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

Those pushing for more action — and more money — to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are a lot like Dr. Smith on the 1960s TV series Lost in Space: «We’re 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 has stated that we have only eight years to save the planet or else the world will commit «mass suicide».

The world is experiencing a «climate emergency» and a «climate catastrophe». Every heat wave, storm, flood, drought, and blizzard is no longer caused by the weather but instead is irrefutable evidence of our impending demise.

Those who are overcome by hysteria cannot think or act rationally. However, politicians and policymakers, including Biden, are intent on fanning more fires, as are the arsonists.

The reason is simple: money.

Many politicians certainly understand that the brutal policies they seek — bans on fossil fuel production, compulsory electrification of homes and businesses, mandatory adoption of electric cars and complete reliance on wind and solar power — will not work, let alone save the planet.

President Joe Biden speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, July 27, 2022.
Biden said climate change «literally, not figuratively, poses a clear and present danger» last week.
AFP/Susan Walsh

BP’s latest statistical review of global energy shows that since 2000, global carbon dioxide has become2 Emissions increased by more than 10 billion metric tons – more than the combined emissions of North America and the European Union. China and India, which together account for nearly 40% of these emissions, build dozens of coal-fired power plants each year. In total, there are nearly 200 new coal plants under construction in Asia, which will emit more than 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide.2 every year.

Coal expansion is not limited to Asia. African countries want to significantly increase energy production. South Africa is completing construction of the 4,800-megawatt Kusile coal plant, as well as the completion of the Medupi plant of the same size last year, to curb the blackouts that have plagued the country for years.

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

Why then do we pursue policies that spread millions out without actually having any impact on the climate? Loaded with green energy subsidies, it offers nearly unlimited opportunities for self-enrichment to those who sell it.

Although it is one of the most expensive generation resources known, Biden has 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 a new 30% investment tax credit from Biden’s team. (Billions of other subsidies are also provided for electric vehicles and charging infrastructure, in addition to existing subsidies.)

Officials have even enacted legislation to stifle local opposition to massive wind and solar projects in rural counties, benefiting developers at the expense of their citizens. For example, the New York Accelerated Growth Renewable Energy and Community Benefits Act of 2020 in New York, effectively limits the state’s self-governance provisions. Wind and solar developers have filed lawsuits against small rural communities, many of which lack the resources to respond.

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 address racial inequality in highway designs across the country.
AFP/Susan Walsh

And governments will spend billions of dollars to combat «environmental racism,» like Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s plan to target «racist» highways. Biden’s budget proposes raising billions for the EPA to spend on compliance and communication with victims of environmental «crimes,» few of which will provide any meaningful benefits — except for good relationships.

No wonder Bjorn Lomborg calls the doomsday crowd the «climate industrial complex».

Meanwhile, this week, second-quarter GDP data is likely to show the United States is in the doldrums. Also due is the release of the latest consumer confidence figures, which have fallen over the past two months. The Federal Reserve raised interest rates again. Expensive and not financially viable green energy policies will only accelerate economic decline. Perhaps Dr. Smith was right after all.

Jonathan Lesser is president of Continental Economics and an associate fellow at the Manhattan Institute.