Yesterday President Biden unveiled his American Families Plan before a joint session of Congress. Together with the rest of his infrastructure plan, it represents a warm embrace of the Green New Deal’s approach: heavy on government social programs, vague on climate change. Though the American Families Plan doesn’t mention climate or clean energy, Biden pledged in his speech to reduce America’s carbon emissions.
Specifically, the administration is gearing up to propose a new Energy Efficiency and Clean Electricity Standard, with a new goal of achieving zero carbon emissions from electricity by 2035. The name harkens back to Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which would have forced states to adopt California-style regulations of their electricity sectors. But details have been hard to come by, to say nothing of an actual real-world plan for getting there. Such a plan would be ambitious indeed, given the virtually insuperable obstacles standing in its path.
The Biden administration is pushing to get some sort of national clean-electricity standard through Congress as part of the looming infrastructure package. That is at least a theoretical possibility after Republicans threw away control of the Senate in a stupid temper tantrum over losing control of the White House. But Democrats can’t afford to lose a single vote in the Senate on such a measure, and the administration apparently didn’t even reach out to coal-state senator Joe Manchin before proposing the infrastructure plan.
The administration now reportedly hopes to buy off such wavering Democratic votes with yet more social spending targeted at potentially affected communities. But it’s worth recalling that Democrats couldn’t get a cap-and-trade scheme through Congress even with the historic supermajority they had in Obama’s first two years, and their control of Congress is but a shadow of what it was then.
The other path forward for a national clean-electricity standard is agency action, in particular, a new attempt by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to throttle carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act. But the Supreme Court blocked EPA’s Clean Power Plan in 2016, and there is at least one more vote on the Court against such a scheme now. In a recent interview with Politico Pro, EPA administrator Michael Regan acknowledged the challenge of the regulatory route. “We know that we can’t regulate our way out” of climate change, Regan said, “but EPA has some tools in its toolbox to complement a suite of actions that the president has asked us to look for as it relates to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
“We can’t regulate our way out of climate change” was an interesting choice of words, given that “regulating our way out of climate change” is precisely what Obama tried to do. We’re likely to hear that phrase again, as the administration seeks to lower expectations of what it can accomplish on its own, while putting pressure on Congress.
In the same Politico Pro interview, Regan raised what could be a more ominous warning flag for America’s working families, pledging to propose stringent new regulations of automobile emissions by mid-July. In California, poor working-class and immigrant families have already been subsidizing the purchase of electric vehicles for rich doctors and lawyers for at least a decade, through a heavy tax on gasoline-powered cars. Be on the lookout for a similar scheme to make gasoline-powered vehicles more expensive (and dangerous) while subsidizing EVs.
Last week, I wrote about what a fantasy it is to think that America can achieve Biden’s emissions-reduction targets without massive deployment of nuclear energy and without sweeping reforms of the federal process for permitting infrastructure projects, neither of which Biden has mentioned.
Read the full article at National Review.