A few months ago, in his State of the Union address, President Obama proudly pledged to tackle climate change -- despite opposition from Republicans. Since then, little action to combat climate change has been seen from the White House -- which angers the left.
Obama hasn't been definitive on killing the Keystone pipeline; as the Washington Post reports, he's "fallen back from the broad clean energy agenda he envisioned when he first took office" -- even to the point of supporting natural gas exploration; and he seems to have acquiesced to a fossil-fuel future by proposing adaptations to make "coastal communities more resistant to increasingly severe storms and floods."
The environmental community wants to see bold steps toward a fossil-fuel free future.
The Sierra Club believes: "On climate, we're worse off than we were when the president's second term started," and the Natural Resources Defense Council, is calling on the president to "outline exactly how he plans to combat global warming by 2016."
Yet, when the White House made a decision to raise the social cost of carbon emissions by 60 percent -- which will have a costly impact on the economy with wide-ranging implications for everything from power plants to the Keystone pipeline, there were no optics: no fanfare, no press conference, no announcement.
Tucked into a rule about microwave ovens' efficiency standards is an increase in the figure the government uses to weigh costs and benefits of proposed regulations. The "so-called social cost of carbon," represents the "approximate losses from global warming such as flood damage and diminished crops." Think of it as "a monetary estimate of the damages caused by carbon emissions" that "all federal agencies must use when formulating regulations." The White House Office of Management and Budget raised the cost of a metric ton of carbon from the current $23.80 to $38 -- which gives the administration "justification to be more aggressive than they otherwise would be," explained Jeff Holmstead, air quality chief at the EPA under President George W. Bush.
Frank Ackerman, an economist at Tufts University, calls the social cost of carbon: "the most important number you've never heard of." According to BusinessWeek, he said: "This is a very strange way to make policy about something this important."
Why bury "something this important" in an afternoon announcement about something that is virtually insignificant? The answer, I believe, is found in the Washington Post story cited previously. Apparently, the White House's own research found that when Obama, in his State of the Union speech, "vowed to act on climate change if Congress refused to do so," a focus group's "favorability" rating "plummeted."
As a result, his Organizing for America team -- "formed to advance the president's second term agenda" -- has been laying the "groundwork with the American public before unveiling a formal climate strategy." Teasing out the increase in the social cost of carbon was likely part of the strategy, intended to test the waters ahead of the planned climate announcements from the White House. Likewise, his comments in Berlin, where he reintroduced the subject, calling climate change "the global threat of our time." The next day, headlines read: "Obama to renew emissions push." It is believed that the new "measures to tackle climate change" will "effectively ban new coal-fired power plants" -- which will also ban "cheap electricity."
The Wall Street Journal reports that U.S. power generation is, once again, using more coal -- reversing the trend toward natural gas: "A flood of inexpensive natural gas led to the highest-ever use of that fuel for electricity generation while coal-fired electricity fell to its lowest level in a quarter-century." Natural gas prices have been creeping higher and have pushed an increased use of coal in attempt to keep electricity costs as low as possible -- after all, progressives and career environmentalists Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhous, of the Breakthrough Institute, posit: cheap electricity is a public good and a human right that has saved the forests, produced more food on less land, and lifted incomes.
Believers in anthropogenic global warming, they acknowledge that "modernization" does have "side effects," but they believe that these are problems that can be "dealt with." They claim that "energy poverty causes more harm to the poor than global warming" and that cheap energy makes the poor vastly less vulnerable to climate impacts.
Shellenberger and Nordhous close "How the Left Came to Reject Cheap Energy for the Poor" by stating that the 1.3 billion people who lack cheap grid electricity should get it. "It will dramatically improve their lives, reduce deforestation, and make them more resilient to climate impacts. … Any effort worthy of being called progressive, liberal, or environmental, must embrace a high energy planet."
This line of reasoning presented here, begs some questions:
Your answers to these questions should scare you and bring another question to your mind: How do we stop this and save America?
The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens' Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE).