Hysteria and greed make expensive energy policies that won’t save planet

Those pushing for more actions — and more money — to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions sound a lot like Dr. Smith in the 1960s television series “Lost in Space”: “We’re doomed, doomed I say!”

Last week, President Joe Biden claimed that climate change “is literally, not figuratively, a clear and present danger.” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres stated that we have just eight years to save the planet or the world will commit “collective suicide.”

The world is suffering from a “climate emergency” and “climate catastrophe.” Every heat wave, storm, flood, drought and blizzard no longer is weather but instead irrefutable evidence of our looming demise.

Those overcome by hysteria cannot think or act rationally. Yet politicians and policymakers, including Biden, are intent on igniting more flames, like serial arsonists.

The reason is simple: money.

Many politicians are surely aware that the draconian policies they seek — a ban on fossil-fuel production, forced electrification of homes and businesses, mandatory adoption of electric vehicles and complete reliance on wind and solar power — will not work, much less save the planet .

President Joe Biden speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, July 27, 2022.
Biden said that climate change “is literally, not figuratively, a clear and present danger” last week.
AP/Susan Walsh

The latest BP Statistical Review of World Energy shows that since 2000, world COtwo emissions have increased by more than 10 billion metric tons — greater than the combined emissions of North America and the European Union. China and India, which together account for almost 40% of these emissions, are building dozens of coal-fired power plants every year. In total, close to 200 new coal plants are under construction in Asia, which will emit more than 1 billion tons of COtwo every year.

And coal expansion is not limited to Asia. African nations want to vastly hike energy production. South Africa is completing the 4,800 megawatt Kusile coal plant, on top of finishing the same-sized Medupi plant last year, to reduce the blackouts that have plagued the nation for years.

With the rapid increase in world natural-gas prices, other African countries are likely to turn to coal for their increasing energy needs. No matter how draconian the energy policies the United States and Europe adopt, developing nations will continue to build the energy resources they need.

So why pursue policies that will immiserate millions and have virtually no impact on the climate? Because, loaded as they are with subsidies for green energy, they offer virtually unlimited opportunities for self-enrichment to those who peddle them.

Though it’s one of the costliest generating resources known, Biden issued an executive order to promote offshore-wind development in the Gulf of Mexico and along the southeast coast. But offshore-wind developers are almost entirely European companies, which will collect not only production tax credits but also Team Biden’s new 30% investment tax credit. (Billions more in subsidies for electric vehicles and charging infrastructure are also on offer, on top of existing subsidies.)

Officials have even enacted legislation to stifle local opposition to huge wind and solar projects in rural counties, benefiting developers at their citizens’ expense. New York’s 2020 Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act, for example, effectively guts the state’s home-rule provisions. Wind and solar developers have filed lawsuits against small rural communities, many of which lack the resources to fight back.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, center, speaks during a briefing at the White House in Washington, May 16, 2022
Pete Buttigieg said the Department of Transportation will use about $1 billion to remedy racial inequities in highway designs across the country.
AP/Susan Walsh

And governments will spend billions of dollars to combat “environmental racism,” such as Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s plan to target “racist” highways. Biden’s budget proposes billions more for the Environmental Protection Agency to spend on compliance and outreach to victims of environmental “crimes,” little of which will provide any meaningful benefits — except for the well-connected.

It’s no wonder Bjorn Lomborg calls the doomsday crowd the “climate-industrial complex.”

This week, meanwhile, second-quarter gross-domestic-product data is likely to show the United States in a recession. The latest consumer-confidence numbers, which have declined for the last two months, are also set to come out. The Federal Reserve just hiked interest rates again. Expensive, physically infeasible large-scale green energy policies will only hasten economic decline. Maybe Dr. Smith was right after all.

Jonathan Lesser is the president of Continental Economics and an adjunct fellow with the Manhattan Institute.

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