The swift and startling collapse of the net-zero climate agenda nearly everywhere is leading to political desperation. Don’t be surprised to see the political emergency — especially President Joe Biden’s — become the basis for declaring a formal “climate emergency.” Despite hundreds of billions in new subsides for “green energy” enacted over the last three years in the U.S. and Europe—on top of several trillion dollars spent so far—renewable power projects are being canceled, delayed, or scaled back nearly everywhere.
The green energy lobby, already the beneficiary of some of the most lavish subsidies governments have ever granted for any industry, are saying that the future of green energy depends on even larger subsidies. It was recently revealed that Germany’s off-budget spending for energy subsidies is nearly larger than the regular budget for the entire government, and Germany’s normally deferential Constitutional Court has ruled against the Scholz government’s proposal to divert billions in unspent Covid funds to the green energy rathole.
More expensive mush from the wimp.
The situation in the United States differs only in the timeline. The U.S. is fast catching up with Germany in the sweepstakes for the most green-mad nation, as Biden’s direct subsidies, loan guarantees, tax favors, and green mandates likely exceed $1 trillion in total cost this decade. But already it is running into trouble. One of his largest green slush funds is having trouble spending all the billions, and the projects it has funded are likely to yield the same results as Biden’s favorite green energy project under the Obama Administration’s previous slush fund: Solyndra.
Car buyers aren’t rushing to embrace electric vehicles (that are slated to be mandatory for everyone in a decade), car makers are cutting EV production and canceling planned battery manufacturing plants. Offshore solar wind power projects are being abandoned, and onshore wind projects are facing mounting opposition from the public.
Fanciful claims that renewable energy is cheaper than conventional energy are belied by soaring utility rates in the U.S. and elsewhere. Wyoming, for example, the nation’s leading coal-producing state, is suddenly facing a 30 percent increase in electric utility rates because it foolishly joined the renewable-energy bandwagon. Green energy stocks have collapsed this year. For example, the Invesco WilderHill Clean Energy exchange-traded green energy fund PBW is down 30 percent in 2023, while the S&P 500 is up 19 percent and the NASDAQ is up 36 percent.
While everyone is looking at the mind-boggling green spending totals, a sly move by the Biden administration is drawing little attention outside of the specialized energy press (and Fox News). Two weeks ago President Biden invoked the Defense Production Act to divert $169 million in federal funds to expand the production of heat pumps. While $169 million is hardly rounding error in federal spending these days, this move is notable for several reasons.
First, why the mania for heat pumps? Heat pumps can be more energy efficient than conventional gas or fuel oil furnaces in many circumstances, but usually cost more than conventional furnaces or air conditioning, which is one reason why Britain recently backed off plans to mandate widespread adoption of heat pumps in homes whose heating and cooling systems don’t need replacing.
Heat pumps: this is war!
Heat pumps are the latest obsession of the climate cult with any technology that displaces natural gas, which is now public enemy number one. There are plenty of heat pumps on the market today, and consumers are perfectly capable of making intelligent choices about whether future energy cost savings justify a higher up-front price today. Most American consumers are choosing conventional HVAC systems, to the fury of the climate cultists. Making heat pumps mandatory, like the fanatical drive to ban natural gas stoves and forcing us to use dishwashers and clothes washing machines that don’t work, is the next step.
So why does the Biden administration think it necessary to invoke a power meant for national defense emergencies to juice heat pump production? What do heat pumps have to do with national defense needs? Nothing. But the Biden administration justifies the use of the Defense Production Act because expanded heat pump production will bolster “energy security” and help fight climate change. After all, the Pentagon, which has long experience with the art of embracing any cause that will help secure its budget appropriations, has fallen in line declaring that "climate change" is a significant national security threat.
No one should be the least surprised at this cynical misuse of emergency executive power. It is entirely typical of executive lawlessness of recent Democratic administrations, such as Biden’s student loan forgiveness (struck down by the Supreme Court, though Biden is trying again), or Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which was amnesty for illegal immigrants in all but name, or Obama’s so-called “Clean Power Plan” (also struck down by the Supreme Court).
The invocation of the Defense Production Act may be a tiny warmup for the next big use of executive power on behalf of climate change. Since Biden took office the most vocal climate cultists have been demanding that Biden formally declare a “climate emergency.” Biden and his followers persist in referring to the “climate crisis,” so declaring a climate emergency would seem the sensible next step in this progression. The news hook to justify this step is already in front of us: the hyped-up claims that 2023 is "virtually certain" to be the hottest year on record:
This year is “virtually certain” to be the hottest year in recorded history, the World Meteorological Organization announced on Thursday at COP28, the United Nations climate summit in Dubai where delegates from nearly 200 countries, including many heads of state and government, have gathered.
The organization said 2023 has been about 1.4 degrees Celsius, or about 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit, above the global average preindustrial temperature from 1850 to 1990. The past nine years have been the warmest nine in 174 years of recorded scientific observations, with the previous single-year records set in 2020 and 2016. This comes in addition to record greenhouse gas concentrations, sea levels and concentrations of methane. “It’s a deafening cacophony of broken records,” Petteri Taalas, the secretary general of the World Meteorological Organization, said in Dubai.
Broken records, indeed: the supposed “climate emergency” coincides with a real political emergency for Biden’s re-election. With polls showing Biden slipping badly among young voters—a key constituency for him and the Democrats—a formal declaration of a climate emergency under the National Emergencies Act of 1976 would be a sop to a cohort of voters that supposedly cares a lot about "climate change," and who tell pollsters that we aren’t doing enough to fight it.
The declaration of a climate emergency under the National Emergencies Act could have significantly larger consequences than the diversion of funds to heat pumps under the Defense Production Act. One of the ironies of the green energy drive under Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act is that the environmental law and regulations that have been abused to stop development for the last 50 years are currently in the way of wind and solar power installations and aggressive expansions of the electricity grid. Biden could waive or short-circuit a number of these regulatory roadblocks, though a future president named Trump or DeSantis could use the very same power to apply regulatory relief more broadly. This is probably among the reasons Biden has resisted declaring a climate emergency so far. But when you face a political emergency, all restraints come off.