The House Democrats’ climate proposals—dubbed the Climate Crisis Action Plan—are designed to reduce the U.S. economy’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 through a combination of costly government mandates, tax incentives, and new infrastructure spending. The proposals would require electric utilities to be net-zero emitters of greenhouse gases by 2040 and automakers to produce only electric cars by 2035 with all new heavy-duty trucks hitting that mark by 2040. The plan also includes placing a tax on carbon dioxide emissions, imposing tighter methane limits, and increasing energy efficiency requirements for buildings. Solar and wind tax credits would be extended through 2025 and the tax credit for electric vehicles would be expanded. Even if these crippling economic proposals were to pass the Senate, they would face a likely veto from President Trump. The November election thus holds great importance for the future of the Climate Crisis Action Plan.
Setting a goal of net-zero emissions makes little sense when other countries are allowed to continue to emit greenhouse gases through their pledges to the Paris accord. China will continue to increase its greenhouse gas emissions until 2030 and is continuing to build coal plants that will operate for generations. As the consumer of over half the coal burned in the world annually, China currently has under construction enough coal plants to equal all the coal plants in the United States. Once built, China’s coal fleet will equal the entire electric generating fleet in the United States. China will use its domestic coal resources to recover economically as it did from the global recession in 2009. India is also using its domestic coal resources to continue to get electricity to its increasing population that suffers without it. In addition, Japan is constructing coal and marketing its coal plant technology to the world.
Imposing these onerous requirements on the U.S. economy would be counterproductive to the critical task of rebuilding in the wake of the pandemic recession and futile in the context of global developments.
Other Key Provisions in the Proposal
The Democrats 538-page report calls on Congress to direct the EPA to consider the cumulative pollution effects of the permits it grants to projects in poor and minority urban communities. In more rural areas, it calls for Congress to protect at least 30 percent of all U.S. land and ocean by 2030.
The package would also create a “National Climate Bank,” which would use taxpayer money to finance projects that cut emissions, and expand the Energy Department’s loan-guarantee program to leverage private investment in decarbonization and resilience projects. While these may be good business for the companies who would receive taxpayers’ cash, it would not be a good use of taxpayers’ money.
The plan also calls for reorganizing the U.S. Energy Department—the main federal agency funding research into new energy technologies—so work done in one office, such as research on capturing carbon dioxide at power plants, can be more readily deployed elsewhere in the economy, such as in the manufacturing sector.
The plan would phase down emissions from fossil fuel extraction on public lands and waters by 2040. It would end targeted tax provisions favorable to the oil and gas industry and encourage natural carbon sequestration through the agriculture sector. It also reestablishes the Civilian Conservation Corps to build climate resilience projects.
Cost of Democrats’ Climate Policies
While the costs of the proposals have not been officially determined, it is clear that they would be enormous, since they would restrict energy production and access—the underlying ingredient in all economic activity. Under the guise of healthy environmentalism, this package seeks a restructuring of American economic life. Polls indicate a measure of support for climate change policy, but rarely do those polls quantify Americans’ willingness to pay for self-imposed hardship. Note that the Democrats in the House did not provide the cost of their proposals. Those costs will be paid by average Americans, many of whom are under economic stress right now, both in the form of taxes and higher prices across many economic sectors. Americans want abundant, affordable energy and a robust energy industry. Under President Trump’s energy dominance program both have been achieved and the United States became the number one producer of oil and natural gas in the world.
Adoption of the Climate Crisis Action Plan while other countries are ramping up their use of fossil fuel energy would weaken U.S. standing. It would invite China to become the preeminent country in the world and would encourage China to continue its expansion beyond what is currently happening in Hong Kong, the South China Sea, and Indian border region. China’s strength in producing and purchasing energy is enabling it to fuel its economy and to increase its military might. The United States needs to be cautious that we do not enable this power shift by implementing crippling policies as the House Democrats are doing with their new climate plan.