On Tuesday, President Obama announced a sweeping series of initiatives, including the use of executive powers, to combat global warming. The plan will involve federal funding for renewable energy technology, and spending for areas hit by storms and droughts aggravated by an allegedly changing climate. Yet the most ambitious part of his agenda is an effort to force a reduction in so-called greenhouse gases from the nation’s coal-fired power plants. Prior to the speech, Daniel P. Schrag, a White House environmentalism adviser and director of the Harvard University Center for the Environment, got to the nub of that agenda: “Politically, the White House is hesitant to say they’re having a war on coal,” he explained. “On the other hand, a war on coal is exactly what’s needed.” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) explained the consequences of such a war. “Declaring a ‘War on Coal’ is tantamount to declaring a war on jobs,” he said. “It’s tantamount to kicking the ladder out from beneath the feet of many Americans struggling in today’s economy.”
McConnell is exactly right. While the percentage has been declining, coal-fired power plants are still responsible for producing 40 percent of the nation’s electricity. Yet that is an overall number. Some states are far more dependent, including West Virginia, which garners 97 of its electrical needs from coal. Curtailing coal usage for generating electricity will invariably drive up the cost of purchasing electricity for households and businesses.
The president couldn’t care less. Like so many leftists, he has bought into the idea that any challenge to the global warming agenda is tantamount to heresy. “We don’t have time for a meeting of the flat-Earth society,” Obama said. “Sticking your head in the sand might make you feel safer, but it’s not going to protect you from the coming storm.”
The so-called coming storm may take a while to get here. A report released by Spiegel science journal reveals that global warming has stopped. “[Fifteen] years without warming are now behind us” writes Spiegel journalist Axel Bojanowski. “The stagnation of global near-surface average temperatures shows that the uncertainties in the climate prognoses are surprisingly large.” Moreover, despite a report in March by The Economist noting that the world has added “roughly 100 billion tonnes of carbon to the atmosphere between 2000 and 2010,” comprising “about a quarter of all the CO2 put there by humanity since 1750,” no global warming occurred during that time frame. In fact, some scientists are actually predicting that we may be on the verge of another Little Ice Age similar to the one that occurred from 1275 to 1300 A.D., due in large part to an unexplainable collapse in sunspot activity.
Which scientific camp is right? That is something the scientific community must determine, based on scientific evidence — not the political coercion that far too often accompanies government-funded studies. Yet the president has staked out his position irrespective of science. He is directing the EPA to draft rules on the allowable levels of carbon emissions by existing coal plants, rules he expects to be completed by 2015. Obama intends to reduce Americans’s greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2025. Under current law, the EPA has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases, due to a 2007 Supreme Court decision. However, under the provisions of that Clean Air Act, the EPA cannot do so on its own, but must develop standards in accordance with the states.
Congress is another story. As far as the president is concerned, congressional input is completely unnecessary. “This is a challenge that does not pause for partisan gridlock,” Obama contended.
Ironically, partisan gridlock on this particular issue is nowhere to be found. No Congress, controlled by either party, has been able to approve anything resembling the kind of carbon reduction scheme being proposed by the president. That includes a cap-and-trade plan that died in 2010, when Democrats had unassailable control of both houses of Congress and the presidency.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) directly addressed that reality, and the economic one as well. “These policies, rejected even by the last Democratic-controlled Congress, will shutter power plants, destroy good-paying American jobs and raise electricity bills,” he said in a statement. Scott H. Segal, who represents utilities at the law firm Bracewell & Giuliani was even more direct. “The administration needs to explain why it needs old-style, command-and-control regulation when the market is moving in that direction anyway,” he said, referring to the reality that both falling prices of natural gas and increased use of it is already moving the nation away from coal.
The president’s plan would dramatically alter that trajectory. According to the Heritage Foundation, the artificial shrinkage of coal supplies would drive up the cost of natural gas by as much as 42 percent by 2030. Furthermore, as Heritage’s Herbert and Joyce Morgan Fellow Nicolas Loris notes, even measures far more radical than those proposed by the president will be of little consequence:
But let’s pretend we were able to stop emitting all carbon immediately. Forget the electricity to cool our homes in the summer months. Shut down the power plants. Stop driving our cars. No talking. The Science and Public Policy Institute found that the global temperature would decrease by 0.17 degrees Celsius–by 2100. These regulations are all pain no gain.
They are also completely anathema to emerging nations like India, China, and a host of other countries who aren’t about to reduce their standards of living to accommodate Obama’s pie-in-the-sky priorities.
Those priorities more than likely include killing the Keystone XL Pipeline project. The president insisted it can only be approved if it would not “significantly exacerbate” greenhouse gas emissions. Russell K. Girling, the chief executive of TransCanada, the company seeking a permit to build Keystone, contends the project meets the president’s proposed standard, even as he warned that substitute transpiration for Canadian oil, such as trucking or rail, poses significant environmental problems as well.
Even more disastrous is the president’s call for massive investment in “renewable electricity generation,” meaning large-scale wind- and solar-generated electrical facilities. Because the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine, such facilities would require conventional backup systems. As the Energy Information Agency reveals such inefficient and costly systems only become feasible “in response to federal tax credits, state-level policies, and federal requirements to use more biomass-based transportation fuels.” In other words, without government coercion, no one would build an electrical generating facility requiring backup — or use food food fuel — simply to assuage environmentalist sensibilities.
Or is that the sensibilities of the so-called one-percenters? It is truly remarkable how many wealthy individuals are dedicated environmentalists, as long as that dedication only applies to “other people.” Perhaps the ultimate personification of such overt hypocrisy is Al Gore, who has made millions promoting the cataclysmic effects of climate change, even as he rides around in private jets and limousines, maintains a 20-room home and pool house that used more than 20 times the national average of electricity usage in 2006, and recently sold his media network to an oil-funded company for $500 million.
Gore is far from alone. As a 2007 Wall Street Journal column by Robert Frank reveals, the rich long ago reconciled the disconnect between their environmentalist sensibilities and lavish lifestyles. Their purchases of “carbon offsets” ostensibly atone for the sin of living large, and frees them to pressure “lesser mortals” to embrace a more “environmentally correct” lifestyle, also known as a lower standard of living. It’s a nice racket if you can afford it. Not so nice if you are poor or middle class and the radical one-percenters expect you to make do with less or do without.
Whether the president himself embraces such overt hypocrisy is irrelevant. There will never be a single moment in which he or any member of his family will be forced to “walk the environmentalist walk” he would readily impose on the American public, whether they want it, or not. That would be the same American public who will bear the brunt of higher costs for virtually everything, which means higher standards of living will be even more difficult to obtain for the less (and least) well-off.
Americans will also bear the brunt of unintended and unforeseen consequences, best described by the Washington Times’ Paul Driessen. He explains the EPS’s heavy-handedness will lead to “unprecedented sleep deprivation, lower economic and educational status, and soaring anxiety and stress…likely to lead to greater risk of strokes and heart attacks; higher incidences of depression, alcohol, drug, spousal and child abuse; more suicides; and declining overall life expectancy.” He further notes the government’s push with regard to fuel-efficient cars “will force more people into smaller, lighter, less-safe cars–causing thousands of needless additional serious injuries and deaths every year.”
Driessen then illuminates the Obama administration’s modus operandi, explaining that “increasingly powerful bureaucrats–who seek and acquire ever-more control over our lives–remain faceless, nameless, unelected and unaccountable. They operate largely behind closed doors, issuing regulations and arranging sweetheart ‘sue-and-settle’ legal actions with radical environmentalist groups to advance ideological agendas, without regard for the impacts on our lives.”
Tellingly, on the same day the president gave his speech, CNNMoney.com published the results of a sobering survey conducted by Bankrate.com. It revealed that a whopping 76 percent of Americans are “living paycheck-to-paycheck.” Less than 25 percent of Americans have enough money saved to cover six months of expenses, 50 percent have a three month total, and 27 percent have no savings at all. “After paying debts and taking care of housing, car and child care-related expenses, the respondents said there just isn’t enough money left over for saving more,” the article reported.
That’s the real catastrophe most Americans face. Yet a president whose most recent pressing initiatives have included gun control, immigration reform and combatting global warming, not only remains willfully oblivious to that catastrophe, but bound and determined to exacerbate it.
In short, Obama is determined to destroy America in order to save it. Unfortunately, there is no “offset” for such unbridled hubris.
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