On Fracking, It's Biden vs. Biden

Back in March, when people were still unironically saying "Fifteen days to slow the spread," I wrote about the absolute fury the Biden campaign was directing at Republicans over their claims that the former vice president wanted to ban the modern marvel known as fracking. I suggested that Republicans could be forgiven for making these claims -- as RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel tweeted, "There are 7.3M Americans whose jobs depend on fracking. Biden and Bernie would eliminate them" -- because Biden's actual position on fracking seemed fairly hard to decipher:

[W]hen Bernie Sanders said he wanted to stop “fracking as soon as we possibly can,” and that he was “talking about telling the fossil fuel industry that they are going to stop destroying this planet—no ifs, buts and maybes about it” in the debate the other night, Biden replied "So am I!" His position is as clear as the noonday sun! Oh, or, er, maybe not so much...

Well, Sleepy Joe is at it again, having said at a speech earlier this week in Pittsburgh, Pa., "I am not banning fracking. Let me say that again: I am not banning fracking. No matter how many times Donald Trump lies about me."

What a relief that must be to the more than 40,000 men and women who work in the natural gas industry in the state of Pennsylvania (which, it is worth noting, Trump won by just over 40,000 votes)!

Then again, maybe they shouldn't be too reassured, since, as Hank Berrien documents, Biden's own words seem to point in the opposite direction:

On January 24, 2020, speaking to a New Hampshire voter, Biden said he would stop fracking. The woman voter asked, “But like, what about, say, stopping fracking?” Biden answered, “Yes.” Woman voter: “And stopping pipeline infrastructure?” Biden: “Yes.”

On March 15, 2020, a Democratic presidential debate between Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders, [Biden said]: "No more, no new fracking."

Also in that debate, Biden stated, “Number one, no more subsidies for fossil fuel industry. No more drilling on federal lands. No more drilling, including offshore. No ability for the oil industry to continue to drill, period, ends, number one.” ....

At a Democratic presidential debate in late July 2019, CNN’s Dana Bash asked Biden, “Just to clarify, would there be any place for fossil fuels, including coal and fracking, in a Biden administration?” Biden answered, “No. We would — we would work it out. Make sure it’s eliminated and no more subsidies for either one of those. Either — any fossil fuel.”

Which is to say, if the claim that Biden opposes fracking is "fake news" from Team Trump, than Crazy Grandpa Joe is in on the conspiracy.

Low-Energy Joe v. High-Carb Donald

In last week’s column I compared the energy-related policy agendas of the two men, Joe Biden and Erin O’Toole, who have been chosen to lead their parties, both in opposition, in the United States and Canada respectively. It was a task requiring at least some subtlety and fine distinctions, because both men claim to be pursuing the same goal of zero-carbon emissions by . . . well, by different dates but let’s not quibble yet.

O’Toole is the more cautious politician, and he has hedged this pledge about with more qualifications than does Biden, who in his embrace of Green policies is a purist missionary devoted to environmental virtue at any cost. Joe’s 47 years in politics haven’t exactly demonstrated this selfless devotion to principle, but it’s possible that, like President Truman, he’ll be a different man if he makes it to the White House. Anyway, let’s take the charitable view.

Besides, now that President Trump has accepted the GOP nomination for the 2020 November election, we can compare Biden with Trump directly which means we have at least to start by treating their energy-related policies at face value. Just to show that we’re not naïve, however, we’ll lay out a key reality test:

Economic growth means more energy. Growth needs more energy and it generates more energy. Sure, there are qualifications and off-sets which is why we always add the rider, “other things being equal.” And innovation can produce more growth without using more energy in those cases where an entrepreneur arranges the factors of production more efficiently. But the overall truth remains that growth and energy go together like a horse and carriage—with the horse providing the energy and the carriage representing the greater comfort and wealth of a economically prosperous society.

All aboard for the 21st century!

Most politicians try to confuse this truth and avoid the difficult problem it imposes on them. Since they want both to increase growth and to reduce the carbon emissions that fossil fuels generate, they have to avoid putting realistic prices on their “carbon net-zero” policies and to argue that as yet elusive technological innovations, such as carbon capture, will enable them to produce the same amounts of energy with lower carbon emissions.

Boris Johnson is a prime example of this approach since his energy policy is deep green and his signature economic policy (before the Covid-19 pandemic) was to borrow large sums on money at low interest rates in order to fuel a U.K. recovery via infrastructure spending. Nice work if you can get it, as Gershwin wrote, but there’s a car crash in the future of such a contradictory policy.

So it’s a pleasant surprise that both Trump and Biden do their best to be honest about their choice in the Growth versus Greenery debate. Trump favors a policy of encouraging economic growth above all else; so he accepts that it will require energy policies that exploit as many new ways of generating energy as possible. His motto might as well be “Let 'er rip!”

Biden makes the opposite choice. He wants to move the U.S. away from fossil fuels and towards “cleaner” energy as quickly as possible and he seems to accept that this will mean less economic growth overall even if it encourages jobs growth in specific areas. He doesn’t spell out that choice exactly, but the phrase “economic growth” is hard to find in his grand $700 billion economic program.

It’s low-energy Joe versus the high-carb Donald.

Of course, we already know what Trump is about because his first term was based on the policy choice of liberating energy production, de-regulating, and cutting taxes in order to hike growth. Just in case we’ve forgotten, however, his acceptance speech this week reminded the viewers of how he began four years ago:

Days after taking office . . . I approved the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines, ended the unfair and costly Paris Climate Accord, and secured, for the first time, American Energy Independence. We passed record-setting tax and regulation cuts, at a rate nobody had ever seen before. Within three short years, we built the strongest economy in the history of the world.

And the future?

Over the next four years, we will make America into the Manufacturing Superpower of the World. We will expand Opportunity Zones, bring home our medical supply chains, and we will end our reliance on China once and for all. We will continue to reduce taxes and regulations at levels not seen before. We will create 10 million jobs in the next 10 months.

All that’s clear enough. But what of the environmental costs of Trump’s booming pre-Covid US economy? These should have been visible in rising carbon emissions. But, remember, that depends on “other things being equal.” In reality carbon emissions in the industrialized world—the US, the EU, and Japan—fell in the last few years because these economies were switching to cleaner fuels. And they fell faster than most in the U.S. because the “fracking revolution” in America meant that cleaner natural gas was replacing dirtier coal.

For the future, Trump is banking not only on the continued spread of fracking and its benefits but also on the likelihood that a booming economy will produce innovations that to make both renewables and fossil fuels cleaner, cheaper, and safer.

Frack this.

It’s a bold gamble, but so far it’s paying off.

Now, Biden makes his choice almost as clear. If you type “Joe Biden and economic growth” into Google, what you get back is this: The Biden Plan To Build a Modern Sustainable Infrastructure and an Equitable Clean Energy Future. In other words, you get an economic program that subordinates the need for economic growth to other desirable things—notably, a switch to cleaner energy.

That’s very clear in his plan’s section on what he proposes for those communities who powered the industrial revolution over centuries. He means people working in the fossil fuels industry, and his policies include “securing the benefits coal miners and their families have earned, making an unprecedented investment in coal and power plant communities, and establishing a Task Force on Coal and Power Plant Communities," etc. In other words, coal miners and perhaps other fossil fuel producers will not be part of Biden’s sustainable and equitable clean energy economy, but their workers will be economically protected.

The key elements of the Biden Plan to Build a Modern, Sustainable Infrastructure and an Equitable Clean Energy Future include:

  1. Build a Modern Infrastructure
  2. Position the U.S. Auto Industry to Win the 21st Century with technology invented in America
  3. Achieve a Carbon Pollution-Free Power Sector by 2035
  4. Make Dramatic Investments in Energy Efficiency in Buildings, including Completing 4 Million Retrofits and Building 1.5 Million New Affordable Homes
  5. Pursue a Historic Investment in Clean Energy Innovation
  6. Advance Sustainable Agriculture and Conservation
  7. Secure Environmental Justice and Equitable Economy Opportunity

In fact, there’ll be a Biden program costing $2 trillion that will finance both the transition from dirty to clean energy production and a large variety of other infrastructure expenditures and industrial subsidies to, for instance, the auto industry. But all economic forecasts of the costs of switching to non-fossil fuels show that it will be extremely expensive. And though two trillion dollars will finance many good things, unless there’s economic growth overall—and the Biden plan doesn’t seem to promise that—there won’t be any net additional jobs. What there will be is “jobs growth” in the industries favored by the Washington planners granting the subsidies.

So instead of Trump's policy rooted in growth and abundant cheap energy, we have a Biden policy based on cleaner energy and state industrial investments financed by . . . redistribution and tax increases.

And a very substantial overall increase in taxation at that. The Democrat candidate has so far proposed the following:

US Budget Watch, synthesizing the estimates of several other economic consultancies, suggests that the plan would increase taxes for the top 1 percent of earners by 13 to 18 percent of after-tax income; indirectly hike taxes for most other groups by 0.2 to 0.6 percent; and moderately slow the pace of economic growth by discouraging work and capital accumulation.

Biden’s gamble here is a kind of mirror image of Trump’s: he proposes to increase taxes sharply and use the proceeds to re-direct investment from existing industries to "cleaner" and more sustainable ones, leaving them to achieve higher growth and technical breakthroughs in the future. A lot of bad decisions can occur that way.

Moreover, whereas overall growth and technical innovation will be financed from the proceeds of a growing economy in Trump’s plan, much of the state finance for growth and innovation in Biden’s industrial plan is earmarked for the expensive transition to carbon neutrality, and his tax plan will leave much less for private investors to spend on inventing the future. On top of which the psychological atmosphere of an economy powered by state control and direction of investment is unlikely to inspire the kind of entrepreneurial innovation we saw in the pre-Covid Trump economy.

What have I done?

How do things look, however, when we leave the Big Picture and go micro-economic? Consider how the contenders fare on fracking, nuclear power, and renewables.

Fracking is a clear advantage for Trump who has encouraged it with deregulation and who has been helped by its contribution to reducing carbon emissions. If fracking were a flag, Trump would be waving it. On the other hand, Biden has got himself twisted into knots on the issue, having earlier promised the illogical policy of “no new fracking” under pressure from the Green lobby. Unless Biden can embrace fracking fully, his overall energy policy becomes significantly more expensive. Plus, it’s a vital jobs issue in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New Mexico on which hundreds of thousands of job depend.

Both Trump and Biden favor a revival of nuclear power, but Trump has an advantage there, too, because a year ago he asked his Energy Secretary to assemble a nuclear energy working group to find ways to expand the U.S. nuclear energy industry in an effort to compete globally (i.e., versus China).

Renewables should be an easy win for Biden because he’s been a champion of them (his plan depends heavily on their success), whereas Trump has been a loud skeptic about the industry. Such is the unfairness of life, however, that last year there was a surge of investment in the U.S. industry. Expect more “America First” rhetoric about renewables, therefore, from the president. That said, better news for renewables is better for Joe Biden, just not that much better.

On those micro-economic measures, therefore, Trump wins two out of three, and when they’re added to the macro-economic outlook for their plans, Trump expands his lead over Biden by a head.

Trump and Biden are both to be congratulated on giving us a generally clear idea of how they would govern economically and especially on energy policy. It’s not a K.O, for either.

But on the evidence so far, High Carb Donald has it over Low Energy Joe.

Getting to Net-Zero: Is It Worth It?

At the end of last week two men were selected as the leaders of the main opposition parties in North America—Joe Biden as the Democratic presidential candidate in the U.S. and Erin O’Toole as the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. They’re very different people with very different ideas, but if both of them are elected, each is likely to exert a decisive influence on the other on the central political issue of energy policy and climate change.

But look, first, at who they are and what they’ve done. Biden has been a professional politician for almost all his adult life. After graduation and four years of lawyering, he became a U.S. senator in 1973 and has since remained in Washington for seven senatorial terms and two terms as U.S. vice-president. He is usually defined as a moderate Democrat, which in practice means he has an acute sensitivity to the shifts of opinion in his party and an unrivaled ability to adapt to them without apparently moving his feet.

That means at present he is being dragged leftwards by a Democratic party that is rapidly moving from liberalism to a more radical progressivism. Thus, when his party’s radicals demand to “defund the police,” he is described by an AP as wanting “some of the funding for police [to] be redirected into different programs, such as mental health counseling” which might or might not be a difference depending on the amount re-directed.

Joe and Jill.

O’Toole had a more varied career as first an officer in the Royal Canadian air force and then as a corporate lawyer until he was elected to Parliament in Ottawa eight years ago. Because he served in the RCAF sea rescue missions, he’s one of the few politicians anywhere who, like lifeguard Ronald Reagan, can claim to have saved lives. He’s a moderate conservative in an avowedly conservative party, but one who wants to broaden its base without throwing principles overboard. That’s a risky game to play, as Biden’s zig-zagging career illustrates, but O’Toole has found two ways to play it.

The first is to make policy into a balancing act. As a Catholic who supports choice on abortion, he also defends a conscience clause that would enable health professionals to refuse to assist in abortions if they have moral/religious reasons for doing so—and respecting conscience is an important principle. The second is to look for and elevate new issues that attract new supporters without alienating old ones. He was an early supporter of the idea of CANZUK—warmer and better trade and migration relationships between Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the U.K.—which seems to be an increasingly realistic policy now that the U.K. is making trade deals with CANZUK members.

It isn’t hard to tell Biden and O’Toole apart, and if it were, the policy packages that appear in their manifestos would make it very clear. They are separated by a vast ideological gulf—except in one key respect. Both men and their parties have committed themselves very firmly to one particular extreme policy outcome: they are both committed to the principle of making their economies “carbon neutral” by 2050—indeed, Biden has upped the ante on this with a revamped plan to spend two trillion dollars in making all of electricity production carbon-neutral by 2035. (I think that looks like this: $2,000,000,000,000—its cost to you we’ll come to in a moment.)

Now, no one thinks of this policy as extreme because it’s supported overwhelmingly by most Western governments, most mainstream political parties (and, as it happens, most “populist” parties too), most of the media, most cultural institutions, the United Nations, and all the great and good around the globe. When a bill reflecting an earlier version of this was passed in the U.K. Parliament, only five MPs voted against it.

There’s been a slight down-tick in popular support for the policy since the policy response to Covid-19 both imposed heavy costs on ordinary people—with the prospect of many more to come—and weakened the credibility of scientists and computer modelling. A recent opinion poll showed that it ranked only fifth in the table of national problems facing the voters.

That will have little effect on elite opinion unless it takes the form of voting out MPs and Congresspersons respectively. As yet we’re quite far from that. Because its costs are in the future, a policy of saving the world is bound to be popular. And so, for the moment, making their economies “carbon neutral” by a given date is supported by both leaders.

But there is a vital distinction that politicians repeatedly ignore—and that I have repeatedly stressed in vain—between the popularity of a policy and the popularity of the consequences of a policy. The classic example is government control of prices and incomes which is always popular because it seems “fair” and advantageous to the poor, but which always becomes extremely unpopular because it leads to shortages of goods with controlled prices, black markets with much higher “real” prices, and exemptions for key workers who multiply in numbers the longer the policy lasts.

Carbon neutrality has enormous costs—so enormous that governments do their best to suppress their own estimates of what they are likely to be.  Only New Zealand has been honest or rash enough to do so. As the Danish economist and head of the Copenhagen Consensus, Bjorn Lomborg, pointed out recently in a New York Post oped, adapted from his new book, False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet:

It will cost 16 percent of its GDP each and every year by 2050, making it more costly than the entire New Zealand public expenditures for education, health, environment, police, defense, social protection, etc. (My italics.) 

New Zealand, however, is an energy superpower only in hydro- and thermal power. Both the U.S. and Canada, however, are at present energy superpowers across the board—in oil, gas, hydro, and nuclear power since they have both fossil fuels and uranium galore and in recent years they have invented ways of accessing them more economically, such as fracking. The impact of carbon neutral policies would be far more damaging to Canada and the U.S. than to any other countries in the world except Australia and the Middle East for that reason—far more damaging, that is, than a 16 percent annual fall in GDP.

Erin O'Toole and American friend.

Biden and O’Toole have faced this dilemma—choosing a popular policy that has catastrophic economic consequences—in somewhat different ways. Biden, “an old man in a hurry,” has gone for broke. He’s adopted the most extreme version of an extreme policy and hoped that its dire results would not be noticed or, if noticed, not believed by most voters in the heat of an election campaign.

That’s certainly a risk. Already, a Trump campaign spokesman, Hogan Gidley, has described the policy as "like a socialist manifesto that promises to massively raise taxes, eliminate jobs in the coal, oil or natural gas industries, and crush the middle class. There is no way he can sell this radical agenda to union workers in energy-producing, manufacturing, or auto industry states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, or Wisconsin.”

In this election, however, maybe the policy will sneak through under the smokescreen of all the rest of the hellzapoppin shenanigans in both campaigns.

O’Toole is taking no such risks. True to his strategy of balancing, he opposes a federal carbon tax—carbon taxes are the main unpopular element in the carbon-neutral strategy—but will assist the Canadian provinces if they adopt such taxes on their own.  Along the same lines, he promises “a plan to get to net-zero emissions in the oil and gas industry through the use of technologies like electrification generated from sources such as nuclear and wind and carbon capture, with the government providing incentives similar to those that were used to stimulate the early development of the oilsands.”

In other words he’s hoping to be able to save Canada’s energy industries—and his own political prospects if he becomes prime minister—by relying on technical breakthroughs like “carbon capture” that would allow oil and gas (and presumably coal) to continue to be the basis for electricity generation. That’s not unreasonable as a political strategy—it’s traditionally known as “waiting for something to turn up”—but technical breakthroughs can’t be guaranteed to arrive on time. What about the interim?

Well, O’Toole may be helped by a deus ex machina in the modest form of Joe Biden. He is facing an election in just ten weeks on November the 3rd whereas the date of O’Toole’s rendezvous with destiny is more uncertain. Canada’s election must be held no later than October the 19th, 2023, but Canada’s scandal-hit minority Liberal government could fall at any time.

If Biden were to be elected in November, he would be unrolling his energy policy in early 2021 and its economic and industrial costs would begin to be apparent no later than Spring 2022. (Its benefits, being invisible, will never be apparent.) If they are as disastrous as the policies are bold, Biden will be a marvelous negative example of the economic consequences of courageous carbon neutrality.

On the other hand Trump may win—in which case Biden will provide a marvelous negative example of the political consequences of courageous carbon neutrality.

I don’t see how O’Toole can’t not enjoy the 2020 US presidential election.

The Suburbs Are Safe -- for Now

The Trump Administration has  announced that it's repealed the radical Obama-era institution of the so-called Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) policy, after receiving thousands of complaints from around the country that the plan would radically change the nature of America's suburbs. "The suburb destruction will end with us,” President Trump stated.

This long expected and overdue repeal will allow the president to use the inflammatory issue of keeping federal control and divisive mandates out of and away from the nation's suburbs in his campaign. The issue is critical for appealing to suburban voters who constitute a majority of Americans, and who oppose nationalizing housing policy by Washington, D.C.

This move comes on the heels of the announcement by the Democratic presidential campaign of Joe Biden (“Obama 3”), that, if elected, he would aggressively implement AFFH, to force middle and upper middle class suburban communities to house, educate, and subsidize the poor.

The now-repealed 2015 Obama iteration of AFFH claimed that the federal government could use HUD’s community block grants to force suburbs to provide high density, low income, and Section 8 housing despite local zoning laws. That is, it gutted the right of communities to determine their own zoning policies, and thereby threatened to destroy the nature and property values of thousands of suburbs across the country. This policy rests on a radical departure in the definition of "fair housing." Prior to the Obama Administration, the term had always meant "no housing discrimination based on race or creed." 

The stated intent of the original 1968 Fair Housing Act was to defeat de facto segregation, by opening up the nation’s housing supply to anyone who could afford property. Obama’s radical socialist HUD Secretary, Julian Castro, chose to redefine "fair' to include economic status, and to compel local authorities to change zoning laws to force communities that typically lack public transportation, infrastructure, needed academic programs in schools, and even suitable jobs, to provide those things, along with the higher density Section 8 housing -- as if not having all of the above was a sign of active racial and economic discrimination.

The Trump Administration, which has been aggressive about removing unhelpful regulations from the books, noted that the Democrats' implementation of AFFH would have imposed a massive regulatory burden on localities, required high density zoning, eliminated single family zoning, and destroyed our suburbs.

The White House pointed out that the majority of African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans now live in suburban communities, where they, like so many other Americans, are able to afford homes, achieving one important part of the American dream. And that home ownership “offers the chance for all Americans to build wealth for their families.”

The point about home ownership being a basis for building wealth is an important rejoinder to the critique of those who believe in "structural racism” that African Americans are somehow denied the ability to create inter-generational wealth. To be sure, that requires both actual ownership and a stable community, in which the value of property appreciates over time. Introducing mandatory Section 8 housing has generally reduced the value of adjacent properties while also raising the rates of crime that many homeowners fled the cities to escape in the first place.

As for the Obama-era regulatory interpretation, HUD noted that:

This approach is not required by applicable statutes, which give HUD considerable discretion in determining what “affirmatively furthering fair housing” means, and it is also at odds with both federalism principles and specific statutes protecting local control over housing policy. For example, Congress specifically barred HUD from using funding to force grantees to change any public policy, regulation, or law.

HUD Secretary Ben Carson said,

After reviewing thousands of comments on the proposed changes to the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulation, we found it to be unworkable and ultimately a waste of time for localities to comply with, too often resulting in funds being steered away from communities that need them most. Instead, the Trump Administration has established programs like Opportunity Zones that are driving billions of dollars of capital into underserved communities where affordable housing exists, but opportunity does not. Programs like this …. allow communities to focus more of their time working with Opportunity Zone partners to revitalize their communities so upward mobility, improved housing, and home ownership is within reach for more people. Washington has no business dictating what is best to meet your local community’s unique needs.

Because this is all a matter of regulation, not law, it would be entirely possible for a Biden Administration to revive the Obama interpretation, and return to actively urbanizing and, consequently, destroying the suburbs. That is what they have promised to do in their statements on housing policy. As we approach November, that fact should be and widely publicized by the administration -- widely understood by American voters.

Joe Biden's War on Suburbia

For 50 years environmentalists have told Americans that suburbs are bad. They are boring and conformist. There isn’t enough friction between different groups and classes to make life stimulating or spur deep thoughts. Living in single family homes, spread over large areas, is wasteful. This ruins the land. They consume too much energy. They require automobiles, which take too much energy, cause terrible pollution, and require additional roads, which are ugly, and lead to more suburbs… and so on.

So you’d think that the most woke, hard-left presidential campaign in American history would have a plan to make American cities better for those who live there, including the poor, especially at this moment when the middle class is fleeing irresponsible, profligate and unsafe urban governance, bad schools, and the density that leads to the spread of disease, like, say, Covid-19.

You'd be wrong. Last month, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden announced his housing policy platform, to great cheers from the socialist, Bernie Sanders wing of his party. There will be no enterprise zones to foster job growth in neighborhoods where intergenerational welfare dependence is common. Instead, Joe’s plan relies on shipping the poor to those boring, energy inefficient suburbs.

The Biden policy, called AFFH (Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing), is couched in terms of racial "fairness." In fact, it is a radical plan that would crush the ability of American citizens to choose what kind of community in which to live. It would destroy the attributes that make the suburbs the destination of choice for 52% of Americans. We know this because the policy is not new. AFFH was widely imposed, and somewhat less widely implemented, during the Obama administration, by radical Housing and Urban Development secretary Julian Castro.

Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) is a legal requirement that federal agencies and federal grantees further the purposes of the Fair Housing Act. This obligation to affirmatively further fair housing has been in the Fair Housing Act since 1968 (for further information see Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, 42 U.S.C. 3608 and Executive Order 12892). HUD's AFFH rule provides an effective planning approach to aid program participants in taking meaningful actions to overcome historic patterns of segregation, promote fair housing choice, and foster inclusive communities that are free from discrimination.

As provided in the rule, AFFH means "taking meaningful actions, in addition to combating discrimination, that overcome patterns of segregation and foster inclusive communities free from barriers that restrict access to opportunity based on protected characteristics. Specifically, affirmatively furthering fair housing means taking meaningful actions that, taken together, address significant disparities in housing needs and in access to opportunity, replacing segregated living patterns with truly integrated and balanced living patterns, transforming racially and ethnically concentrated areas of poverty into areas of opportunity, and fostering and maintaining compliance with civil rights and fair housing laws. The duty to affirmatively further fair housing extends to all of a program participant's activities and programs relating to housing and urban development."

The nut of AFFH is a redefinition of the longstanding definition of “fair housing.” Traditionally that term meant no discrimination by race, sex, or other unalterable human attributes. The Obama Administration, by fiat, decided that “fair housing” would henceforth include economic class, as if civil rights for African Americans is synonymous with access to live in places that individuals cannot pay for. So, if not many people of a certain ethnic group live in a certain suburb, either because they cannot afford it, or they prefer somewhere else, that demonstrates racial discrimination. The remedy is forced integration by means of building low income and Section 8 housing for the poor and very poor, with an eye on creating a racial mix too.

The unspoken, because obvious, nature of American suburban life, is that people gravitate to places with other people who share their values. Those include safety; quality of schools; access to appropriate job markets; proximity to particular religious and cultural institutions; and social comfort. Most Americans, of all races, say that their priority is finding the best quality of public education they can afford.

Because suburban housing is allocated by the market – what can you afford to pay? – neighbors have a comparable stake in preserving the schools, the environment, and other goods. This is codified in local zoning laws, designed by local representatives, to create or preserve a town’s density, leafiness, school quality, and nature and location of commercial strips. It is not an overstatement to say that the Biden policy literally decimates each mechanism for preservation of local character. In the process it severely mitigates freedom of association, and, property rights as we have known them.

How?

Land in those leafy suburbs with zoning for one-acre lots, and homes starting in the mid-six figures, is way too expensive on which to build taxpayer funded housing. Which means that local zoning laws cannot stand. So local control cedes to federal mandates. Then HUD requires your town to build high density apartments to house people with half or less the local median income. Coming from urban projects, they usually don’t have cars. Now your town needs public transportation. It needs a denser commercial area, so people can shop without cars. The schools will have to spend money on programs to accommodate children with different educational needs. You need a bigger police force, because studies show that crime follows Section 8 housing. Et voila: your community is quasi-urban; the value of your property is down; and your taxes are higher, because you are now obligated to pay for the needs of your new neighbors.

Why?

As the middle class has been pushed out of many cities, leaving behind the very wealthy and the poor, urban tax bases have shrunk. Urban/poverty policy types want to send the poor to middle and upper middle-class suburbs, because that’s where the money is. They want access to the suburban tax base, to fund the ever-growing list of quasi-socialist demands, to provide luxuries in the name of "fairness," whether or not people have earned it.

While they’re at it, Democrats are happy to destroy the culture of individualism fostered by one family, one house. People who earn their way into better communities often vote Republican. Low-income people in high rises, dependent on public transportation, want different things from government. It’s not an accident that they are importing enough Democrats to change suburban political outcomes.

Why does an energy website care about this issue?

The Biden housing policy it is a clear example of how the left, working through issue organizations, and ultimately through Democratic administrations, will use any excuse – any real or imagined social and cultural problem—to steer this country towards socialism. Fifty years of stated environmental policy, based on energy concerns, pollution, and efficiency, are tossed the instant a plan to federalize the suburbs appears.

Funny thing: the Democrats have not changed their stated views on the harm to the environment caused by cars and suburbs. Candidate Biden’s energy policy, released this past week, allots $2 trillion to avert the destruction of the planet by getting rid of carbon emissions, building higher density communities, and lots of new public transportation. Even if no one wants to live in cities. So they push endless spending, destruction of the communities citizens have created organically, and ever-increasing federal control of every aspect of how Americans live, while forcing the struggling middle class to pay for those who, for whatever reason, cannot earn their way up the ladder.

Because it’s never about what they say. It’s about accruing power, by destroying individual rights.

'Solyndra on Steroids' -- Biden's Climate Plan

I couldn't help but laugh when I read the sub-headline of this New York Times report on Joe Biden's recent speech laying out his new, improved environmental policy proposals. It reads, "Joe Biden’s plan connects tackling climate change with the economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis, while also addressing racism." Oh, is that all? Forgive me for assuming his advisors just wanted to toss a bunch of hot topics into a single speech to limit his exposure to the voting public.

Biden’s plan outlines specific and aggressive targets, including achieving an emissions-free power sector by 2035 and upgrading four million buildings over four years to meet the highest standards for energy efficiency.... [H]e promised that “the U.S. auto industry and its deep bench of suppliers will step up, expanding capacity so that the United States, not China, leads the world in clean vehicle production.” .... He also pressed the need to link environmental advocacy to racial justice, describing pollution and other toxic harms that disproportionately affect communities of color.

One need not read any further than "an emissions-free power sector by 2035" to recognize this as an unserious plan. As the Times acknowledges, its subtext is shoring up the support of the various Democratic factions who've long been skeptical of Biden. The "climate justice crowd has struggled to figure out what his environmental policies actually are (they're not alone), and doubt his commitment to their cause. The Race uber alles coterie are inclined to hold his role in crafting the '94 crime bill against him. The Bernie Bros economic lefties don't really trust anyone to deliver but Bernie. And the promise of auto-industry jobs and his shot at China are an attempt at outreach to the blue collar voters who pulled the lever for Trump in 2016.

Which is not to say that we shouldn't be concerned about this plan should Biden win in November. House minority whip Steve Scalise  referred to it as "Solyndra on steroids,” and that about sums it up. Biden didn't assign a dollar amount to his proposal, but it's clear he plans to spend significantly more than the $1.7 trillion his campaign had initially proposed. It would be hard for a President Biden to renege on a commitment to that kind of spending without drawing a primary challenge from, say, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in 2024, when she will have just turned 35.

How would a Biden administration pay for this you might ask? Easy:

To pay for it, campaign officials said, Biden proposes an increase in the corporate income tax rate to 28 percent from 21 percent, “asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share."

The odd conflation of corporations and "the wealthiest Americans" aside, the U.S. only just cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent in 2017, and it isn't as if we had trillions of dollars in the budget to spend on electric cars before then.

Joe Biden wants voters to think of him as reasonable and moderate, but proposals like this, ordered towards appeasing the most extreme elements in his party, are a window into how he would actually govern: disastrously.

With US Election Looming, Whither Fracking?

Fracking has become a hot-button issue on the Left, and for a number of reasons. For one thing, it's good for the American economy, so right off the bat it's bad. For another, it has something to do with icky fossil fuel extraction -- a messy business involving melted dinosaur juice that no right-thinking Harvard grad would want to get involved with. For another, it's the brutal rape of almost virginal Mother Gaia; if there's one thing the Left embraces wholeheartedly it's the pathetic fallacy, which attributes human emotions to inanimate or insentient objects.

The Democrats, naturally, object to fracking because all of the above, and reasons. As with everything they despise, they want to ban it, outlaw it, forbid it, demolish it, and destroy it. For your own good, of course.

The senile cardboard cutout once known as former vice president Joe Biden says he doesn't want to ban fracking -- a sure-loser proposition in his birth state of Pennsylvania and a state he must win in November to have a chance of unseating Trump. Especially, as the coronavirus lockdown hoax passes, with the economy bouncing back sharply. But the ideological, sentimental crazies in his party (e.g. everybody else) don't want to hear talk like that. Over at Real Clear Markets, Steve Milloy has the story:

Fracking is a key issue in battleground states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan where hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs depend the largely state-governed process of producing oil from shale rock formations.

During the primary campaign, Biden flip-flopped back and forth on banning fracking, finally alighting on an intermediary position where he wouldn’t ban fracking outright but would act to limit it on federally-owned lands. After Biden had cemented the nomination, the firebrand [Alexandria] Ocasio-Cortez was named as a climate advisor and installed on the Democratic National Committee’s climate advisory panel.

In early June, the DNC Environment and Climate Crisis Council issued a report that called for “legislation permanently banning fracking and enhanced oil recovery and initiate a managed phaseout of existing operations.” The purpose of the report is to “recommend a sweeping set of policies for inclusion in the new four-year 2020 Democratic Party platform, which will be approved at the August convention.”

While it is not uncommon for presidential candidates and their party platforms to often diverge, is the fracking fracture between Biden and the Democratic Council more significant? Of course it is.

Read Milloy's piece in its entirety, which goes on to argue that the feeble, demented Biden will be a pushover for the radicals. But that gives Trump an opening, not only in places like Pennsylvania (the keystone to winning the election; if Trump loses Penn., it's over), but also Ohio, Michigan, Indiana -- all of which Trump won in 2016. The big prize of New York State, even in its declining dotage, could also be put into play. Thug governor Andrew Cuomo has banned it in his state, but long-suffering western New York and the Southern Tier would welcome it. Biden may think he's got NYS in the bag, but even a strong feint by the Trump campaign in the direction of Rochester, Buffalo, and Elmira could force Biden to play defense.

Biden may deny he would ban fracking. But the question for voters should be, would it really be up to him? Panicked Democrats are now trying to back away from the DNC report calling for the fracking ban. A “senior Democrat familiar with the DNC’s workings” said to Reuters of the recommended fracking ban, “It’s a nonstarter.” About the Ocasio-Cortez-led DNC climate panel, the understandably anonymous source said, “Nobody takes them seriously.”

That will be disconcerting news to the likes of Ocasio-Cortez and all the Bernie Sanders supporters who, as it is, already have to hold their noses and vote for Biden.

If he cares about his country at all, Biden has a chance to put down the AOC rebellion and do the right thing. But of course he won't.

Prediction of Economic Recovery Terrifies Dems

It looks like we're getting to the other side of this pandemic, with lock-down orders easing up and restrictions on everyday activities being lifted, with and without masks. One sign that things are returning to normal is that people's minds are turning away from daily case numbers and towards the election in the fall. To that end, Jason Furman, a Harvard professor and one of Barack Obama's senior economic advisors, gave a presentation to the Democratic party's top strategists a few weeks ago, and what he had to say absolutely shocked them:

“We are about to see the best economic data we’ve seen in the history of this country," he said.... “Everyone looked puzzled and thought I had misspoken,” Furman said in an interview. Instead of forecasting a prolonged Depression-level economic catastrophe, Furman laid out a detailed case for why the months preceding the November election could offer Trump the chance to brag — truthfully — about the most explosive monthly employment numbers and gross domestic product growth ever....

Furman’s counterintuitive pitch has caused some Democrats, especially Obama alumni, around Washington to panic. “This is my big worry,” said a former Obama White House official who is still close to the former president. Asked about the level of concern among top party officials, he said, “It’s high — high, high, high, high.”

Maybe I've missed something, but the above sounds to me like.... good news. But I suppose that's because I'm not running for president with the hopes of hanging a new Great Depression on the incumbent.

Furman stressed that he was speaking “in gross terms, not in net terms,” which is to say that the "V shaped" recovery he was predicting wouldn't leave us better off than we were before the pandemic. The economy would look great compared to the depths of the April and May, but we would still be in rough shape. This, of course, is a difficult message to boil down into a campaign slogan or a meme, which is why the Dems are so anxious about it.

At the same time, it should serve as a rallying cry for the Right. Just a few months ago, when we were riding an incredible economic wave with low taxes and low unemployment, the Democrats were arguing that we should be willing to risk our prosperity on their ideological program. Here's Jim Geraghty on that point:

Back during one of the debates, Tim Alberta of Politico asked Biden, “As president, would you be willing to sacrifice some of that growth, even knowing potentially that it could displace thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of blue-collar workers in the interest of transitioning to that greener economy?” Biden responded, “The answer is yes. The answer is yes, because the opportunity — the opportunity for those workers to transition to high-paying jobs, as Tom said, is real.”

Biden pledged “no new fracking” during a debate, then walked it back; he wants to set a price on carbon to be used for either a carbon tax or cap-and-trade; Biden endorsed California’s AB5, the anti-“gig” law; he would raise the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent, and he insists he can raise taxes by $4 trillion over the next decade, without raising taxes on anyone making $400,000 per year or less.

If the economy is heading in the right direction in the fall -- if jobs are coming back and the stock market is up -- but hasn't quite recovered, should we really trust Joe Biden to prioritize getting us back where we need to be, rather than handing over his domestic policy to the Green Blob? His recent pledge to kill the Keystone XL pipeline if he's elected doesn't inspire confidence.

Jason Kenney's Diplomatic Response to Biden

Last week I wrote about the ridiculous pledge from Joe Biden's campaign to kill the Keystone XL pipeline project should Joe succeed in his bid to become the 46th President of these United States. Well, the following day Biden came out of his Delaware basement, saw his shadow, and magnanimously allowed reporters to ask him a few questions. One of those questions was about his Keystone pledge, and here is what the former veep had to say:

“I’ve been against Keystone from the beginning. It is tarsands that we don’t need — that in fact is very, very high pollutant,” Biden said in an interview with CNBC. Biden said he wouldn’t want to stop all oil projects immediately, but vowed to transition the U.S. “gradually… to a clean economy.” He said Keystone “does not economically, nor, in my view, environmentally, make any sense.”

In my post I mentioned how bizarre it is that Biden would endanger all the jobs that Keystone XL has and will continue to provide in two countries, while also antagonizing Canada, a key ally and major (and increasingly important) trading partner. Well, in his reply to Biden's comments Alberta Premier Jason Kenney hit a lot of the same notes, while having the diplomatic sense to suggest that the issue might not be Biden's stupidity as much as that he has been poorly served by his advisors:

The comments made by [former U.S.] vice-president Biden suggest that he hasn’t been well or accurately briefed on the dependence of the American economy on Canadian energy exports,” Kenney said. “It’s a hugely important strategic development for the United States that North America is now energy independent — no longer dependent on imports from OPEC dictatorships like Venezuela and Saudi Arabia.... The Keystone pipeline... delivers about 600,000 barrels a day of heavy Alberta crude to refineries primarily in the Midwest in Illinois. So, a whole lot of jobs and the economy in the American Midwest are dependent on that supply of energy through the Keystone pipeline.

We would hope to have a chance to ensure Mr. Biden was aware of these facts and also aware that the building trades union, the construction unions, the steelworkers unions — which are traditional supporters of Mr. Biden’s party — are strongly in favour of the Keystone XL pipeline expansion, which has already crossed the border, which is creating thousands of jobs on both sides of the border and which will ensure that the United States is no longer dependent on OPEC crude,” Kenney said.

The premier went on to point out that Biden's claim that the claim that the project is not economically viable doesn't stand up to scrutiny since Keystone "has been operating for 10 years, profitably and successfully, both for the refineries, American consumers and Canadian producers," and that his claim that it is environmentally unsound doesn't make a lot of sense since the alternative to the pipeline is oil being transported by rail which itself leads to greater carbon emissions. It isn't like people are going to stop using energy. much as the Luddite Left might wish otherwise.

Kenney would have been in his rights to drop the mic after this thorough dismantling of the former vice president, and maybe put videos of it up on all of his social media accounts, followed by a sufficiently antagonistic gif, like so:

or

But interfering in the politics of another country -- especially an ally -- is bad form, and of course it's possible that Kenney will have to work with (God help us) President Biden one of these days. Should that day arrive, perhaps Biden should take some diplomacy lessons from Alberta's premier.

Of course it would be even better if he learned a thing or two about major sectors of our economy before he decides to destroy them.

Biden Vows to Kill Keystone XL if Elected

Back before he went into hiding, Joe Biden was notorious for making confusing statements which his spokesmen had to "clarify" later, while pretending that they'd been distorted by conservative media. Not that he's actually stopped doing this since the DNC began using the lockdowns as a pretense for hiding him in his basement in Delaware (a tactic which seems to be working for them at the moment, but which they can't keep up through November). While criticizing Donald Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic, Biden told ABC News a few weeks ago, "We have to take care of the cure. That will make the problem worse, no matter what. No matter what. We know what has to be done." Uh, sure Grandpa.

But there was nothing confusing about the statement put out by the Biden campaign (of course not delivered by the candidate himself) vowing to kill the Keystone XL Pipeline project should he be elected president next November.

“Biden strongly opposed the Keystone pipeline in the last administration, stood alongside President Obama and Secretary Kerry to reject it in 2015, and will proudly stand in the Roosevelt Room again as President and stop it for good by rescinding the Keystone XL pipeline permit,” Biden campaign policy director Stef Feldman said in a written statement to POLITICO.

In case you've forgotten, Keystone XL is a project of the Canadian oil firm TC Energy, the object of which is to safely transport Canadian crude from Alberta down to refineries in the U.S. It is, in fact, the fourth Keystone pipeline, and when completed it will be able to transport more oil (because it is larger) more quickly (because it travels a less circuitous route) than the already operational other three. Unfortunately for TC Energy, stopping Keystone XL became a cause célèbre for the Left during Barack Obama's presidency, and so the Obama Administration slow-walked the permit process for years until officially rejecting it after six years of review. Donald Trump breathed new life into the project after his election, but it has remained in legal limbo throughout the course of his first term.

Just a few thoughts on his announcement:

  1. Part of Biden's appeal is that he's supposedly this scrappy, working class, down-to-earth, Irish Catholic guy from Scranton, Pa., son of a used car salesman, yadda yadda yadda. But here he is, during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, promising to kill steady, hardworking jobs (in two countries!) because it'll make well-connected environmentalists happy?
  2. Even Democrats are starting to acknowledge that the former Vice President isn't all there. Even if it were true that his instincts are more geared towards the working man than the wine-and-caviar set that Hillary Clinton appealed to, this kind of announcement should give you a sense of who will actually be doing the governing while President Biden retreats further into his dotage.
  3. Keystone XL is popular in Canada, so much so that the then-newly elected prime minister, Justin Trudeau, a self-proclaimed environmentalist, felt compelled to object when Obama originally killed the project. Canada is our second largest trading partner, and our largest -- China -- is increasingly unpopular in the U.S., for obvious reasons, so much so that calls for our relationship with that nation to be drastically reevaluated are coming in hot and heavy. Would it really be wise for Biden -- whose foreign policy experience supposedly got him the nod as Obama's veep -- to antagonize an ally in such an environment?

Then again, former Obama Defense Secretary Robert Gates famously said that Biden “has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades." As his Keystone XL announcement demonstrates, his domestic and trade policy instincts are just as reliable.