It’s starting to look as if the world is emerging, albeit slowly and reluctantly, from the utopian dream of halting and reversing climate change by policies based on almost exclusively on mitigation rather than on adaptation. These two approaches have always been the practical choice between real-world alternatives. A mixture of the two leaning mainly towards adaptation is probably the best approach since the costs of mitigation—as in achieving Net-Zero carbon emissions—are huge and its benefits either modest or unachievable.
For reasons outside the scope of this short commentary, however, the world’s governments and global agencies have placed all their money on the mitigation approach. I write carelessly “their money.” It is, of course, other people’s money. And we are gradually discovering just how much of other people’s money they are investing in climate change mitigation. Prepare to be shocked.
Recently the Financial Times reported as follows:
Thirty of the world’s biggest asset managers, which collectively oversee $9tn, have set a goal of achieving net zero carbon emissions across their investment portfolios by 2050 in a move expected to have huge ramifications for businesses globally. The group, which includes Fidelity International, Legal & General Investment Management, Schroders, UBS Asset Management, M&G, Wellington Management and DWS, said they would work with their clients to cut emissions across their investments.
That attracted the attention of National Review’s Andrew Stuttaford (full disclosure: an old friend) who devoted his regular weekly column on finance to examining how and why Wall Street decided to plunge so wholeheartedly into green ink investments. It’s a real humdinger of a column because it solves a financial mystery.
After all, the purpose of investment institutions is to deliver the best return on the money that they are lent by savers and pensioners. If an investment house says that it intends to make mitigating climate change one of its main aims, it’s also telling you that your money will be getting a lower rate of return than it otherwise might. That’s a clear betrayal of the fiduciary duty that agents owe to their principals—unless they level with them and admit the likely loss.
That’s exactly what happens with other ESG funds, and I’ve no doubt that this admission will appear in the middle of the voluminous fine print which warns purchasers that socially conscious investments are likely to perform less well than the average. At the same time all the great and the good of the financial, political, and regulatory world from Al Gore to Mike Bloomberg to Mark Carney are bent on assuring nervous investors that they are making a prudent decision in going green.
Their argument boils down to claiming that any investor risks from green investments are trivial compared to the risks of investing in fossil fuels which are likely to prove unprofitable investments in a world moving towards Net-Zero and which might make those companies vulnerable to expensive lawsuits and regulatory restrictions.
The fallacies embedded in that argument were challenged by me in February last year in the first column I wrote for The Pipeline—which was a criticism of Mark Carney’s strident advocacy of strong measure of financial regulation to direct investors into the “right” green companies.
Yet if these climate forecasts are either exaggerated or simply uncertain [as they are], what is the test which would tell us with some reliability that the market demand for fossil fuels is likely to fall along with the value of companies that extract them. It cannot be the additional stress tests or capital requirements that regulators may want the banks to impose on energy companies, for then the regulators would be using their own interventions as the justification for intervening. As yet, however, non-official market participants can’t seem to see spontaneous causes for this threat to the energy sector.
But my tentative point is made more vividly and powerfully by the economist John Cochrane (quoted by Stuttaford) in an address to the European Central Bank in a reply to one of its senior executives:
Let me quote from ECB executive board member Isabel Schnabel’s recent speech. I don’t mean to pick on her, but she expresses the climate agenda very well, and her speech bears the ECB imprimatur. She recommends that,
‘First, as prudential supervisor, we have an obligation to protect the safety and soundness of the banking sector. This includes making sure that banks properly assess the risks from carbon-intensive exposures. . . .’
Let me point out the unclothed emperor: climate change does not pose any financial risk at the one-, five-, or even ten-year horizon at which one can conceivably assess the risk to bank assets. Repeating the contrary in speeches does not make it so. Risk means variance, unforeseen events. We know exactly where the climate is going in the next five to ten years. Hurricanes and floods, though influenced by climate change, are well modeled for the next five to ten years. Advanced economies and financial systems are remarkably impervious to weather. Relative market demand for fossil vs. alternative energy is as easy or hard to forecast as anything else in the economy. Exxon bonds are factually safer, financially, than Tesla bonds, and easier to value. The main risk to fossil fuel companies is that regulators will destroy them, as the ECB proposes to do, a risk regulators themselves control. (My italics.)
“A risk regulators themselves control.” I hesitate to accuse a former governor of the Bank of England, a former Vice President of the United States, and a former Mayor of New York of financial legerdemain, but I think there are laws against stock manipulation of that kind—though I doubt legislators ever envisaged fraud on the scale of nine trillion dollars.
My own advice to investors and pension fund managers is to fight shy of the “watermelon investments” recommended by the great and good. They are written in Green ink today, Red ink tomorrow.
Consider tobacco companies instead. They survived the legal and regulatory onslaught, and today they’re nice little earners.
Tuned in politicos have been delighting in the Hindenburg-esque descent of hyper partisan Clinton-loyalist Neera Tanden’s nomination as head of the Office of Management and Budget. But another tense confirmation battle has been less commented upon. Congresswoman Deb Haaland was nominated by President Biden to serve as Secretary for the Interior. Haaland is a staunch environmentalist Green New Dealer and putting her in charge of that department would be bad news for the resource sector.
In a piece entitled Deb Haaland Could Be a Disaster at Interior, Paul Gessing tells us why:
Haaland.... has taken radically anti-fossil-fuel positions throughout her political career. In 2016, prior to being elected to Congress, Haaland traveled to North Dakota to cook food for the protesters demonstrating against the Dakota Access Pipeline. She stayed in the camps for four days that September. In May 2019, [she] told The Guardian, “I am wholeheartedly against fracking and drilling on public land.”
As you can imagine, Republican senators haven't been enthusiastic about Haaland's nomination. During her confirmation hearing, she had a tense confrontation with senators John Barrasso and Bill Cassidy -- both of whom are doctors -- over a social media post in which she asserted that "Republicans don't believe in science." After hammering her about Biden's Keystone XL termination, Cassidy pointed to a State Department scientific survey which held that "building the pipeline lowers greenhouse gas emissions,” and voiced his concern that, under Haaland, the Interior department would “be guided by a prejudice against fossil fuel [and not] guided by science.”
But more important than Republican objections, Joe Manchin -- perhaps the most powerful senator due to his status as the most conservative Democrat in an evenly divided chamber -- remains undecided on Haaland. If he votes 'No' -- a big if, though Haaland's comrade Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez seems to trying to goad him into doing just that -- it would be nearly impossible for Team Biden to get her over the finish line.
In any event, if Haaland's nomination goes the way of Tanden's, maybe Biden will start thinking more strategically about how to get through appointments with the senate we actually have. No more partisan bomb throwers perhaps. Maybe he could even cut out the middle man and just ask Manchin to make the appointment for him. Worse things could happen.
The finger-pointing is well under way in Texas. And understandably so, as the situation on the ground is such a disaster. Millions of people are without power and heat, water pipes are bursting, and thus far thirty deaths have been blamed on the weather and the attendant outages. In a recent interview, Gov. Greg Abbott argued that Green energy is a big part of the problem:
This shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America. Texas is blessed with multiple sources of energy such as natural gas and nuclear as well as solar and wind. Our wind and our solar got shut down and they were collectively more than 10 percent of our power grid. And that thrust Texas into a situation where it was lacking power on a statewide basis.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the face of the Green New Deal, took to Twitter to hit back, saying that the governor has it exactly backwards:
The infrastructure failures in Texas are quite literally what happens when you don’t pursue a Green New Deal. Weak on sweeping next-gen public infrastructure investments, little focus on equity so communities are left behind, climate deniers in leadership so they don’t long prep for disaster. We need to help people now. Long-term we must realize these are the consequences of inaction.
Which sounds vaguely inspiring, but it doesn't rebut Abbott's charge. He claims that the failure of so-called renewable energy, upon which Texas's power grid relies, led to the whole system being overwhelmed. Ocasio-Cortez replied that it'd be nice if Texas had updated its infrastructure. That's probably true, but that doesn't mean it is "quite literally what happens when you don’t pursue a Green New Deal." Why not update the existing infrastructure, reinforcing it against extreme weather, rather than replacing everything -- and with a less reliable power source -- as the GND mandates?
In response to the environmentalist fury at the suggestion that 'renewables' bear any responsibility for this disaster, the Wall Street Journal has a patient walk through of the part that they actually did play.
Last week wind generation plunged as demand surged. Fossil-fuel generation increased and covered the supply gap. Thus between the mornings of Feb. 7 and Feb. 11, wind as a share of the state’s electricity fell to 8 percent from 42 percent, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Gas-fired plants produced 43,800 MW of power Sunday night and coal plants chipped in 10,800 MW—about two to three times what they usually generate at their peak on any given winter day—after wind power had largely vanished. In other words, gas and coal plants held up in the frosty conditions far better than wind turbines did.
By Monday the 15th, temperatures had dropped so low that conventional power plants (aided, yes, by infrastructure failures) began struggling to cover the surging demand. On Tuesday, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas put out a statement saying it "appears that a lot of the generation that has gone offline today has been primarily due to issues on the natural gas system." The WSJ observes that wind's apologists "are citing this statement as exoneration. But note he used the word “today.” Most wind power had already dropped offline last week.... Gas power nearly made up for the shortfall in wind, though it wasn’t enough to cover surging demand."
So, to the Greenies working overtime to assign blame for the disaster in Texas, maybe take a look in the mirror.
On Sunday, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and minority leader Chuck Schumer announced that they had come to an agreement on the details of a second Covid-19 relief package. There had been a lot of public wrangling over what the bill should look like, with senators Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) calling for $1,200 payments to Americans to compensate them for the economic disruption of the government-imposed lockdowns, a provision which President Trump supported but which was ultimately thwarted by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.).
There was debate about whether businesses should be granted immunity from Covid-related lawsuits (to which the Democrats objected), and whether state and local governments adversely effected by the pandemic should be bailed out (to which the Republicans objected). In the end, after a number of compromises, senators were left with a neat, tidy bill which they could all be happy with.
Or at least, that was what leadership expected them to say. In fact, the text of the bill was more than 5,000 pages long, and wasn't released until two hours before it was to be voted on. For once, AOC is right:
This is why Congress needs time to actually read this package before voting on it.
Members of Congress have not read this bill. It’s over 5000 pages, arrived at 2pm today, and we are told to expect a vote on it in 2 hours.
This isn’t governance. It’s hostage-taking. https://t.co/JpBbEHHkVG
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) December 21, 2020
Not reading it didn't stop Congress from passing the $2.3 trillion legislation by huge margins on Monday. To echo AOC's leader on another massive bill, I guess they had to pass it for us to find out what's in it.
That's exactly what we're finding out now, and there are quite a few howlers, from $10 million for Pakistani "gender programs" to the creation of a committee to combat performance enhancing drug use in horse racing. But the surprising provisions which feature the most prominently in the actual text of the bill are all climate related. This is from an AP report entitled "Congress takes aim at climate change in massive relief bill":
The huge pandemic relief and spending bill includes billions of dollars to promote clean energy such as wind and solar power while sharply reducing over time the use of potent coolants in air conditioners and refrigerators.... The energy and climate provisions, supported by lawmakers from both parties, were hailed as the most significant climate change law in at least a decade. “Republicans and Democrats are working together to protect the environment through innovation,” said Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
The sprawling legislation also extends tax credits for solar and wind power that are a key part of President-elect Joe Biden’s ambitious plan to generate 100 percent “clean electricity” by 2035. Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware... said the bill would cut pollution from school buses, air conditioners, refrigerators and more, while creating thousands of American jobs and helping “save our planet from the climate crisis.″ “Make no mistake,″ he said, the new legislation “will soon be some of the most significant climate solutions to pass out of Congress to date.″
For all of the hand wringing over this being the second largest bill in American history, as well as attempts by Johnson and others to trim down benefits to individual Americans, Republicans and Democrats conspired to shower taxpayer dollars on questionable and controversial green priorities which have nothing to do with the virus, without saying a word about it in public.
It's almost as if the pandemic is just an excuse to do whatever they already wanted to do to begin with.
On Wednesday I mentioned that Democrats were disappointed by the failure of their projected blue wave to materialize. Their congressional majority has been whittled down to almost nothing, the best they can hope for in the Senate is a draw, and in the presidential race, the decisive rejection of Donald Trump they were hoping for didn't happen.
What's more, less radical (or more pragmatic) office holders, like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), have been arguing that the Green New Deal, along with other extremist proposals like Medicare for All and Defunding the Police, are the reason they fared so poorly.
But, of course, backing off on such proposals, which might make the party more attractive to actual voters, would alienate the leftist donor class. So what is the solution? Executive orders of course! Faced with a similarly divided government, Barack Obama proudly proclaimed that his administration was
[N]ot just going to be waiting for legislation.... I've got a pen and I've got a phone… and I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions.
In various liberal publications right now, the details of a Biden administration's own climate-related "pen and phone" strategy are being hammered out.
To take just one example, in the Los Angeles Times, Anna M. Phillips has a list of five climate actions Biden can take immediately, "without Congress’ help." These include imposing California's onerous auto emissions standards nationwide; halting the issuance of new permits for fracking and oil drilling on federal land (a position Biden stumbled his way onto over the course of his campaign), as well as imposing new regulations on oil and gas companies operating on existing federal permits (decidedly not something he campaigned on); declaring a climate national emergency; and creating a "climate club" of countries who mutually agree to reduce carbon emission through carbon taxation.
On this last point, a club would have two uses. First, if all nations involved impose carbon taxes on themselves, none can reap the economic rewards of being a cheaper and easier place to live or do business. And second, each one can mutually agree to punish any other country that attempts to get a leg up on the others, "through trade measures such as tariffs" in Phillips' words. It is worth noting that leftists have already started making lists of countries they want to see punished in this way -- see this Vox article entitled "How Joe Biden could make Brazil his first “climate outlaw.”
By the way, if you're surprised to see Brazil as the highest climate priority, rather than mega-polluter China -- the world's second largest economy -- you'll be doubly so to read through article and see China mentioned as a potential ally against Brazil. This is as good a detail as any to demonstrate that this isn't really about the climate, it's about power.
So, while AOC's legislative Green New Deal might be D.O.A. in Congress, the Executive Green New Deal is rarin' to go. We will all suffer the consequences.
Maybe I’ve got the date wrong, but although the Biden presidency doesn’t actually start for another ten weeks on Inauguration Day, January the 20th, its more progressive supporters are already ordering guillotines and tumbrils for the following day. That’s a metaphor, of course, even though the noisy Portland wing of the quiet revolution did erect a guillotine in the suburbs and even guillotined a teddy bear (“Teddy” being the Mayor’s name) on it while in Seattle the social justice warrior crowd wrote “Guillotine Jenny” on the walls (Jenny being the name of Seattle’s Mayor.)
If that were the extent of the outrages, we might put it down to high spirits (though the Seattle and Portland mobs never seemed especially jolly, and they left real victims of their street theater injured and hospitalized after the curtain fell). But the theme of purging and punishing the pre-November criminals of “the Trump regime” (the Trump administration to the rest of us) is being taken up by outwardly more respectable people.
And it can’t be explained solely by the joy of “liberation” that has seemingly gripped the mass media and the political class since the networks proclaimed Biden president. It started well before the election campaign. Back in the summer a group of about 100 Democrats and Republican Never-Trumpers from politics, the media, and academia met over several days “to conduct simulations of the 2020 presidential election . . . out of concern that the Trump administration may seek to manipulate the results.” As I argued in National Review, it was largely an exercise in promoting the fear that Trump would unconstitutionally seize power while actually laying out a scenario as to how the Democrats could do so. So it was both an exercise in Freudian projection and a leftist wet dream.
But it became more sinister in an appendix when it discussed how a victorious Left in a Biden administration would deal with the remnants of the Trump administration after taking power. The gathering didn’t reach a decision on which actions to take against Trump family members or senior administration officials—understandably so since many of those sitting around the table might themselves be vulnerable to similar political reprisals one day.
What, though, about the broader Trump movement and the Republican party? Here the Transition Integrity Project was shockingly candid in that oddly impersonal language the Left likes to use when proposing its own crimes:
More broadly, there needs to be a robust, intentional, and specific strategy to challenge the white supremacist and extremist networks that enabled Trump’s rise to power and were in turn enabled by Trump’s administration. This base will not automatically demobilize if and when Trump leaves office, and it is inimical to the kind of pluralist democracy the founders intended.
“ . . .will not automatically demobilize.” So if the Trump movement won’t automatically demobilize, what then? Isn’t that obvious? It will have to be demobilized by a “robust, intentional, and specific strategy to challenge” what the Left has declared are its “white supremacist and extremist networks.” After all, it’s what “the founders intended.”
That was before the election, and it was written in the appendix to a document that few people were likely to see and which was designed to attack an administration rather than to urge it on to greater efforts. Since the election the sound has been turned up, and the message is clearer and less subtle. Here are a couple of examples in recent days:
“We have to burn down the Republican Party, we have to level them, because if there are survivors, they will do this again”
Media pundit & Biden supporter Jennifer Rubin on MSNBC
No. For God’s sake please stop this 💔
Anger leads to hate ✋🏽pic.twitter.com/hQUqBGVt7y
— Maajid أبو عمّار (@MaajidNawaz) November 8, 2020
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, re-elected as a Congresswoman, urges people to start preparing briefs for the prosecution right away:
Is anyone archiving these Trump sycophants for when they try to downplay or deny their complicity in the future? I foresee decent probability of many deleted Tweets, writings, photos in the future
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) November 6, 2020
There’s even now a new website, titled the Trump Accountability Project, which has issued a statement of principles for holding Trump veterans to account as follows:
Those who took a paycheck from the Trump Administration should not profit from their efforts to tear our democracy apart. The world should never forget those who, when faced with a decision, chose to put their money, their time, and their reputations behind separating children from their families, encouraging racism and anti-Semitism, and negligently causing the unnecessary loss of life and economic devastation from our country's failed response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It's slightly embarrassing, I suppose, that the very first example of Trump perfidy that the statement selects—putting children in cages—has already been exposed on Twitter (with the evidence of photographs) as a program launched and implemented by the Obama administration. And the group’s website suggests that it’s little more as yet than a bright idea. But it’s already spreading across the internet like Covid-19; it’s guaranteed to get generous funding via all the groups advertising it; and to judge from the Twitter responses to Rubin, Ocasio-Cortez, and others, there’s a large audience of Robespierres and Madame Defarges out there at the foot of the guillotine.
My suspicion is that a new Southern Poverty Law Center has been launched with all that means for the criminalization of political differences, the destruction of innocent people’s reputations, the promotion of guilt by association . . . this time with the Republican party, and the making of large sums of money from the sins of calumny and detraction. All that’s in doubt is whether the Lincoln Project will be able to clamber aboard the bandwagon and, if it does, whether it will have to sit at the back of it.
Well, the Republican party can take good care of itself, and probably so can Donald Trump, though he won’t have the protective phalanx of media and Big Tech protesters that have surrounded Joe and Hunter Biden since their scandals broke. What should worry moderate liberals and Democrats, however, is that the crimes for which Trump veterans will be supposedly held accountable don’t seem to have been passed into law by Congress or state legislatures as yet. They cover a great many issues that until now have been treated as matters of legitimate political, scientific, and moral debate, including such rarefied offenses as being skeptical about climate change.
That’s a crime that would imprison a great many dedicated scientific researchers as well as destroying the big oil companies and maybe entire industries without any idea of how to keep the world warm or air-conditioned in the perhaps long interval before someone makes a series of vital technical breakthroughs. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has already notified Shell in a tweet that she will hold the oil company accountable for the production and consumption of fossil fuels in the last few decades.
I’m willing to hold you accountable for lying about climate change for 30 years when you secretly knew the entire time that fossil fuels emissions would destroy our planet 😇 https://t.co/ekj1Va1Cp0
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) November 2, 2020
The awkward fact is that the oil companies were going about their business with the support and legal protection of both American political parties. Moreover, governments of both parties not only gave subsidies to fossil fuel companies but also lived on their immoral earnings through taxation. Any prosecution of members of these criminal governments would have to include people like President Obama and the Clinton family.
No legal system worth the name allows selective prosecution on political grounds, and that should protect the more obvious civil rights of former government officials such as not being fined or imprisoned for non-existent offences. But we have recently seen selective law enforcement in Seattle and Portland, and we can’t rule out that this might spread upwards from the police to the courts, especially since the Trump accountability vigilantes intend to go after federal judges appointed by the current President too.
Legal prosecutions may not be needed, however, if the sans culottes are content with punishing the Trump veterans—as some say they are—by dismissing them from jobs, removing their ability to use social media, preventing their access to college or scholarships, making the expression of their political opinions unlawful by expanding the range of the legally unsayable, removing certain scientific disciplines (e.g., biology, military research, police education) from the availability of government finance, and in general by creating a new “unprotected class” in law and bureaucratic practice.
The first amendment, if it survives, would prevent government doing many of these things, but again, as we have seen recently, corporations, colleges, the media and Big Tech have done them all the same. And the chances of expanding civil rights legislation to cover Trumpian political opinions doesn’t seem likely to be a high priority for the presumptive Biden-Harris administration.
Yes, this is a worst case scenario, I concede. But the nature of revolutions is that they go faster and further than anyone expects at the start—and especially than the moderate revolutionaries and their “enablers” expect. Their revolutionary doctrines spread from the narrow field of politics to almost every category of work and social life. And the classes of those suspected of being enemies of the revolution spread too until they include more and more of the revolutionaries themselves -- shortly after which the revolution either collapses or becomes an undisguised despotism.
So spend a hour or two on Twitter and then tell me: where's the bright side?
I rolled out of bed before six this morning, threw on some clothes, and hopped into the car to go and vote. I was hoping to beat the lines and then get home quickly for my first cup of coffee.
Well, no such luck. Despite the near freezing weather, the line in my small New England town was around the block by the time I got there, Baby Boomers as far as the eye could see. I guess I should have waited for that coffee.
I shouldn't be surprised, of course. I hang my hat in W.A.S.P. country these days, and while the prevailing wisdom (and social science data) holds that Mainline Protestant affiliation is in steep decline, the truth of the matter is that the theological character of those once prominent sects has actually just shifted in a worldly direction, such that woke virtue signaling now occupies the space once held by creeds and confessions.
Cancelling and shame storming modern reprobates has replaced more traditional W.A.S.P. practices, but in the age of Donald Trump, voting has become the biggest virtue signal of all -- provided, of course, that you're voting that Orange Man Bad. Consequently, this line -- full of people in designer jeans, with the slightest hint of the dear old Ivy League in their accents, and air of never having a single thought that isn't preapproved by the New York Times editorial board -- had the atmosphere of a religious rite. The earliest protestants reduced the number of sacraments from seven to three, but it seems that their distant progeny have reduced them even further, to one: voting.
And it was livelier than a June wedding. People were taking selfies, wearing sweaters that said "Vote!" One (gray-haired) woman greeted some friends and, referring to the number of people, exclaimed, "This is the coolest thing I've ever seen!" This despite the fact that we don't live in a swing state, and the allocation of our seven electoral votes is a foregone conclusion.
As the line inched forward, I couldn't help but feel that this all reeked of privilege. Many conservatives, me included, guffawed at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's recent claim that long lines were a sign of voter suppression, even when they're "happening in a blue state." AOC's New York is, of course, just terribly governed, as the pandemic and this election season should make plain to everyone.
But there is a concern here. Before me were a bunch of affluent people who probably had no real work to do until their afternoon Zoom meeting. It costs them nothing to stand in line for hours to vote for the Wall Street candidate, more COVID hysteria, and the destruction of blue collar jobs. Then they can head home, park their electric cars in their heated driveways, and futz around until its time to watch election returns on MSNBC.
But how many regular working people -- plumbers, electricians, construction workers, even cops and firemen -- who have good reason to fear the further empowerment of the left in this country, looked at those lines and said to themselves "I don't have time for this"?
Well, hopefully they make it through in the end. If not in my neck of the woods, at least in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and everywhere else where their votes really count and their livelihoods are under assault. It'd be nice to see the smug liberals I saw this morning mugged by reality, just like four years ago.
Back in June I wrote about a new Ottawa-based task force called Resilient Recovery, whose objective is to recommend "sustainable" government action to counteract the economic consequences of the pandemic and lockdowns. What made this group newsworthy was that it counted among its members former Justin Trudeau advisor Gerald Butts, who'd recently returned to the world of highly remunerative enviro-activism after falling on his sword to mitigate the electoral consequences of Trudeau's inappropriate actions during the SNC-Lavalin scandal. Butts, of course, still has the PM's ear, which makes him an attractive target for any green group with big dreams and a few bucks to spend.
After what were no doubt two grueling months of slaving over hot policy proposals in the balmy Ontario summer, Resilient Recovery have released their preliminary report and, well, its so predictable that it could have been published alongside the press release announcing their formation.
The No. 1 proposal... suggests the federal government spend over $27 billion on retrofitting buildings to be more energy efficient.... Other recommendations include moving more quickly to build widescale use and accessibility of zero-emission vehicles and to support the retention and attraction of clean vehicle manufacturers in Canada. The group also wants to see the federal government accelerate investments in the renewable energy sectors; spend more on restoring and conserving natural infrastructure and invest in ways to make working for and creating green businesses easier and more sustainable.
In other words: same old same old.
Task force member Andy Chisholm explains in the piece linked above that their "ultimate goal is to ensure Canada is focusing on the future and the needs of the country in the years and decades to come if and when it starts to roll out billions of dollars in economic stimulus once the health emergency spending phase is over." They recommend $50 billion expenditures, on top of the quarter of a trillion in new debt Canada has already taken on over the course of the pandemic, in response to which Canada's credit rating was downgraded, and probably not for the last time.
The liberal reply is that the added debt will go towards creating jobs at a time when Canada is seeing higher unemployment rates than any other G7 country, and fair enough -- that's a noble goal in the midst of an unprecedented crisis, however manufactured. Still, to invest (borrowed money!) so heavily in an unproductive industry in an already precarious economy is, in a word, nuts.
A sane response would be to capitalize on Canada's abundant natural resources by lowering the regulatory burden on the oil and gas industry at a time when it has been dealt a difficult blow. Prices are down, but the sector is still standing, and it would have more money to pump into Canada's economy if it weren't spending so much dealing with federal red tape. Moreover, it wouldn't cost tax-payers a penny.
I bet that never even occurred to them.
There's an old joke to the effect that Republicans are just Democrats who want their policies implemented slowly. This has certainly been the case throughout most of my life, though I'm starting to wonder if it's still accurate. That is, it increasingly seems to me that Republicans have closed the gap, and desire all sorts of revolutions on the same timeline as Democrats.
You get a sense of this from the outcomes of and reactions to the recent slate of Supreme Court decisions coming out these past few weeks. Not just the fact that the suddenly-reliable-liberal John Roberts pulled a novel constitutional principle out of his hat, namely that an executive order cannot be undone by another executive order ( at least if it deals with illegal immigration) unless he satisfies the Supreme Court that his motives are pure, and that -- under the largely imaginary doctrine of "stare decisis" -- a case that he dissented from just four years ago, established a strong enough precedent that it can never be overturned. Nor just the precedent-setting decision in Bostock authored by Trump's prized Scalia replacement, Neil Gorsuch, which legally redefined the word "sex" to include meanings which would never have occurred to the authors of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. (It isn't for nothing that Justice Alito said, in his dissent, “There is only one word for what the Court has done today: legislation.”)
More than those examples is the relief they seemed to have occasioned among the Republican elites like Senators Lindsey Graham and Chuck Grassley, the latter of whom responded to Bostock by saying "It's the law of the land. And it.... probably negates Congress's necessity for acting." Oh good.
Another counter-example: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has announced his support for a new conservative climate plan. Though it claims to be an attempt to move the climate conversation beyond Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal, its proposals read like the GND for squares. It eschews "debilitating taxes or punitive mandates," but calls for investment in new technologies which will reduce carbon emissions, including currently not-super-effective carbon-capture technology. Most notably, it calls for the U.S. to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, putting the GOP leadership on exactly the same timeline as the Democrats.
This is clearly designed to win millennials over to the GOP, but something tells me that even the Harry Potter generation aren't gullible enough to fall for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 without mandating anyone to do anything. "Bring on the cow-fart bans," they'll say.
So maybe that joke has outlived its usefulness. Then again, the left are currently tearing down statues and ex post facto cancelling people for decades-old politically incorrect statements, which seems to indicate that Democrats desire for change has sped up from "Right Now" to "Yesterday," so perhaps it still stands.