Anyone remember “Governator” Arnold Schwarzenegger’s grand plan 20 years ago to propel us into a bright green future by building a “hydrogen highway”? Like other preposterous green dreams, it didn’t happen. Despite hundreds of millions of dollars for subsidies and “demonstration projects,” the idea couldn’t get around the difficulty that hydrogen vehicles are prohibitively expensive, and hydrogen fuel costs the gasoline equivalent of $16 a gallon. Thus the hydrogen highway has been consigned to a memory hole.
California’s boutique environmental policy is like Hotel California of Eagles fame—you can check out any time you want, but you can never leave. Despite a string of regulatory failures over the last three decades that you never hear about, the once-Golden State is barreling ahead with new mandates to ban gasoline-powered cars by 2035, and has also promulgated a lunatic regulation to require that half of all heavy trucks be fully electric by the year 2035, with the other half of the fleet presumably soon to follow. Today there are about 300 electric trucks in California, but the mandate means that by 2035 the state will need more than 500,000 to comply, requiring over 150,000 high-capacity chargers that will strain the already shaky electricity grid.
Heavy electric trucks will require massive batteries whose weight will add to highway damage—if they can be afforded at all. Like the hydrogen highway and several other previous “technology-forcing” regulations, both the car and truck regulations are likely to be scaled back or abandoned by 2035. Blunt force regulations of this kind attract public attention and controversy because they are more understandable to the layperson.
All-electric by when?
Other proposals slide beneath the radar because they don’t directly affect consumer-facing products such as cars, trucks, gas stoves, dishwashers, heating and air conditioning, etc. A good example is the Biden administration's Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) proposal for regulations to require publicly-traded corporations to begin reporting their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in detail, with three tiers of scrutiny—“direct” emissions from energy a company produces or uses internally; indirect emissions from energy purchases such as electricity from the grid; and indirect emissions from a company’s supply chain.
This third “scope” (as it is called) is the most controversial, as it is clearly an attempt to extend the reach of the reporting requirement well beyond large publicly corporations, so as to take in a larger domain of commerce.
The SEC’s proposal has run into heavy criticism in Congress and will likely face a serious legal challenge if enacted, so the climate cult is using California as a workaround. Gov. Newsom has signed a bill that would extend the SEC’s three-scope framework to all California corporations—both public and private—with sales over $1 billion, which is probably more than 10,000 in all. Late or inaccurate reporting could subject companies to a $500,000 fine. And because California is such a large business market, a California requirement will have effects well beyond its borders, and other states may well follow with their own copycat reporting mandates. California's move could effectively create a de facto national reporting requirement that solves the SEC's political and legal obstacles.
But what could be the harm of reporting greenhouse gas emissions? Isn’t more information and “transparency” a good thing?
Two observations: First, reporting emissions, especially from a company’s suppliers whose operations the company does not control, is not a simple task. Most emissions inventories of all kinds rely on sophisticated models along with some direct measurements, but in practice the new GHG reporting requirements will be a boon for expensive environmental consultants and law firms to whom the estimation work will be subcontracted, especially by smaller firms that cannot afford the kind of in-house compliance program such a reporting regime will require. In other words, the GHG disclosure regulations are a subsidy for the environmental consultant industry.
Second, how will regulators and the climate cult use the data this disclosure program will produce? Here we should go back in history to 1984, and recall the disaster at the Union Carbide chemical plant in Bhopal, India that killed over 2,000 people and seriously injured tens of thousands more. (Evidence that the disaster was not an accident but deliberate sabotage continues to be denied or ignored by the corporation-bashers of the left.) In the aftermath of Bhopal, the U.S. Congress passed a law setting up a “Toxic Release Inventory” (TRI), in which corporations had to report their use of hundreds of chemicals so as to help communities judge potential “risk” from nearby chemical plants. The TRI is a complete misnomer, as the data include hazardous chemicals properly disposed in heavily regulated toxic waste sites that pose no risk to the public, which turns out to be a majority of the total chemicals “released” in the TRI.
Ever since the TRI was launched in the late 1980s, environmental pressure groups have distorted the data to mau-mau corporations and spread misleading fear in local communities around the country. The same drill is intended with the proposed GHG reporting regulations, and environmental activists have been pushing for this disclosure regime for more than a decade. It’s known as “death by disclosure,” as corporations hate the bad publicity these stunts produce. The only way for a company to get the climate cult off their back is to pledge to the holy trinity of ESG (environment, safety, governance) and make splashy promises to commit to the cause of “climate action.” Cowardly corporate CEOs, which are most of them, will not want to be at the bottom of the list of GHG reporting companies.
Even if you have drunk the Kool-Aid of imminent "climate disaster," there is no good reason for these reporting requirements. We already have extensive economy-wide GHG inventories on the national and international scale. Getting granular data from individual companies provides no significant information If "green energy" technology actually succeeds in delivering affordable energy at scale (I know—just suspend your disbelief for a moment), a GHG inventory will be merely a costly irrelevancy. But that’s the main point: it is purely intended as a propaganda exercise.