In France and the U.S., a Tale of 2 Energy Policies


In France and the U.S., a Tale of 2 Energy Policies

Dec 6, 2018 3 min read
The Hon. Kay Coles James

Emeritus Trustee since 2022

Heritage Trustee from 2005 to 2022 | Heritage President from 2018 to 2021
Yellow vests (Gilets jaunes) protestors shout slogans as material burns during a protest against rising oil prices and living costs in Paris, on November 24, 2018. Mehdi Taamallah/NurPhoto/Sipa US/Newscom

When it comes to the energy and climate policies of the United States and France, there’s a clear fork in the road.

If the past few weeks were any indication, families would rather take the path that avoids expensive, ineffective climate policies. The Trump EPA is leading America down that path marked by energy abundance and affordability.

On Thursday, Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced another important step to capitalize on America’s wealth of natural resources. The agency is proposing revisions to an Obama-era rule on new coal-fired power plants. These revisions would make it easier to build new coal-based electricity generators in the United States.

President Barack Obama’s regulations set new standards for carbon dioxide emissions that power plants could only meet by using carbon capture and sequestration technology, which essentially involves capturing and sequestering CO2 emissions. This technology is prohibitively expensive and not widely used in commercial settings. In essence, this regulation acted as a de facto ban on new coal-fired power plants.

The EPA’s proposed revision to ease these restrictions will allow the new, highly efficient coal-fired power plants to compete in the market. At current consumption rates, we have multiple centuries’ worth of affordable, dependable coal beneath our soil. And we can use it cleanly.

Coal companies won’t be the only beneficiaries of this revision. Households and businesses across the country who consume energy will benefit immensely. More competitive energy markets and cheaper electricity means less of your paycheck going toward utility bills, which means more money to spend at the mall or a restaurant or to save for the future.

For low and fixed-income families who have to decide between keeping the heat on and putting food on the table, cheaper energy is a tremendous blessing. The same goes for businesses who will enjoy lower operating costs.

Contrast the Trump administration’s policies with what’s happening in France.

A few weeks ago, nearly 300,000 French protesters expressed their frustration over costly climate policies that are robbing their bank accounts. French President Emmanuel Macron’s latest tax on diesel is what finally tipped the boat—it added nearly 30 cents on the gallon. The protests soon devolved into riots.

France’s working class is understandably upset over the elitist climate policies pushed by Macron. Those policies disproportionately hurt low and middle-income households, which depend on conventional energy sources. As 21-year-old Laura Cordonnier bluntly said of the government, “They take everything from us. They steal everything from us.”

Diesel prices are already the equivalent of $7 per gallon in Paris. The revenue from the latest diesel tax—which is now on hold amid public frustration—would have gone to subsidize renewable forms of energy. France will also shutter all of its coal plants by 2022. They are even swapping out their most abundant climate-friendly electricity source—nuclear—in favor of the more elite-favored wind and solar.

French citizens, young and old, have had enough. Bruno Brinelli, a 66-year-old retired carpenter, remarked that Macron is “suddenly concerned about ecology, but it’s a lie: It’s a pretext to make us pay more tax. We no longer know what kind of car to buy: petrol, diesel, electric, who knows? I have a little diesel van, and I don’t have the money to buy a new one, especially as I’m about to retire. We have the feeling those from the countryside are forgotten.”

Twenty-four-year-old Joel Mouilleseaux is similarly sick of elitist politicians making decisions for him and forcing him to spend more of his own hard-earned money. He said, “It’s always the same people who have to pay for the madness of others. We have to work to pay, work some more to pay some more, and it’s been like that for years. It’s been like it since I was born, president after president, and now we’re saying, that’s enough. Left, right—for me it’s the same, always the same.”

American voters said enough was enough in the last presidential election. The Trump administration is making good on its promise to end the policy war on coal and capitalize on our energy abundance.

Immediately upon taking office, President Trump’s Cabinet began dismantling Obama’s climate legacy. Economically and environmentally, we’re better off without it. As the French very well know, energy taxes hit families and businesses multiple times over. We all feel the pain of higher energy prices directly at the meter and the pump, and indirectly at the grocery store and through almost all the goods and services we pay for, because energy is such a critical input to nearly every product businesses make.

Add it all up, and you get fewer employment opportunities and a weaker economy.

And all for what? A change in the global temperature would be practically undetectable. All economic pain and no environmental gain.

No wonder the French are dissatisfied and Macron’s climate policies are wildly unpopular. Without these expensive, ineffective policies, we’ll be wealthier and have more resources to tackle whatever challenges come our way.

The acting EPA administrator has a Herculean task in correcting an agency that had run rogue for eight years under the Obama administration. But families and businesses across the country will feel the impact, and be thankful for it.

Thursday’s announcement is yet another pivot in the right direction that will allow us to capitalize on our plentiful natural resources, while also protecting the environment.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal