Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin, who courageously slammed the brakes on the Dems’ drunken-sailor Build Back Better tax-and-spend spree, seems to have lost his nerve. He has reached a deal with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s more modest but still pernicious $739 billion bill with the Orwellian moniker Inflation Reduction Act, the fiscal version of destroying the village in order to save it.
If this bill passes, it will be yet another instance of throwing money into the “Green Energy” hole that’s already swallowed Germany and other EU countries.
The bill is economically absurd. Take the mystifying idea that an economy going through the biggest inflation in 40 years caused by printing and redistributing too much money, just as it slipped into a recession needs the government to throw nearly a trillion dollars more at it. As the Wall Street Journal sardonically asks, “Is their aim to reduce inflation by chilling business investment and the economy?”
But perhaps the worst part of the bill is the big chunk, $369 billion, that will be bestowed on “green energy subsidies,” “incentive,” and tax rebates for fighting “climate change,” the euphemism for anthropogenic, catastrophic global warming. The Dems seem not to have noticed that Germany, the world’s fourth largest economy, and the most aggressive at killing off carbon-based energy and transitioning to “renewables” like wind and solar, is facing a fiscal crisis.
Why? Even though the man they deemed a braggadocios dunce, Donald Trump, warned them about getting hooked on Russian gas and oil, Germany gambled its economy on that transaction in order to morally preen about their globalist sensibility and moral superiority to those greedy MAGA American flat-earthers who refuse to “follow the science.”
It turns out, though, that plenty of scientists aren’t on board the Climate-Change Titanic. Just last month two professors––William Happer, Emeritus Professor of Physics at Princeton, and Richard Lindzen, Emeritus Professor of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences at MIT––testified (summary here; see too their earlier essay) before Congress about the SEC’s proposed rule-change that would force publicly traded companies to adopt policies to slow down global warming, in effect drafting them into the daft war on fossil fuels.
The conclusion reached by this meticulously documented brief is that despite the claims of “settled science,” “science demonstrates that there is no climate-related risk caused by fossil fuels and CO2 and no climate emergency.” Yet even if one disputes this stark dismissal, there are plenty of other critics like theoretical physicist Steve E. Koonin (Unsettled), who expose just how uncertain the science is that underlies the current understanding of global climate change: “The science is insufficient to make useful projections about how the climate will change over the coming decades, much less what effect our actions will have on it.” Given this uncertainty, it is the height of irresponsibility to spend trillions of dollars and put at risk the global economy.
Then there are those who question the alleged solutions to the “energy crisis,” solar and wind power. As Germany is learning from experience––the Romans’ “teacher of fools”––according to Bjorn Lomborg,
Solar and wind are incapable of delivering the power needed for industrialization, powering water pumps, tractors and machines — all the ingredients needed to lift people out of poverty. As rich countries are now also discovering, solar and wind energy remain fundamentally unreliable. No sun or wind means no power. Battery technology offers no answers: today there are only enough batteries to power global average electricity consumption for one minute and 15 seconds. Even by 2030, with a projected rapid battery scale-up, they would last less than 12 minutes. For context, every German winter, when solar is at its minimum, there is near-zero wind energy available for at least five days — more than 7,000 minutes.
Next, Vaclav Smil in How the World Really Works documents how the modern world, which has liberated billions of people from hunger, disease, want, and the destructive vagaries of an indifferent natural world, has been made possible by coal and other fossil fuels. Four products especially important for modern life––synthetic nitrogen fertilizer, steel, plastics, and cement––all depend on fossil fuels for their production. This means, as Smil writes, “Both the high relative share and the scale of our dependence on fossil carbon make any rapid substitutions impossible.” We are many decades away from replacing fossil fuels with “renewable” energy from wind and solar. Even electric cars, which states like California want to replace all gasoline-powered automobiles, are not viable in large numbers without the fossil fuel which still generates the electricity EVs need for recharging.
Finally these policies that arose in the rich West are callously indifferent to the impact on the developing world of eliminating the very fossil fuels that powered the West’s rise to global preeminence and affluence. We Westerners can afford, for a while, to experiment with alternatives to fossil fuels, although Europe’s energy crisis reminds us there are hard limits to how far and how fast we can go. But as Smil writes, “that is not the case with the more than 5 billion people whose energy consumption is a fraction” of that in the affluent West, and “who need much more ammonia to raise their crop yields to feed their increasing populations, and much more steel and cement and plastics to build their essential infrastructures.”
Meanwhile, as Bjorn Lomborg writes, Western climate policies ignore the more pressing issues like rising food and energy prices. We just had a graphic example in Sri Lanka, where the government took Western advice to eliminate nitrogen-based fertilizers from their farming, and then collapsed into anarchy after the country descended into famine. The war in Ukraine has impacted energy supplies and prices, Lomborg, acknowledges. “But,” he adds, “things wouldn’t be nearly as bad if the West hadn’t thrown up green roadblocks to its own energy security, such as President Biden’s moratorium on gas leases or Europe’s refusal to dig into its substantial shale gas reserves.”
Subsidies to “green energy” industries also impact energy prices by creating barriers to developing more oil and gas production. Especially in poorer countries, food supplies are also affected by bans on nitrogen, which reduce the productivity per unit of soil. “Low-cost synthetic fertilizer,” Lomborg writes, “is one of the greatest technologies humanity has invented for feeding the world, but it’s mostly made with natural gas. Even with almost a billion people at risk of starvation, climate-obsessed bureaucrats still object to producing more fertilizer because of the fossil fuels required.”
Worst of all, given that 80% of the world’s energy comes from fossil fuels, the fanciful goal to reach zero carbon emissions by 2050 would cost $5 trillion dollars a year, a bill that would devastate the developing world. And, Lomborg goes on, “even if all current climate policies were fully implemented, by midcentury fossil fuels would still provide more than half of all energy used world-wide, according to the International Energy Agency.” The cost of that energy obviously would be much more punitive for the developing world.
Yet despite the lessons of Europe’s energy shortages; despite the revisionist scientists who have exposed the bad science propping up the warmists’ doomsday narratives; despite the heartless indifference to the plight of poor developing nations caused by such climate policies, the Dems are trying to double-down on their failures.
And they are doing this all to keep the “green energy” grift going, at the same time further degrading the health of our economy, just so the failed president and his party can score a legislative “win” for their left-wing base before the midterm elections.