Biden to Execute Keystone Pipeline via E.O.

The Biden campaign's strategy was to hide their candidate in the basement while letting a fawning press make the case for him as president. This case was short on substance and long on impression, particularly the impression that the former V.P. is a moderate, working-class guy and a statesman who would restore America's reputation in the world and restrain the Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren/AOC wing of the party.

Well, with the election over Biden's priorities are starting to become clear. They are anything but moderate and, insofar as they unnecessarily antagonizing one of our closest allies, neither are they statesmanlike.

This past weekend a memo written by incoming chief of staff Ron Klain was released which outlines the executive orders Biden plans to implement immediately upon taking over the White House. Highlights on this list -- which the Associated Press calls "a 10-day blitz of executive actions... to redirect the country in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidency without waiting for Congress" -- include immigration reform; a national face mask mandate (mandating that they be worn on all federal property and "during interstate travel," whatever that means in practice); and an extension of the moratorium on evictions and foreclosures and the "pause" on student loan payments.

Among the memo's most consequential items is the bullet point which reads "Roll back Trump enviro actions via EO (including rescind Keystone XL pipeline permit)." That is, on his first day in office tomorrow Biden plans to employ the "pen and phone" tactic to kill a multimillion dollar international project that employs tens of thousands of people (in two countries!) in the midst of a pandemic-created recession. This is madness.

Canada vs. the Democrats.

Meanwhile, in Canada, the Trudeau government are scrambling to make the case that this move is unnecessary from an environmentalist perspective. Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., Kiersten Hillman, released a statement on Sunday saying "The government of Canada continues to support the Keystone XL project and the benefits that it will bring to both Canada and the United States.” She went on to stress that the Keystone project was more environmentally friendly than the one the Obama administration rejected in 2015:

Not only has the project itself changed significantly since it was first proposed, but Canada’s oilsands production has also changed significantly. Per-barrel oilsands (greenhouse gas) emissions have dropped 31 per cent since 2000, and innovation will continue to drive progress... Keystone XL fits within Canada’s climate plan at a time when our economic recovery is a top priority... there is no better partner for the U.S. on climate action than Canada as we work together for green transition.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney took a slightly more aggressive tone, saying: "Should the incoming U.S. administration abrogate the Keystone XL permit, Alberta will work with [pipeline owners] TC Energy to use all legal avenues available to protect its interest in the project."

These appeals are unlikely to sway Team Biden, who are riding a wave of anti-Republican sentiment in the wake of the recent disturbance at the Capitol. They believe they have a window of opportunity to make some big, cost-free moves which will garner them goodwill with activists but will be forgotten by voters still focused on the Trump show.

This could well be a miscalculation on their part. The issues which gave rise to Trump in 2016 won't go away when he does. And the most important of those, the alienation of America's working class since the end of the Cold War, will be aggravated by virtue signaling environmentalist moves like the cancelation of Keystone.

Beware of the Mask Police

If I’m calculating this correctly, we’re about to enter our forty-second week of “Two Weeks to Stop the Spread.” I’m just a cop with no claim to medical expertise, but if I may offer a layman’s opinion, weeks three through forty-one don’t seem to have been any more effective than the first two. What would lead anyone to believe the next two, three, or forty-one will be?

And we’re still being inundated with grim news about how the worst is yet to come. Every day at the top of the Los Angeles Times website one finds a collection of stories presented with the apparent intent of arousing dread in the reader.

Here’s a sampling of recent headlines: “New, potentially more contagious coronavirus variant found in California, Newsom says,” “L.A. County mortuaries struggle with rising toll from COVID-19,” and “‘Super-spreader’ event feared in L.A. as singer defies health order for concerts.” And it’s the L.A. Times, of course, so there’s the obligatory bit of class- and race-mongering thrown in as well: “L.A. hospitals serving the poor and people of color hit hardest by COVID-19,” and “How race factors into decisions about who should get priority for vaccines.”

After such a long period of lockdowns, not to mention mask mandates, social distancing, and the ever-shifting goal posts, people are understandably getting fractious. We should expect to see many more scenes like this one from Dec. 22, in which a Texas man was arrested at a San Antonio mall while participating in an anti-mask protest.

Who is that masked man?

Which places the police in an uncomfortable dilemma. There is a growing and seemingly irreconcilable divide between those who still believe these measures can be effective and those chafing under the restrictions.

I witness this divide daily as I walk the dog or ride my bicycle through my own suburban neighborhood near (but not too near) Los Angeles. I wear a mask when required by whichever local business I visit, donning and doffing it as I cross the threshold, but I never wear one while outdoors. I’m taken aback by all the people who do, especially those who veer into or even cross the street lest they cross paths with me and inhale some deadly molecule I may have expelled.

I’m tempted to ask these people (but do not ask them) what they think they’re accomplishing by behaving this way. One reason I don’t ask is that I’m afraid they’ll call the police and accuse me of trying to infect them. Another is that I haven’t time for a lecture on the errors on my maskless ways.

Not long ago I was in a grocery store in which the aisles were designated as one-way, thereby, one supposes, facilitating the proper social distancing. I was properly masked and proceeding down an aisle when I realized I had passed a needed item. I turned around and walked back about ten steps when I was upbraided by some clucking harridan who, I must note, chose to come within six feet to harangue me on my misconduct.

Joe Biden has premised to enact a national mask mandate upon taking office, though it’s unclear how he can do so under existing law. But then, the law itself has been shown to be far more elastic than one might have imagined prior to the arrival of the Wuhan virus, so heaven knows what he might pull off with the cooperation of like-minded state and local officials.

Who is this masked man?

Beginning last March, governors, mayors, county health officials, and every brand of petty bureaucrat took it upon themselves to impose whatever measures they saw fit in the name of protecting us from the virus, and the collateral damage -- lost jobs, ruined business, increased drug and alcohol abuse, to name just a few -- be damned.

If such a mandate were to be enacted, how big a leap would it be to see supermarket one-way aisles decreed into law, thus inspiring people like the traffic monitor mentioned above to summon the police when they witness a violation? And how will the police handle such a situation?

Not long ago I assumed police officers would ignore these petty disputes, but now I wonder if I haven’t been too sanguine. The sight of the man being manhandled and arrested in San Antonio, along with stories like this one in Oregon and this one in Ohio serve to warn us that police officers are not immune to mask hysteria. Granted, the officers in these cases were technically enforcing trespassing laws when the alleged offenders failed to wear masks when required to do so by businesses and schools, but by now it doesn’t take a great leap of imagination to see these confrontations become commonplace under a Biden federal mandate.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal helps to illustrate why this is so. Writing in the Dec. 24 issue, Tunku Varadarajan introduces us to John McAuliffe, who has just retired after a 38-year career with the New York Police Department. McAuliffe told of a lesson he learned as a rookie in 1983: “Never embarrass a guy in front of his kid.”

It was once commonplace for older cops to pass on such wisdom to those they are charged with training. I join McAuliffe in lamenting this is no longer so. Police work has changed a great deal since 1983, not all of it for the better. I joined the Los Angeles Police Department at about that same time, and I was taught by some wise and worldly seasoned cops, some of whom were veterans of the Vietnam War.

I was trained to seek out and where possible arrest the people who made life miserable for their law-abiding neighbors. Robbers, burglars, and violent gangsters were a priority, and there was a measure of shame attached to hauling in some average Joe who had committed some minor transgression.

Sadly, focusing one’s efforts on violent criminals only invites trouble for today’s police officers, for to do so brings the risk of violent confrontation with people whose conduct is readily ignored or excused by their sophisticated betters in government and the media. The result is as predictable as it is tragic: a rise in violent crime and more deaths by homicide among those these same sophisticated betters purport to champion.

Until the pendulum swings back, as it surely will someday, more robbers, burglars, and violent gangsters will be getting a pass, and more mask scofflaws will be brought to heel. If you thought 2021 would be an improvement over 2020, think again.

A Second, Unaccountable EPA for Biden?

Liberals continue to fret about how the Biden Administration will enact Joe's climate agenda without complete Democratic control of Congress. For the latest example of this genre, here's Derek Brower writing in the Financial Times:

More than 81 million Americans and a majority of electors backed a candidate who said he hoped to “transition from the oil industry” and put clean energy at the centre of a US$2 trillion green plan to decarbonize American electricity in 15 years and create a net-zero-emissions economy by 2050....

Yet as the dust settles on Biden’s victory, the political realities are starting to set in too. Despite retaining a majority, Democrats lost seats in the House of Representatives and at best can hope to split the Senate 50:50 by winning two run-off elections in Georgia in January. For all the enthusiasm of his supporters — and despite the mandate from the popular vote — the full gamut of Biden’s transformative US$2 trillion energy plan has little chance of progressing through such a divided chamber.

Brower goes on to lament "an increasingly conservative judiciary will be an obstacle to federal bodies acting expansively" (translation: Trump-appointed judges will make it difficult for Biden's White House to work around the Constitution), and consequently it will likely take a few years to fully undo Trump's efforts at rolling back onerous regulations on the resource sector.

He is hopeful, however, that a few key administrative actions will have big impact nationwide. These include toughening up fuel economy standards and granting California a new Clean Air Act waiver (Trump revoked the previous one) which will allow the state to impose significantly stricter emissions standards than the federal government, an act which (because of the Golden State's size) could have a ripple effect on the entire auto industry.

Brower is also encouraged by Biden’s announced appointments of "several heavyweights to key energy positions" which he feels denote a "bold climate agenda," the lack of Congressional support notwithstanding. He mentions a few of these appointments, including new international climate envoy John Kerry and domestic "climate czar" Gina McCarthy. These names are, in fact, pretty striking, especially considering the roles they've accepted. Kerry, former Democratic presidential nominee and former secretary of state, and McCarthy, a former EPA chief, have both been cabinet members and now they're content with newly created positions which sound pretty meaningless. What gives?

The Daily Caller's Larry Behrens thinks he's figured it out. His contention is that Biden's object is to create what is effectively a second EPA within the White House, one whose officials aren't confirmed by the Senate and whose actions won't require congressional oversight.

Kerry and McCarthy are perfect choices for that type of role. They're big names who will get the liberal media excited, but who might be shy of Senate confirmation hearings. According to Behrens, McCarthy would be especially reluctant to answer questions about her most recent job as head of the Natural Resources Defense Council, "an environmental organization that faced scrutiny for their relationship to Chinese entities." Of course, as Behrens points out, this is an appropriate background for her new job, which is to undermine America's resource industry while pushing solar panels that are manufactured in China.

Framed that way -- a president creating powerful executive branch positions for people who are unlikely to get through a senate confirmation to enact a policy agenda that he didn't campaign on for the benefit of a foreign power -- this all is a perfect encapsulation of modern American governance.

The Green Covid 'Relief' Bill

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:

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.

Is It Me That's Mad, or the World's Leaders?

Yes, I know that the headline should really read “Is it I who am mad—or the world’s leaders?” but the dubious grammatical form used above is better suited to the populist sentiments of this article. And though populism and populist are words routinely used to mean “insane,” “dangerous,” or worse “problematic,” some kinds of populism are in fact social truths that experience has shown to be accurate and valuable, i.e.,  commonsense.

That applies especially to truths about spending, saving, investment, and borrowing. Copybook maxims on that score go from Thomas Jefferson’s “Never spend your money before you have it,” to Shakespeare’s “Neither a borrower nor a lender be/For loan oft loses both itself and friend/And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.”

With that prudent advice ringing in our minds, let’s look at how prudently our political masters are handling our collective expenditures, revenues, borrowings, and investments. The first thing to notice (though few do) is just how massive the sums involved are.

Estimates differ but in the U.S., apparent president-elect Joe Biden is proposing a budget of $5.4 trillion equal to 24 percent of America’s GDP. He’s also proposing a smaller (but still massive) tax increase that would leave a gap of $2 trillion dollars for the U.S. Treasury to borrow. But cheer up—it’s bipartisan. President Trump’s budget estimates for 2021 weren’t much lower at 4.8 trillion equal to 21 percent of GDP and a deficit of $966 billion.

Now, expenditures to cope with the pandemic and lockdowns are emergency spending that almost everyone agrees is justified or, to be more precise, inevitable. That’s why the Trump budget rose to an annualized rate of 30 percent of GDP at the height of the pandemic this year. But a cool $700 billion is accounted for by Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda that would increase spending on infrastructure, the environment, and the Green New Deal. That's equal to one-eighth of Biden's projected total spending for 2021 and one-third of the likely deficit.

The picture is the same in Britain where Boris Johnson’s government, as well as spending vast sums to ameliorate the pandemic and concomitant recession, is embarking on a green industrial revolution and unrelated (even contradictory) infrastructure spending. There too the Labour, Lib-Dem, and Green opposition parties attack these plans as too little, too late. In both countries the general attitude has been Spend! Spend! Spend!

Well, it is -- right?

After all, everyone knows that Tomorrow Is Another Day!

Scarlett O’Hara, Gone With The Wind’s heroine, may be out of fashion in racial politics, but financially she’s never been so enchanting to so many powerful people.

That may be because we simply can’t get our minds or even our imaginations around the figures when they rise from million to billions to trillions. To help us do that, here’s David Schwartz, the science writer and a brilliant popularizer, explaining them to NPR listeners:

The difference between a million, a billion and a trillion is like the difference between eleven and a half days, 32 years and 32,000 years.” Do the sums: a $2 trillion dollar deficit the equivalent of 64,000 years in time measurements.

And an $5.4 trillion dollar total annual budget... or a $23 trillion accumulated national debt... is equal to... but I see the audience’s eyes glazing over... No -- they’re crying.

Now, it’s certainly true that borrowing is economically justifiable and potentially profitable if it’s likely to produce a stream of income or equivalent benefit that over time more than equals the cost of the capital borrowed. A home mortgage is a humble example.

It’s also the case that government investment can be economically worthwhile if it creates an economic environment that hikes productivity, spurs general economic growth, and thereby increases tax revenue for the Treasury. Some state investment meets those criteria, but by no means all. So we should apply certain tests to proposals such as the green industrial revolution and the Green New Deal?

The test that governments seem to like most at the moment is the question:

Can we borrow at a low interest rate?

It’s a fair question but it should be a secondary one. A low interest rate means it’s cheaper to borrow, but that’s a modest benefit at the best of times and no benefit at all if the investment produces less wealth than the cost of borrowing. And if interest rates rise as they tend to in periods of inflation produced by government over-spending, then the modest benefit becomes a horrendous cost, especially when your accumulated borrowing has reached $23 trillion. So the next—or rather, prior—question becomes:

Can we make sure the investment pays off?

To which the honest answer is, No. As the distinguished political theorist, James Burnham, author of The Managerial Revolution, used to say in his rules on life: You can’t invest in retrospect. Some of the visionary Green schemes proposed by Joe and Boris, such as electric airplanes and cheap hydrogen cars, can’t be  invented simply because we establish a state fund to invent them, any more than the flying cars and personal jetpacks of Matt Ridley’s youthful imagination exist today because we wanted them, as he noted in a column on the ten big things wrong with the green industrial revolution.

I quoted the column last week, but it can’t be quoted too often because to judge from government policy no one in Whitehall or the Beltway has read it. It should be especially worrying that many of the schemes for transitioning from fossil fuels to “renewables” all cost more than the cheap fuels they are meant to replace and need state subsidies for longer than their advocates claim in advance. Demands for extended government subsidies should be a warning. Innovations will occur, of course, because a free economy is an innovation machine. We simply don’t know what they’ll be, and if we concentrate state funding on bright ideas too early, we risk being unable to fund the good ones that survive the sorting out process.

But they lift productivity and economic growth, surely?

Again, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating, but the signs don’t look that good. What economic benefit is likely to arise from the total electrification of Britain electric cars require that would match both its cost and the cost of forcing motorists to give up petrol-driven cars from 2030 onwards? If the answer is that we will benefit from the technological innovations that British and American auto manufacturers make in the course of developing cheaper and more efficient EV’S, we could have those benefits anyway by allowing them to make the cars that the motorists want at a price they can afford and at a pace that would allow government and industry to transition in line with market demand changes. Then we might get technical innovations in both EVs and petrol-driven cars.

But, Miss Scarlett, do you really need an electric car?

We don’t do that because the real aim of policy is not technical innovation—that’s a by-product at best—but a reduction in carbon emissions, or net-zero in short. That’s why everyone concedes that electricity prices will rise for industry as well as for consumers, putting the industries in countries with green hairshirt economic policies at a serious disadvantage with their foreign competitors. How will that kind of enforced economic primitivism help us either to raise productivity or to pay back the money we’re now borrowing? It won’t.

Since this is a global problem, though, surely, our competitors like China are making the same sacrifice?

Well, no they’re not, as a matter of fact, and when they say they will, they usually ask “the West” to give them subsidies to do so. In the meantime, the Chinese Communist Party—no idealistic Greens in that Politburo—is bringing new coal-fired power stations on line with emission levels greater than the U.K.’s entire carbon output.

So why are we doing this?

That’s a bigger question to which I’ll return next week. But it certainly requires explanation because unless the laws of economics have been repealed, the policy of spending and borrowing massively in order to make our economies less productive and efficient can only have one result. It was forecast most eloquently by Rudyard Kipling in his once-familiar poem "The Gods of the Copybook Headings":

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "If you don't work you die."

Something to think about.

The Swamp Strikes Back

Joe Biden has started to announce appointments to key roles in his administration should he be inaugurated in January. He finds himself constrained by the unexpected failure of his party thus far to retake the senate and its reduced majority in the House.

Consequently, it doesn't look like we will be seeing Elizabeth Warren at Treasury, Bernie Sanders at Labor, or -- a popular rumor over the past few weeks -- Hillary Clinton as Ambassador to the United Nations. But instead of those ideological actors, we're getting mostly career political staffers and bureaucrats, aka the Swamp.

The big fish thus far is longtime Biden ally Antony Blinken for Secretary of State. Blinken -- the son of wealthy investment banker and Clinton-era Ambassador Donald Blinken -- served as then-Vice President Biden's national security adviser before being promoted to Deputy Secretary of State by Barack Obama. He is also a Russia hoax-supporter and an ardent champion of the kind of hawkish foreign policy which Trump ran against in 2016. As The American Conservative's Curt Mills wrote this morning, the worry about Blinken isn't so much that he's a "wild-eyed radical," but that "his policy views are emblematic of a broader rot within the American establishment."

The same could be said for the the other intended appointments announced on Monday, including former Foreign Service Director General Linda Thomas-Greenfield to the U. N. and former Hillary Clinton foreign policy advisor Jake Sullivan. The latter, as you might have guessed from his relationship with Mrs. Clinton, is another hawk, but he is also noteworthy for having had a hand in secretly negotiating the Iran deal, which the U. S. has since backed out of.

Environmentalist groups are upset by the potential appointments of both Sullivan and Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), who Biden has announced as a senior advisor, as both are reportedly skeptical of their cause. Sullivan appears in one of the leaked Clinton E-Mails questioning the idea that carbon neutrality by 2050 is at all realistic. As for Rep. Richmond, environmentalists are concerned by his closeness with oil and gas in his home state of Louisiana. The Sunrise Movement, an environmentalist activist group, put out a statement opposing his appointment which read,

One of President-Elect Biden’s very first hires for his new administration has taken more donations from the fossil fuel industry during his Congressional career than nearly any other Democrat, cozied up to Big Oil and Gas, and stayed silent and ignored meeting with organizations in his own community while they suffered from toxic pollution and sea-level rise.

Now, should those of us who are concerned about the resource sector as a source of good jobs and safe, reliable (and clean) energy be encouraged by these appointments? Probably not. There's a civil war brewing on the left, which has been held in check until recently by shared loathing for Donald Trump. Though Biden might feel forced staff up with conventional swamp creatures, before too long he will feel the need to satisfy the loudest lefties in his caucus. Short sighted as they might be, carbon taxes and increasing restrictions on fracking are the easiest bones he can throw them.

Of course, for the Greens, those would only whet the appetite.

Green Pen, Green Phone

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.

Biden Threatens a 'Climate Administration,' PDQ

You knew this was coming:

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., eager to elevate climate change throughout his administration, is already drafting orders to reduce planet-warming pollution and seeking nominees who will embed climate policy not only in environmental agencies but in departments from Defense to Treasury to Transportation.

Top candidates for senior cabinet posts, such as Michèle Flournoy for defense secretary and Lael Brainard for Treasury, have long supported aggressive policies to curb climate change. Mr. Biden’s inner circle routinely asks “is the person climate-ambitious?” of candidates even for lower profile positions like the White House budget and regulatory offices, according to a person advising the transition.

Transition team members have been instructed to identify policies that can improve pollution levels in Black and Latino communities. And one of Mr. Biden’s early executive orders is expected to require that every federal agency, department and program prepare to address climate change.

Having convinced a gullible and fearful public of the "danger' of Covid-19 -- and if they get away with stealing the 2020 election -- the Democrats plan to move swiftly to apply the lessons of Covid to the equally phantom dangers of "climate change." These measures will be arbitrary, willful, and punitive and will be enforced by the full power of the federal government -- which means that at some point the IRS will get involved.

America's own version of Pravda continues:

Interviews with more than two dozen advisers and members of Mr. Biden’s transition team reveal an incoming administration acutely aware of the challenges ahead, with a narrowly divided Congress and the outsized expectations that some voters have for action on climate change after four years of regulatory rollbacks and presidential hostility.

“There’s no doubt that Covid is the issue of the moment which has to be addressed right out of the box,” Mr. Moniz said. “But we’re going to see climate addressed right out of the box as well.”

And there you have it. As we've been saying practically from this site's inception, the goal all along has been to gauge the public's receptivity to unconstitutional restrictions on their freedom. So far, the ovine public has passed the test with flying colors. If "safety" trumps liberty, we are in more trouble than we thought. As a potential Democrat administration is about to make perfectly clear.

 

Biden's Deadly Plan for American Energy

It’s perfectly understandable for anyone concerned about energy production in the U.S. to be uneasy that Joe Biden appears to be winning this year’s contest for the White House. Whether he makes it to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. remains in doubt, but what is not in doubt is that, should that happen, he would have no substantial mandate.

The climate change part of the  platform--like much of his party’s platform--seems to have little purchase among other than the coastal bien pensants and the leftwing corporatists dreaming of yet another boondoggle financed by the taxpayers on the same pie in the sky swindle as was Solyndra and California’s train to nowhere. Of course, my ability to read the future is limited, but let me explain why I think much of what Biden has promised the far left of his party to secure the nomination and their support, is unlikely to take shape.

At the moment the election in six states is still either still being counted, being challenged in court, or subject to recount. Excluding those states, President Trump leads Biden 232 to 227 in the Electoral Vote totals. (270 electoral votes of 538  are needed to win the electoral college vote in January).

It is impossible in this fast changing circumstance to keep track of all the litigation challenging in the various state run elections. So far this compendium by OSU seems the most accurate. I’ve seen some of the complaints filed or about to be in Michigan and Pennsylvania and they include numerous credible affidavits documenting substantial illegality. If the Supreme Court meant it when they said this twenty years ago in Bush v. Gore, 531 U.S. 98, 105 (2000), I have to believe that the counts in both those  states simply to not meet the constitutional standard in Gore.

It must be remembered that "the right of suffrage can be denied by a debasement or dilution of the weight of a citizen's vote just as effectively as by wholly prohibiting the free exercise of the franchise." Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U. S. 533, 555 (1964).

If these recounts and challenges are not resolved by the December 14 cut off dat-, the House of Representatives can choose the interim president and the Senate the interim vice president until they results are certified by the states. In the House, the vote is by state and the Republicans hold the majority there, as they do in the Senate. If the matter is not resolved to the satisfaction of the state legislatures, they may under the constitution select their own slate of electors. Republicans hold the majority in the legislatures of Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Michigan, the three states with the most electoral votes among the still disputed contests.

Given the uncertain outcomes, at this time it is preposterous to call Biden “president-elect.”

I was elected to what?

Nevertheless, there certainly is reason for concern in the Democratic platform Biden ran on. The platform reads like a prose version of the Russian film “Battleship Potemkin” substituting only the film’s motif of all forces of the population joining hands in revolution with everyone joining hands to keep the climate from changing. (It misses only scenes of fracking and gas rigs shooting at wounded veterans and orphans.) Among the specifics are these:

The program specifics are even more sophomoric and fanciful, involving retrofitting buildings, setting even higher emissions standards for cars and trucks, including 500,000 school buses, and more in a program “to ensure racial and socioeconomic equity in federal climate, energy, and infrastructure programs.”

(My guess is this was written somewhere else besides California which the document says should  again be allowed to set its own vehicle emission standards. I say that because rolling blackouts related to a similar set of juvenile energy policies  in that state’s programs would seem to put something of a leash on these overweening goals.)

Biden also has pledged to kill the Keystone pipeline. On that score, Alberta Premier Jason Kennery indicates confidence he can change Biden’s mind, and perhaps he would be successful -- pledges from Biden do seem to have a short life span. He promised during the debates that he would not claim victory until all the state contests were certified. He already has done so  when we are far from that point. 

He’s also promised  to crack down on “climate cheats” whoever they are; push the world on climate change, and invest $1.7 trillion to reduce global warming. At the same time his team is advocating further coronavirus  lockdowns and payouts to those unemployed because of them.

Now I could be wrong. He could have a secret invention to generate trillions of new dollars and is keeping it secret along with a never-revealed way to fuel this economy without fossil fuels, but I’m suspicious of the ability to fund these grandiose plans or carry the platform’s promises  out. 

Even if he were crazy enough to try it, he will do so without a great deal of support. At the moment the Democrats are hanging on to an even thinner majority in the House, having lost a number of seats they expected to win, and jeopardized more who in these weird times are labeled “moderates”.

The party is splintered and recriminations against the left are legion. It seems increasingly likely that the Blue Wave the media promised didn’t materialize and in fact a Red Wave washed a lot of the Democrats out to sea. There will be at least 50 Republican Senators in the Senate with the likely prospect of two more once the Georgia runoffs are complete in January.

Without a majority in the Senate Biden can’t revoke the industry-friendly fuel tax; he can’t restore or expand the federal tax credit for purchases of electric vehicles, he can’t repeal the Halliburton provision permitting fracking in Safe Drinking Water Act  he can’t amend the renewable fuel standard post-2022, he can’t alter the Jones Act, and he can’t change the the carbon price, etc.

Have they called a lid yet? It's past my bed-time.

Some have suggested he can  achieve these goals simply through executive orders, and there are a few things he can achieve via this route, beginning with an area in which he has the freest hand -- rejoining the Paris climate agreement. Some of the others, more troublesome to be sure, are regulatory actions like blocking oil and gas drilling on federal lands, allowing California to set independent standards for auto emissions and fuel economy, restricting access to low-cost capital for the fossil fuel industry, and setting fuel economy standards. For these,  judicial and public resistance are greater checks on his authority. 

Chief Justice Roberts has displayed a penchant for fine-tooth-combing executive orders and rejecting them . The public  -- reeling from the devastation of the lockdowns, pleased with lower gas prices and anticipating a continued v- shaped recovery -- are likely to find Biden's extremism unwanted and make their opposition known.

Biden may squeak out an election victory. If so, it will have been a Pyrrhic one.

Be Afraid: Biden's Plans for the Energy Industry

As governors in a slew of upper mid-western states are held to account for their inability to correctly manage their state’s election and protect the system from fraud, the oil and gas industry has problems of its own, some of which will assuredly get more complicated under a Biden administration.

the year 2020 has already been a fierce year for oil and gas. It’s the kind of year that drives some to drink, some to stop drinking and still others to call their life coaches or therapists. While there are economic principles that the market historically can rely upon to guide recovery, two unusual tangents have crossed. Covid-curated economic closures that have smashed demand, combined with the supply glut that had already brought pressure to the energy industry

Together they have created an exceptionally challenging landscape. With more than 120,000 layoffs across the industry to date, Europe again closed up tightly, and no additional PPP legislation on the horizon, executives anticipate there will be more layoffs coming in the weeks ahead.

While there are many versed in the realm of Covid recovery theory, such uncertainties create a landscape such that no economist, futurist or medium can reliably describe how or when the market will fully recover. While communities across the U.S. respond in a variety of ways, some with an eye toward liberty and economic recovery, others with an eye toward tyranny and shutdowns (think Seattle and the entire state of California), the O&G industry is based on a global market.

As such, it won’t be until the economies in Europe, Asia, Africa and the U.S. fully open and recover that the O&G industry can again fully stretch out into a comfortable stride. If a heathy oil and gas industry is akin to trail running, this current market has been more like running straight up a mountain while holding a martini carrying an F-150 or Dodge Ram 1500 on its back. It has been exceptionally difficult, and we aren’t up the mountain yet.

So where is the industry left under a Biden administration? Let’s look at several areas:

We'll always have Paris?

Paris Climate Accord: A Biden administration will immediately re-enter the Paris Climate Accord. By all accounts this will be done via an executive order signed on inauguration day. Legislative gaming is of course ahead, led by the thousand -year old House speaker, Nancy Pelosi. The Democrats will pass loads of "green" legislation to support the accord’s climate goals.

However, because of American natural gas development, the U.S. has already delivered levels below those outlined in the accord. Natural gas is an exceptionally clean-burning fuel that has helped reduce emissions and lead to U.S. energy independence. The accord and all legislation framed around it will represent classic political symbolism over substance. Regardless, the Republican-controlled Senate, hopefully secured by upcoming Georgia run-offs, will largely keep legislation pertaining to the accord at bay.

Federal Land: Obviously, permits for drilling on federal land are legitimately threatened with under a Biden administration. According to industry experts, about seven percent of domestic assets are located on federal land. The threat of “ending fracking” was promised during both of Biden's debate appearances and his limited interactions with young children and sycophant media at ice cream stops during his Weekend at Bernie’s-themed campaign.

Producers that hold active permits will be permitted to carry on, but no new permits will be issued. That leaves only conventional drilling on federal land, which reduces the potential value of said wells. Even if producers find that they have sound legal ground on which to challenge the administration on this change, fighting the government is like tussling with a special forces operator: they have more than one method of neutralizing their target. The bottom line is that the day to day interaction with a Biden administration-led Bureau of Land Management will create added grief and discord for producers, presumably lending to higher lease operating expenses and certainly lower returns on investment on assets on federal land.

Regulatory Environment: The favorite tool of Democrats is regulation. Regulations always cost industry money. Industry leadership understands that the the strongest headwinds under a Biden administration will be new regulatory mandates and tightened regulation that will start coming fast and furious for upstream, mid-stream and downstream sub-sectors. Regulation is to a Democrat, what corn is to bourbon.

There will be plenty of both in the oil plays across the U.S. under a Biden administration. Regulation currently costs the industry between $3-$5 per barrel. That is a direct pass-through to the consumer. The variables depend on the size of a company, their lobbying efforts and whether reporting is done in-house or with outside consultants. The bottom line is that regulation is expensive and considered a barrier to business. Under a Biden administration, there will be more of it.

So What’s Next?
While each individual business and all industry sub-sectors have already been modeling how a Biden administration might affect their respective asset portfolios and businesses, it is essential the industry also prepare. While expert at finding, producing, transporting, refining and marketing O&G and related products, the industry lacks self-awareness about how the world sees it as an industry.

The industry has stood largely silent in the face of the solar and wind crowd framing what we do as treacherous and ruinous of the environment and the planet. The energy industry has abandoned its own narrative to those who seek its demise. In the face of an administration that will fight every day to denigrate, damage and dismantle the O&G industry, we must define ourselves to the country and to the world. Oil and gas must develop its own brand. We must constantly remind the country that, without the work we do, the geo-political landscape from which the economy and country benefit would look more like Dresden, 1945 and less like HGTV’s "Fixer Upper."