By Benjamin Zycher
Like the dog that failed to bark in Sherlock Holmes’ “Adventure of Silver Blaze,” the virtual absence of “climate crisis” exhortations in President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address is fascinating, in particular, because the Republicans have not figured out yet that their climate policy stance of “Me too, but less” is an utter loser economically, politically, and scientifically. Accordingly, Biden could have ranted at length about the climate
problem emergency crisis catastrophe existential threat as a justification for any number of big government programs, and the Republicans, having painted themselves into a corner, would have had to applaud, however weakly.
But the president did not do that. Instead, he promised a massive program of infrastructure modernization so as “to withstand the devastating effects of the climate crisis and promote environmental justice.” And then there was this jewel:
Second — cut energy costs for families an average of $500 a year by combatting climate change. Let’s provide investments and tax credits to weatherize your homes and businesses to be energy efficient and you get a tax credit; double America’s clean energy production in solar, wind, and so much more; lower the price of electric vehicles, saving you another $80 a month because you’ll never have to pay at the gas pump again.
Mr. Biden forgot to mention that there is no evidence — none — of a climate crisis or of any attendant “devasting effects.” His entire proposal to achieve net-zero US emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050 would reduce global temperatures by less than 0.173 degrees C by 2100, using the EPA climate model under assumptions that exaggerate the effects of emissions reductions. (An immediate and permanent 50 percent emissions cut by China: 0.184 degrees C.) And “environmental justice,” notwithstanding the infinite elasticity of that phrase, means massive subsidies for Democratic Party constituencies, both geographically and politically. It cannot mean anything else.
Would the up-front cost of “weatheriz[ing] your homes and businesses” be less than the present value of the annual $500 energy-cost savings of Mr. Biden’s imagination? If so, why are households and businesses not doing it already? Is the president oblivious to the reality that the expanded use of unconventional electricity has yielded skyrocketing energy costs in Europe and in the US despite all the subsidies and other policy favoritism? (As Pravda in its glory days would have put it: It is no accident that California has almost the highest electricity costs in the lower 48 states.) Is there anything “clean” about unconventional energy? Yes, emphatically, if we ignore the heavy-metal pollution, wildlife destruction, noise and flicker effects, massive and unsightly land use, landfill pollution, and all of the other environmental problems created by unconventional energy.
And about that monthly savings of $80 “because you’ll never have to pay at the gas pump again”: Does Mr. Biden believe that the electricity consumed to recharge electric vehicles is free? Wow.
Again, those were the only references to the climate policy issue in the speech. Is it possible that the growing adverse effects of policies to promote unconventional energy and to hinder the development of fossil-fuel resources are becoming a political problem? That is the reasonable hypothesis, as Europe turns back toward coal-, gas-, and nuclear-fired electricity, and as the Biden administration flounders in its efforts to reduce gasoline prices. In a world consuming over 100 million barrels of crude oil per day, Mr. Biden’s announcement “that the United States has worked with 30 other countries to release 60 million barrels of oil from reserves around the world,” is a joke, even apart from the dismal economic analysis underlying that initiative.
And so it is not difficult to discern the reason for Mr. Biden’s near silence on climate issues despite the fact that they have been among the most prominent among his proposals for his entire presidency thus far. He is caught between the ideological opposition to fossil fuels on the part of the left wing of his political coalition, forced to do everything possible to constrain such production and investment at home while exhorting OPEC+ to produce more so as to limit the price increases inflicted upon Main Street. This is utter incoherence, a reality that explains Mr. Biden’s deafening near-silence on climate matters last night. This is progress.