Monday, August 08, 2022

The Democrats’ Unserious Climate-Change Deal

By KEVIN D. WILLIAMSON, National Review, July 31, 2022 - The corporate-welfare “climate-change bill” ... is a bad piece of legislation for any number of reasons. ... 

... The Biden administration says it would like to see the United States reduce its emissions of carbon dioxide by 50 percent or more by 2030. Advocates of the Manchin folly say that its provisions could enable a reduction of 40 percent by 2030. ... when they say, “40 percent reduction in emissions,” they mean a 40 percent reduction from 2005 levels. Thanks in large part to the economic displacement of coal by natural gas in electricity generating — which is to say, thanks to fracking — the United States already has cut emissions by about 20 percent from where they were in 2005: We’re halfway there, having done not very much, and the trend line already is pointed downward ... 

.. Its environmental program is mainly one of subsidies for politically connected business interests engaged in the so-called green-energy trade and handouts to upper-middle-class urban progressives who enjoy getting a $7,500 tax benefit when they buy a new Mercedes.

What these subsidies amount to is a reverse carbon tax. ...  ... the proposition that we are going to get the outcomes the Green New Dealers want simply by shoveling great heaping gobs of money to Democrats’ political allies without any painful new regulation or taxes is one that deserves a great deal of skepticism.

... By the most economically relevant measure (emissions per unit of GDP) the United States is about twice as carbon-intensive as Germany. But it is Germany, not the United States, that is getting ready to fire up coal plants.

Policy proposals are constrained only by the utopian imagination; policy outcomes are constrained by physics, geography, and technology, among other inconvenient exogenous factors. At a sufficient level of subsidy, wind and solar are economically viable alternatives to coal and gas, but they are intermittent, and it is likely that their role in total electricity generation will always be a limited one. 

Completely decarbonizing electricity is a long ways off, in reality something that probably isn’t going to happen and probably doesn’t need to happen — but consider that electricity is the low-hanging fruit: It is not want of forward-looking policy but physical and technological realities that fortify the central role of hydrocarbons in transportation

The case for a carbon tax is that current U.S. practice does not put any price on the externalities associated with burning hydrocarbons. ... we should not delude ourselves into thinking that there exists some “clean” source of energy capable of sustaining modern life. ...

The more batteries are used in transportation and utilities, the more battery manufacturing and disposal are going to be major environmental problems. Petrochemicals and petroleum-derived polymers are used in manufacturing solar cells, wind turbines, batteries, and much else that is “green.” When it comes to rare-earth minerals, many of the relevant geopolitical facts are geological facts. ... There is no escape from the environmental effects of modern life, only management and mitigation. 

Rod's Comment: The US's and the world's response to the problem of climate change has been unserious and continues to be based on wishful thinking, fairy dust, and Kumbaya. Also, unfortunately, many people are still in denial that there is even a problem. It is unfortunate that serious voices are not at the table. 

The new Inflation Reduction Act will do little to combat inflation and little to combat climate change. To read the above complete article follow this link.

An organization called The Bipartisan Policy Center has this to say about the bill: "Recent modeling by Rhodium Group highlights the substantial emissions reduction impact of these provisions. Under a business-as-usual scenario, the United States is on track to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by between 24% to 35% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. Should the IRA become law, this would increase to between 31% to 44% by 2030."

One has to believe the model's assumptions to believe that this level of reduction will be achieved. There is too much uncertainty about too many factors to have much confidence in model assumptions. Does inflation continue to clime or is it brought under control? Does Russia wins or lose in Ukraine? Does China strenghtens its control over critical metals or not? Does China attack Taiwan and cut off the supply of microchips? What happens in South America where climate change policy and energy policy are in turmoil? Is the mid-East stable or at war? These things will impact our success at greenhouse gas emission reduction. There are some known unknowns and a lot of unknown unknowns to trust assumptions with any degree of confidence. 

The Inflation Reduction Act will create a Methane Emissions Reduction Program, which will reward companies that cut their methane emissions and punish those that do not. That seems to me to be a positive development. This is a serious policy. As far as climate policy is concerned that seems to be the best part of the bill.  Also, however, the support for nuclear energy could have some positive results. 

The subsidy for purchasing electric vehicles is a waste and should be an outrage. This policy includes plug-in hybrids which are a con game and a subsidy for the rich.  Plug-in hybrids are for the most part gas-guzzlers except for the first few miles when they run on stored electricity.  If I were betting, I would bet that many owners of plug-in hybrids will not even bother to charge them overnight.  The only reason buyers buy these super expensive luxuary vehicles is for the subsidy. If not getting the first 20 miles or so running off of a charge, the plug-in hybrids get less gas mileage than the all-gas version of the same vehicle due to the extra weight of the batteries. 

The "Off Duty" section of the Wall Street Journal reviews luxury cars in each weekend edition of the paper. To learn more about plug-in hybrids, I suggest reading the WSJ vehicle reviews. This subsidy for the purchase of luxury vehicles is an unserious policy. 

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