeline, stopped energy leasing on federal property, suspended leases to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and spent hundreds of billions on green energy projects in last year’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal and this year’s Inflation Reduction Act. He wants to halve carbon dioxide emissions from 2005 levels by 2030 and “achieve a net-zero economy by 2050.”
Problem: You can’t achieve these goals without massively raising energy prices for everyday consumers. Sure enough, as gas prices went up over the course of his term, Biden attacked the oil giants, pleaded with OPEC to pump more oil, tried to make nice with autocracies in Venezuela and Iran, and brought the Strategic Petroleum Reserve down to its lowest level since 1985. Recently the cost of a gallon of regular has ticked down and President Biden’s job approval rating has ticked up. Of course, if Biden, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and California governor Gavin Newsom (D.) have their way, in the coming decades there won’t be any cars with combustion engines to fuel.
Newsom’s California offers a glimpse of the future. Not long after Golden State regulators announced a plan to forbid the sale of new gasoline-powered cars by 2035, and state legislators passed $54 billion in climate-related spending, officials declared a state of emergency and warned of rolling blackouts. As government-subsidized and meteorologically unreliable solar and wind energy displaces oil, gas, and nuclear on the electric grid, consumers must reduce usage and prepare for the worst. Among the ironies: To take pressure off the grid, commuters won’t be able to charge their soon-to-be-government-mandated electric vehicles during peak hours. Stuck at home thanks to the clean energy economy? You can always hitch a ride on a black-market gas guzzler.
Biden’s and Newsom’s goals, plans, and mandates may seem abstract. Their timetables may extend long into the future. But as Richard Nixon’s favorite NFL coach liked to say, the future is now. It cannot be a coincidence that California’s population declines as its government becomes more expensive and more intrusive, as zoning and environmental regulations increase the cost of living. The top destination for Californians is Texas. While the Longhorn State has electric grid problems of its own, its authorities believe in cheap energy from every possible source. The Texas economy is growing, along with its population.
The same can’t be said of Europe. The continent’s climate solipsism is more acute than California’s. Its dilemma is therefore more serious. The push for green energy in the United Kingdom and in Europe, along with decades of antinuclear paranoia in Germany, have left millions dependent on natural gas supplied by Russia. In the 1970s, Arab and Iranian governments wielded the oil weapon to wreak havoc around the globe. In the 2020s, Russia uses the gas weapon to extort its neighbors, fund its war machine, and threaten NATO with cutoffs, price hikes, shortages, inflation, political instability, and deaths from bitter cold.
Sanctions on the Russian economy over its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine have neither brought the war to an end nor Moscow to the negotiating table. European leaders project an uneasy confidence about what lies ahead. “Even if it gets tight,” said Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, on September 1, “we will probably get through the winter.”
This situation was not inevitable. But it was predictable. Europe’s vulnerability is the consequence of swearing off oil and gas and nuclear energy in the quixotic pursuit of environmental purity. It is what happens when government plans collide with geopolitical realities. Europeans are paying the price for elevating Greta Thunberg over Elon Musk. The price may soon get higher.
I don’t deny global warming. And I am open to policies that reduce carbon emissions and that — most importantly — encourage technological innovations and adaptations to a changing world. You won’t get anywhere by mandating the substitution of one form of energy over another. Instead, you should explore the alternatives while sustaining the very basis of global commerce: cheap and plentiful carbon energy.
The best thing President Biden could do for the American economy, the American worker, and the world would be to drop his antipathy to carbon fuels. Resume leasing on public lands and waters. Approve pipelines, deregulate biofuels mandates to increase refinery capacity, and make good on the promise to reform permits. Above all, finance the construction of as many nuclear plants as possible. Why cede energy dominance to hostile nations? Now is not the time to impose limits. It’s time to power up.
Matthew Continetti is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and the founding editor of The Washington Free Beacon. For more from the Free Beacon, sign up free of charge for the Morning Beacon email.
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