The regulatory and policy changes of the Trump Administration led to unparalleled job growth and national prosperity. We suffered through the dark Carter years of interrupted energy supplies, higher fuel costs, and long lines at gas stations, at the mercy of oil rich Middle Eastern countries and emerged in daylight to the Trump created energy independence we had sought for decades.
Now the Biden administration has rapidly signaled that it intends to undo those policies, impoverish us, jeopardize our security, increase energy costs, end millions of jobs, strip poor states of needed tax revenue, and hand China yet more economic gains at our expense.
John Kerry, owner of private planes, a substantial auto fleet, and two yachts was ludicrously named our “Energy Czar” and even he admits these policies will not reduce emissions. How effective these policies and programs will be depends on how much pushback there will be against this turnabout, but there are signs that judicial and congressional challenges are already underway, and much of these actions were undertaken just to pay off the ill-informed greenies and not for any environmental benefit.
In the short time he’s been Commander in Chief, Biden has taken some 42 executive actions, including signing at least 24 executive orders. Most are so ludicrously unrealistic, I assumed former bartender Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez drafted them, and indeed AOC is delighted, saying they are just like the Green New Deal she’s been promoting. A great many of these will limit energy production and our domestic industrial base.
They will also increase consumer costs on everything, at a time when the China virus-related income and employment losses are being felt, particularly among the least wealthy, working class Americans who had begun to prosper during the early Trump years.
The most significant of these acts are rejoining the Paris climate agreement, pausing new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or in offshore waters pending comprehensive review and reconsideration of such permitting and leasing practices, killing the Keystone XL project, and tossing out the cost-benefit analysis for regulatory actions. These actions and orders will face significant challenges. I predict a bonanza for energy lawyers is in the making.
Last year, President Trump offered these leases in Alaska and California. Winning bidders were challenged in Alaska and a federal court refused to halt them determining they were authorized by federal law. It’s hard to see how the government can rescind those leases without compensation to the winning leaseholders. (Of course, they can impose strictures or delay permitting but the companies involved have enough practice in such matters to navigate the lengthy and costly regulatory process for which consumers ultimately will bear the price).
It’s of no small matter that West Virginia senator Joe Manchin was just named by senator Chuck Schumer to head the Senate Energy and National Resource Council. As a senator from a coal-producing state, he is unlikely to share the same distaste for fossil fuels as the New Yorker Ocasio-Cortez. Schumer felt compelled to give Manchin this important committee assignment because of his own slim majority and concerns that Manchin might be considering crossing the aisle. I expect Manchin to provide some check on the Green New Deal nonsense.
Aside from the existing judicial constraints and the likely role of senator Manchin, there are a number of Congressional opponents on both sides of the aisles to contend with. Congressman Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Yvette Harrell (R-NM.) are demanding that Biden rescind the moratorium on drilling and leasing activities on federal land. Democrats Vincent Gonzales (D-Tex.), Henry Cuellar (D-Tex.), Lizzie Fletcher (D-Tex.), Marc Veasey (D-Tex.) demand the order be rescinded, noting it would devastate New Mexico, spike fuel costs, cost as many as one million jobs and decrease U.S. GDP by $700 billion, reduce critical energy supplies, weaken national security and embroil the Interior department in litigation for failure to meet statutory requirements to hold lease sales.
It’s not only energy producers and distributors involved, of course: aside from direct energy jobs, a moratorium on coastal extractions would cost the high paying jobs in water management and coastal restoration, as Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana pointed out. Six state attorneys general are threatening a lawsuit over the moratorium -- they represent West Virginia, Arkansas, Indiana, Mississippi, Montana, and Texas.
President Trump withdrew us from the Paris agreement, which had been entered into by President Obama without Congressional approval. It’s a ludicrous globalist folly which if followed (which Europe has not actually been doing) only would impoverish the U.S. and the rest of the Western industrial countries while leaving China and India to spew carbon emissions unchecked, with the result that there will be no diminution of these, even assuming they have a deleterious impact on climate (a debated proposition).
Acting under that agreement, Obama imposed a number of regulations on power plants and oil and gas production and delivery. These rules never took effect because they were either tied up in court or repealed and replaced by the Trump administration or dismissed by the courts as unlawful. Under the Trump EPA, final rules cost-benefit analyses must be conducted for all future rules. The Biden administration appears intent to scrap this requirement under the rubric “Modernizing Regulatory Review," but I don’t foresee that regulatory requirements can be altered without a lengthy procedure.
Even if they succeed at that, they have another hurdle to overcome. The Trump EPA locked in for five years current ozone and particulate matter standards and to alter these standards under the existing EPA rule there must be independent peer review of the pivotal science and identify the research the agency relied on to make the rule. The incoming administration may, in sum, institute new rules, but it can expect significant challenges along the way to enforcement. And you can expect that companies which have long lead times and have expended great sums and effort to comply with the existing regulations are not likely to easily and without challenge accept more stringent ones.
It certainly will not help sell the Agreement when Green Czar Kerry dismisses the job losses that will follow by saying “those folks[can have] better choices,” adding, “they can make solar panels.” It’s condescending and, of course, it ignores that these panels are almost all manufactured in China (about 60 percent of the supply chain and three-quarters of the material used to make solar cells). It also grossly exaggerates the number of jobs available in installation of solar panels or maintenance of windmills. In 2019 there were 7,000 wind turbine technicians and 12,000 solar installers, a far cry from the thousands involved in conventional fuel production and distribution.
Facts are for little people -- bean counters -- not big thinkers like Kerry and Ocasio-Cortez. As if the "czar" hadn’t said enough to scotch the deal, he added the U.S. had to “pay through the nose and lose jobs to ensure other countries reduce their emissions.” Congresswoman Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) has introduced a bill to block reentry into the Paris agreement until it receives Senate confirmation. She already has eleven GOP cosponsors.
I expect more will join her and I wouldn’t be surprised if a constitutional challenge in court will follow any further effort to rejoin the Agreement. It’s a treaty by any fair reading and the Constitution compels treaties be affirmed by two-thirds of the Senate (Article II, section 2). The question is, will the Democrats care?