Previewing President Obama’s Climate Change Speech
Nicolas Loris /
When Congress rejected a cap-and-trade proposal to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, a frustrated President said that cap and trade was only one way of skinning the cat and that he would look for other avenues to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
On Tuesday, the President will outline how his Administration plans to address climate change without those pesky elected officials getting in the way. Here are three things you’re likely to hear and three things you won’t hear in President Obama’s speech.
1. What you will hear: We need greenhouse gas regulations on new and existing power plants.
What you won’t hear: Carbon dioxide regulations will drive up energy prices on American families and businesses for no change in the earth’s temperature.
Energy is the lifeblood of our economy and provides us with a healthy and comfortable standard of living that’s easy to take for granted. From heating and cooling our homes, taking our kids to soccer practice, and lighting our homes, most of America’s energy needs are met by carbon-emitting fossil fuels. New greenhouse gas regulations on new and existing power plants would reduce our standard of living by jacking up our energy bills and increasing costs for businesses to operate.
Americans are the punching bag here; they’re hit again and again with higher energy costs since everything we do and consume requires energy. Capping emissions from new coal-fired plants at 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt hour would effectively ban new coal plants, depriving America of an affordable reliable energy source. Regulations on existing plans would likely target both coal- and natural-gas-fired plants.
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.
2. What you will hear: The federal government wants to help reduce energy use, reduce climate emissions, and save businesses and families money. Everybody wins!
What you won’t hear: Markets already incentivize Americans to be more energy efficient. Government mandates are inefficient and have unintended consequences.
Businesses and consumers understand how energy costs impact their lives and make decisions accordingly to be more efficient. They don’t need the federal government telling them how to be more energy efficient, nor do they need subsidies from the taxpayer to prod them along. The government likes to think that Americans are irrational energy users and that the energy mandates make consumers better off, but these mandates make us worse off by taking away our choices. They drive up sticker prices of vehicles, appliances, and everything else the federal government mandates and reduce product performance.
Further, the government calculates that only 2 percent of the benefits of its own environmental regulations goes toward climate change.
3. What you will hear: Let’s streamline renewable energy production on federal lands.
What you won’t hear: Let’s transfer the permitting and environmental review of all energy production on federal lands to the states, which have protected the environment and promoted jobs creation and economic growth.
Creating an efficient environmental review and permitting process for all energy projects, including renewable, is a step in the right direction. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce identified 351 energy projects stalled by “not in my backyard” suits, regulatory red tape, and, of course, endless challenges from environmental activists. Almost half these projects (140) are renewable-energy ones. So long as the renewable projects are not propped up with subsidies or are meant to help states meet their renewable electricity standards, we should create a regulatory environment that allows renewable energy to come online in a timely manner.
Streamlining the permitting process is a step in the right direction; however, the states should manage energy production on federal lands within their borders. They are the ones who have the most to gain when the management of natural resources and economic activity is done properly—but also the most to lose if they are mismanaged and handled without care for the environment. A critical component of The Heritage Foundation’s American Conservation Ethic is to devolve more of the responsibilities and rewards of environmental stewardship to states.
The danger of President Obama’s climate change speech is that, regardless of the economic burden these policies will inflict upon Americans and regardless of the barely noticeable environmental impact, this Administration is intent on moving forward. If climate change is a problem, although global warming has leveled off over the past 16 years (something the models failed to predict), increased economic growth here and abroad will help us deal with any costs associated with warming. These carbon-cutting policies, big or small, do the opposite.
It’s time for those pesky elected officials to get involved and stop the Administration from implementing climate change regulations.