Dems’ Budget Reconciliation Bill Bursts with Tainted Green Pork
Climate Change Weekly #414
Writing at Real Clear Energy, Daniel Turner, founder and executive director of Power for the Future, analyzes the green energy portions of the federal budget reconciliation bill pushed by President Joe Biden and written by congressional Democrats with no input from Republicans.
The kindest thing he can say about the bill is that the “final numbers don’t balance.”
This is a pretty weak critique, since I can’t remember the last time any budget passed by Congress “balanced.” In this age of massive, perennial deficits, when Congress doesn’t even seriously pretend future generations won’t be paying the bill for the current generations’ profligacy, one more unbalanced bill is hardly surprising.
Turner goes further, however, saying Biden’s and Congress’ “obsession” with green energy is a disaster:
Forcing half of our electricity to be “carbon free” by 2030 necessarily entails a give and take. In this case, we need to give up the current state of life in America for the goals of the climate agenda. On the balance, this forced transition takes much more than it gives. That’s the reality the American people need to understand and the serious conversation we need to have. …
Show me a politician saying fossil fuels can be traded for renewable energy while keeping all other aspects of life (cost, reliability, national security) the same, … and I will show you a liar. …
We are forgoing affordability for expensive electricity. We are forgoing reliability for blackouts. We are forgoing domestic energy for Chinese dependence. Yet these realities are never discussed.
Turner is 100 percent correct.
The realities Turner describes are rarely if ever discussed by the mainstream media—who have become almost wholly bought and paid-for promoters of green policies and Democratic politicians—and are actively suppressed or banned from discussion by social media. However, groups such as The Heartland Institute, the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, and Turner’s own Power for the Future have hammered home the message that green energy mandates and taxes, fees, and regulations that shut down the use of fossil fuels are bad for people, bad for the environment, and will do nothing to prevent climate change (which, by the way, humans don’t actually control). I discussed this most recently in Climate Change Weekly No. 412, “Climate Targets Are Built on Magical Thinking, Not Reality.”
Many of the green energy provisions in the $3.5 trillion pork-laden reconciliation package developed by the Democratic leadership with Biden’s support have been summarized by my friends at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI).
The bill contains a minimum of $33 billion in tax credits for the purchase of electric vehicles (EVs). This is welfare for the well-to-do: 79 percent of EV purchasers have incomes above six figures.
Before now, EVs were eligible for up to $7,500 in federal tax credits, but only for the first 200,000 such vehicles sold by each manufacturer. The new measure would boost the tax credit to $12,500 per vehicle and lift the cap entirely. The bill would also grant a tax credit of $2,500 for purchasers of used electric vehicles bought from the original owner. The bill also extends generous tax credits to purchasers of electric two- and three-wheeled vehicles, commercial vehicles, and even electric bicycles.
The giveaway to the rich could be much higher than the $33 billion estimate, because the bill expands the range of vehicles that qualify for tax credits and lifts the cap on the number of vehicles that can receive the credit.
The reconciliation bill would also extend and expand tax credits for renewable energy sources, such as industrial wind and solar facilities, rooftop solar, geothermal, landfill gas, and methane with carbon capture. The U.S. government has already spent hundreds of billions of dollars to subsidize wind and solar industrial facilities over the past 30 years, but every time the program is scheduled to end, Congress extends it at the last second for another year or two. Advocates for wind and solar have repeatedly said the energy they produce is cheaper than that produced by fossil fuels, but if that were true, they wouldn’t need subsidies to compete. Instead, every time the subsidy has lapsed, even for a week or a month, new wind and solar construction and manufacturing has come to a standstill, with factories closing and workers laid off.
The reconciliation bill would maintain the program through 2031, keeping the taxpayer-funded green energy gravy train rolling for another decade. The support is given in multiple forms, with the choice of how to get paid left to the industry fat cats developing the projects. Developers can receive a $25 per MWh Production Tax Credit for each megawatt hour produced. Alternatively, solar and geothermal developers can choose to take an Investment Tax Credit (ITC) equal to 30 percent of the cost of developing a project. Congress is granting a bonus ITC of 10 or 20 percent for projects developed in low-income areas or housing projects. Instead of taking an ITC or PTC, which reduces taxes owed over time, developers can choose to estimate the cost of construction and amount of energy produced and take a straight cash payment from the government (meaning taxpayers) up front.
Myron Ebell, director of CEI’s Center for Energy and Environment, has listed other green energy provisions in the reconciliation bill. For instance:
- National Climate Banks: $20 billion
- Civilian Climate Corps: $3 billion
- High-speed rail: $10 billion
- Mass transit: $10 billion
- Reconnecting communities: $4 billion
- EPA fund to lower emissions: $7.5 billion
- Energy-efficient houses: up to $2,500 tax credit ($5,000 bonus for zero-energy houses)
- Environmental Justice programs at universities: $1 billion in grants
- 45Q tax credit for CO2 capture, utilization, and storage: $50 per ton of CO2
- New 45Q credit for direct air capture of CO2: $180 per ton
- Clean hydrogen PTC: $3 per kilogram (less for non-green hydrogen)
- Transmission lines: 30 percent of costs
- Sustainable aviation fuel: $1.25 per gallon
- PTC for existing nuclear plants
- Extended clean manufacturing tax credit: 30 percent of costs
With the open-ended spending in some of these programs, the deficit spending for green energy tops the entirety of the deficits run up by the U.S. government during World War II, equaling or exceeding all but the deepest single-year deficits since 1980.
Remember: these subsidies make wealthy green energy profiteers wealthier.
All this spending will produce far more harm than good. It will do nothing to prevent climate change, but it will wreck the nation’s reliable, relatively inexpensive electric power grid and our transportation system.
For a preview of what looms before U.S. consumers, businesses, homeowners, and workers if the House reconciliation bill becomes law, see the second item below describing the impact of similar schemes in Europe.
IN THIS ISSUE …
STOSSEL SUES FACEBOOK OVER FALSE CLIMATE CLAIM ‘FACT-CHECK’ … EUROPE SUFFERING FROM EFFECTS OF CLIMATE POLICY, NOT CLIMATE CHANGE
STOSSEL SUES FACEBOOK OVER FALSE CLIMATE CLAIM ‘FACT-CHECK’
Longtime popular television journalist John Stossel has sued Facebook, accusing the social media giant of defamation, after activist “fact-checkers” for the social media giant labeled two of his videos discussing climate change as “misleading” and “partly false.”
These labels resulted in Facebook limiting access to and promotion of the videos. As a result, the number of viewers fell from more than 24 million for one of the two disputed videos to almost zero for all the videos on Stossel’s Facebook page platform. Stossel has tried for more than a year to get Facebook to remove its labels and cease restricting access to his videos. They’ve refused. He sued.
Stossel says Facebook, as a private entity, has a right to ban him or his videos from the platform, but it does not have the right to lie about what he said.
A group called Climate Feedback served as Facebook’s fact checker of record for a video Stossel posted discussing the causes of wildfires in California. The group labeled it misleading, quoting Stossel as saying, “Forest fires are caused by poor management. Not by climate change.”
The problem is Stossel never said that. Indeed, in the video Stossel explicitly states, “Climate change has made things worse. California has warmed 3 degrees.”
Stossel was able to interview two of the three scientists listed as Climate Feedback’s reviewers. One implied Climate Feedback hadn’t actually reviewed the video, saying, “if this is implying that we have reviewed the video, this is clearly wrong.”
Stossel asked the second reviewer he spoke to, “Is [misleading] a fair label [for the video]?"
“I don't necessarily think so,” Zeke Hausfather of The Breakthrough Institute told Stossel. “While there are plenty of debates around how much to emphasize fire management versus climate change, your piece clearly discussed that both were at fault.”
Even though Climate Feedback’s own reviewers have said on camera the video is not misleading, neither the fact-checker nor Facebook has removed the “misleading” label and stopped throttling access to the video.
Fact-checkers and Facebook labeled a second video, titled “Are We Doomed?,” as “partly false” for “containing some factual inaccuracies.” A reviewer of that video admitted it had no factual inaccuracies. Everything Stossel said is true, yet the fact checker Stossel was able to interview said the video was flagged because it lacked “context.”
The reviewer told Stossel he was cited for “omission of contextual information, rather than specific 'facts' being 'wrong.'" This means the fact check wasn’t about facts but about the reviewing organization’s opinions about what Stossel should have included or said in addition to what his video did say.
“Facebook has every right to choose who can use its platform,” wrote Stossel in a Townhall article discussing the lawsuit. “But Facebook does not have a legal right to knowingly and recklessly lie about what I say. That’s defamation. I hope my lawsuit will make them think twice about doing it again—to me or to anyone else.”
EUROPE SUFFERING FROM EFFECTS OF CLIMATE POLICY, NOT CLIMATE CHANGE
Europe’s push to restrict fossil fuel use with taxes on carbon dioxide emissions and fees; restrictions on domestic natural gas development and the use of fossil fuels to generate electricity; and massive subsidies and mandates for wind and solar energy has resulted in high energy prices and shortages. These, in turn, are causing job losses as companies shut down or move to countries with lower energy prices and more-consistent energy supplies.
The Wall Street Journal reports hundreds of coal-fueled power plants have been shuttered by government decree across Europe and the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, “European countries have spent trillions of dollars subsidizing renewables, which last year for the first time exceeded fossil fuels as a share of electricity production.”
The problem is, as any electrical engineer could have warned (and probably did but was ignored by virtue-signaling politicians who thought they knew better), solar and wind facilities can’t provide reliable power 24 hours a day, seven days a week, because they are dependent on nature. Wind conditions failed this summer across a large swath of Europe and the U.K. This resulted in some countries reopening coal plants and trying to ramp up electricity production from natural gas. But increasing demand for coal in Asia and South America—developing regions that are increasing their use of fossil fuels to power economic growth—caused coal prices to triple. Simultaneously, natural gas prices rose sharply when Russia limited natural gas exports to Europe for political leverage, resulting in natural gas prices increasing by 500 percent. Loss of renewable power, competition for coal, and political manipulation of natural gas supplies resulted in sharply increasing energy prices and inconsistent supplies in Europe.
Europe’s cap-and-trade scheme has exacerbated the problem, pushing energy prices and manufacturing costs even higher. Under the existing carbon dioxide reduction scheme, Europe cut the supply of emission credits when energy prices were already rising. This resulted in a double energy-price shock as described in the Guardian, the Times, and the American Thinker, among other publications. The Wall Street Journal may have captured Europe’s energy woes best, writing,
[A]ll of Europe’s green chickens are coming home to roost. Several U.K. retail electricity providers have collapsed in recent weeks because of the surging price of gas. … [S]ome German power suppliers are in danger of going insolvent. Germany’s electricity prices, which were already the highest in Europe because of heavy reliance on renewables, have more than doubled since February.
Skyrocketing power prices have caused U.K steel makers to suspend production. A former energy adviser to the U.K. government warned last week that the country’s energy shortage this winter could prompt a “three-day working week.” ….
The European Steel Association has warned that the Continent’s producers are becoming globally uncompetitive. Fertilizer producers, which use gas as a feedstock, are raising a fuss. Norway’s Yara International plans to curb 40% of its fertilizer production capacity in Europe. U.S.-owned CF Industries earlier this month halted operations at its fertilizer plant in northeast England, threatening downstream businesses.
Beer and soda manufacturers use the carbon dioxide that is generated as a byproduct of fertilizer production for fizz. Carbon dioxide is also used to stun livestock before they are slaughtered, as well as for vacuum packs and dry ice to store frozen foods. The U.K.’s Food and Drink Federation has warned that consumers might soon notice products missing from supermarket shelves from the carbon-dioxide shortage.
Writing for OilPrice.com, Irina Slav sums up the lesson to be learned from Europe’s embrace of climate alarmism and its concomitant restrictions on fossil fuels:
The common claim that energy can be clean, reliable, and cheap has fallen flat, teaching policymakers a painful lesson.
The harsh reality about carbon taxes is that they increase the cost of living and likely reduce quality of life. ...
[T]he price aspect of the energy transition has been kept out of the public eye by government officials and environmentalist organizations who have all been hard at work hammering home the notion of falling costs for wind turbines and solar panels. As the current energy crunch shows, it’s not all about the falling costs of turbines or panels: even if those costs fall to zero, without sun or wind they cannot generate any electricity.
Of particular interest to my American readers is the fact that the ever-increasing renewable mandates and taxes and fees on carbon dioxide emissions, plus the green mandates, penalties, and subsidies in the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, the $1 trillion infrastructure bill, and President Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan follow the energy course already charted by Europe. There is no reason for thinking they won’t cause the same things here: higher prices, lost jobs, power shortages, and blackouts.
Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr