Climate Change Self-Delusion

COMMENTARY Environment

Climate Change Self-Delusion

Nov 18, 2014 2 min read
Stephen Moore

Senior Visiting Fellow, Economics

Stephen Moore is a Senior Visiting Fellow in Economics at The Heritage Foundation.

That sound you’re hearing from across the Pacific is the Chinese rulers and Beijing laughing at us.

President Obama and the “green” lobby actually think China is going to honor the new U.S.-China climate-change agreement that pushes both nations to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions over the next 15 years. China agreed to a “target” of deriving 20 percent of its energy needs from renewable resources “around” 2030. In exchange, Mr. Obama agreed that American families and businesses will aim to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by at least 26 percent by 2025 from 2005 levels.

This is not a planet-saving climate-change pact. Rather this plan represents unilateral economic disarmament by the United States as Beijing continues its quest to replace America as the globe’s economic superpower. Raising China’s energy prices by transitioning to highly inefficient forms of electricity production conflicts with Beijing’s strategic mission of economic pre-eminence, and adherence to the agreement is doubly unlikely to happen at a time when the Chinese economy has shown signs of slowing down.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration and the Environmental Protection Agency are deadly serious about strangling U.S. energy security and production with new anti-carbon-dioxide mandates.

That’s what has the Chinese — and most of our other international competitors — dancing a little jig this week. Thanks to the shale-oil and gas-drilling revolution, the United States is now once again the world’s top petroleum producer. America also has nearly 300 years’ worth of coal. The economy harmed the most by taxing and regulating these energy sources eventually out of existence is that of the United States. Mr. Obama is vowing to advance policies estimated to put hundreds of thousands of blue-collar, mostly unionized American workers out of business. Coal regulations alone could render more than 150,000 coal miners, truck drivers and coal-power plant workers unemployed, Congratulations, Mr. President. What a victory.

The irony of all this is that the United States has already reduced its carbon-dioxide emissions more than any other industrial nation (from 2003 to 2011), thanks to cheap and abundant natural gas. Meanwhile, China’s emissions have skyrocketed. China is building one coal-burning energy plant nearly every month. The Chinese are trying to figure out how to do fracking so they can get at their oil and gas resources — launching a five-year, $275 billion plan toward the efforts last year. They are importing huge amounts of coal from the United States. They just signed a pipeline deal presently valued at $300 billion with Russian President Vladimir Putin to transport billions of barrels of oil and gas to China.

Does any of this sound like the agenda of a nation that is ready to swear off fossil fuels?

It’s all a ruse, of course. Chinese President Xi Jinping tipped his true intentions with his solemn joint declaration with Mr. Obama that China hereby “targets to peak CO2 emissions around 2030, with the intention to try to peak early.” Intends to. Gee, that’s an ironclad promise you can take to the bank.

The greens at groups such as the Environmental Defense Fund are spinning this agreement as a victory for the U.S. economy. Their pitch is that America will now lead the world in renewable energy in the 21st century as we led the world in fossil-fuels development in the first half of the 20th century. Do they really think we will power a soon-to-be $20 trillion industrial economy with windmills and solar power? Even if solar becomes price-competitive within the next 15 or 20 years, we still need our homegrown fossil fuels.

Europe — in particular, Germany — bought into the renewable energy-green jobs charade a decade ago. Now their economies are cratering because their energy costs have skyrocketed. That’s the path Mr. Obama’s climate-change pact would take us down. It will cripple U.S. industries by force-feeding them expensive electric power. We will displace millions of highly paid U.S. workers in the oil, gas and coal industries. We will increase the cost of electric utilities as well as home-heating costs.

We are ceding our natural competitive advantages to China — in effect transferring millions of jobs outside the United States. That is why the Chinese and the rest of the world are laughing at us.

 - Stephen Moore is chief economist at the Heritage Foundation.

Originally appeared in The Washington Times