June 27 2013

Now You're Getting Hot: A Theory on the President's Push on Climate Change

Charlotte Hays

With President Obama, one often feels that we citizens don’t have the full story.

For example, the president is all in on global warming, which the media is proclaiming as a legacy item for him. But maybe the legacy is going to be even bigger than just ruining the coal industry?  

Maybe the president is even aiming at an outcome about which he's not quite candid?

In an intriguing article over at The American, Benjamin Zycher, visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, suggests that this is the case. The president’s proposed climate change regulations might provide wealth transfers to the presidents’ political allies:

Whatever the weakness of the evidence on greenhouse gases (GHG) and climate effects, the real goal of carbon policy is a regional redistribution of wealth, a reality that explains the inability of Congress to enact such policies since the Clinton administration, when a “Sense of the Senate” resolution rejecting the Kyoto Protocol was approved by a margin of 95-0.

President Obama too was unable to convince even a fully Democratic Congress to adopt such policies, and so he now proposes that his Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy implement regulations reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHG).

Zycher’s article is fascinating and deals with the president’s three broad proposals: new emissions standards, tightening of energy-efficient standards, and subsidizing more green energy generation on federal lands. So expect more Solyndra-style boondoggles, only on federal land, and more wind millionaires such as Al Gore. You’ll be paying for them.

And the government will be making it more difficult for energy businesses to succeed in regions that—coinkidinki?—don’t vote Democratic:  

What is clear, on the other hand, is that government is an engine of wealth redistribution. Policies making some energy sources more expensive inexorably will create such redistribution because states and regions differ in the proportions of their energy use derived from alternative technologies. In particular, the president’s proposals will penalize areas and industries disproportionately dependent on coal-fired power. A recent MIT study concludes that under a policy to reduce GHG emissions "California, the Pacific Coast, New England, and New York generally experience the lowest cost…while the South Central [Arkansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma], Texas, and Mountain States face the highest cost." …

The winners are states with high power costs or with significant inexpensive hydroelectric resources that would be unaffected by GHG policies. The losers are states with low power costs driven by disproportionate use of cheap, coal-fired power. By driving power costs up in the latter group of states, the GHG policies would reduce the competitive disadvantages of the former group.  …

In Hollywood, there’s no business like show business. Inside the Beltway, there’s no show like the business of sound-bite showboating. In the president’s speech there appears the phrase “carbon pollution” no fewer than 30 times. In the Orwellian language of the environmental left, “carbon pollution” is carbon dioxide — a natural substance that is not toxic to humans at many times greater than current ambient concentrations and that protects plants from various environmental stresses. It is unlike any other effluent regulated by the EPA for which less is better. Too little carbon dioxide would make life difficult, and in the extreme case, the Earth uninhabitable. That obviously will not be the result of the president’s proposals if implemented. But the large expansion of government power and centralized planning authority inherent in the proposals is not an end to be pursued.

The always interesting William Tucker also has a good take on the president’s climate change policy: he is playing the aristocrat. Tucker writes:

Why is President Obama so utterly unconcerned about economics, so blasé about unemployment, so absorbed with tales about the coming environment apocalypse? Well, here’s my analysis.

President Obama has managed to win election by assembling two major constituencies: 1) a lumpen proletariat that has no idea how the economy works, is dependent on the government, and votes for him because he promises more handouts; and 2) an upper-crust constituency that thinks “we already have enough,” isn’t interested in any further economic development, and believes, if anything, that we already have too much of material possessions and it’s time to start cutting back on things. This has been the theme of environmentalism for 40 years. The rationale changes — we’re undergoing a “population bomb,” we’re drowning in pollution, we’re running out of oil and other resources — but the message is always the same. We’ve got enough. Time to call off all this progress. Let’s go back to spinning our own yarn, growing our own vegetables, and putting up windmills.

Together these two groups form a perfect vice to smother the ambitions of people who are interested in furthering the advance of progress and technology — the ones you might call “average Americans.” …

Environmentalism is the philosophy of an aristocracy. It works perfectly for people who already have what they want and aren’t terribly concerned with getting more.

Unfortunately, few have called the president’s bluff on this.

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