Democrats say they support green energy. Why do their policies say otherwise?

Since Grover Cleveland was president, no one has accused the average politician of being principled or even consistent. Year after year, Republicans claim they care about fiscal prudence, but when they’re in power, they spend like Democrats. Democrats, on the other hand, insist that they want to initiate a transition to a green energy economy, but their actions contradict that goal.

Of course, you’d miss these contradictions if you only looked at the effort Democrats are putting into distributing green energy subsidies. The 2021 Infrastructure Bill and the Inflation Reduction Act passed last year included enormous subsidies for green energy. Then Congress doubled down by passing a $1.7 trillion omnibus bill in late 2022. This bill includes major increases in funding for clean energy and other climate-related programs, including the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, biofuel research and development and climate research programs of other agencies.

Looking at the subsidies alone, you might believe that the Democrats are in on the act of using the government to force green energy. But such a focus is too narrow.

For one, the private sector has probably yet to discover most of the innovations that can truly address climate change. It’s a risky bet that the few options that government officials have chosen and are heavily in favor of—namely solar and wind—will turn out to be the best options. And, in fact, government incentives can be counterproductive because they direct investment toward politically attractive but scientifically or economically unpromising options, while leaving truly promising options underfunded, regardless of their value. We’ve already seen this happen with the Section 1705 green energy program, when DOE funding attracted many private investors to the now-defunct Solyndra and Abound solar.

Another contradiction marring the Democrats’ approach to green energy is that they want to pay for the subsidies by dramatically increasing income and capital gains taxes. This is counterproductive, as high capital gains taxation will reduce private sector innovation and investment, including green energy projects. Furthermore, neither subsidies nor taxes on income or wealth do much to reduce energy consumption. User charges applied to energy would be more appropriate for this outcome. Yet Democrats, being more interested in soaking the rich, remain obsessed with income and capital gains.

Greater reliance on green energy also requires a massive increase in mineral extraction to provide the necessary materials. Even if the world unquestionably possesses the mineral capacity necessary for the global energy transformation envisioned by President Joe Biden, Democrats are practically enemies of mining. The US Association of Mines estimates that the country has $6.2 trillion in mineral resources like copper and zinc available for mining on millions of acres of federal, state and private lands. Unfortunately, our labor, health and climate regulations often make profitable mining virtually impossible. As a result, these precious resources remain in the country, which explains why the United States has gone from the world’s number one mineral producer in 1990 to seventh place today.

Democrats committed to a green energy transition should prioritize reforming counterproductive regulations like the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and implementing other permitting reforms. Most won’t, though, as we saw last year when they helped broker a permit deal between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–NY) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D–W.Va.). This is especially maddening because the burden of permitting has been shown to do little to protect the environment.

To make matters worse, when given the chance, Democrats will go so far as to proactively fence off undeveloped mineral-rich deposits, limiting any hope of future increases in supply. That’s what Interior Secretary Deb Haaland just did when she declared Minnesota’s Upper National Forest, home to an abundance of materials needed for electric vehicle parts, off-limits to mining.

If Democrats were consistent, they would be willing to give up certain climate goals to keep minerals in the country. But he won’t do that either. As a result, the United States now relies on countries with undesirable governments, many of which use slave labor, to supply us with the minerals we need to produce green energy. And let’s not forget that our reliance on foreign mineral mining is somehow happening because the administration continues to insist on cumbersome “made in America” ​​requirements in other parts of the economy.

As I said, no one has ever accused politicians of being paragons of consistency.


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