The myriad policies and initiatives put forth under the banner of climate change mitigation can sometimes overwhelm the mind. But most of these alleged climate solutions can be understood as big government in disguise, in the form of rules, regulations, and other encroachments on our free use of energy and other resources. Far too many philanthropic organizations financially support these government-in-disguise measures rather than supporting more useful measures that take the essentiality of individual and economic freedom into account.
The Kresge Foundation, a philanthropic organization headquartered in Troy, Michigan, is one such organization. From 2008-2016, it gave more than $200 million to various energy and environmental causes. The lion’s share of this was for ambiguous or explicitly big government climate change mitigation efforts.
Kresge has given its support to a range of organizations, from local government, to small action groups, to the behemoth organizations like the Tides Foundation, the Sierra Club, and the Energy Foundation that produce some of the most out-of-touch ideas that exist in the energy space.
Between 2010 and 2016 the foundation made five donations to the Center for American Progress, four of which were to fund policy efforts that aimed to grow the role of government in energy restriction.
The Kresge Foundation gave $120,000 to the City and County of San Francisco for the implementation of an “energy use rating and disclosure system in San Francisco”, a system that if implemented would surely increase the San Francisco government’s exercise of control over its residents’ energy consumption decisions.
Georgetown University, which hosted the Climate Forum 2020 for Presidential candidates last September, received funding for its Climate Center, which has developed and marketed the regional carbon tax scheme known as the Transportation and Climate Initiative.
The Kresge Foundation also funded the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Center for Energy Efficiency Standards which seeks to implement top-down standards for energy efficiency.
Similarly, Kresge also funded an effort by the group Earth Justice in its “litigation to encourage the U.S. Department of Energy to raise the level of energy efficiency standards for buildings, appliances, and equipment”. Although energy efficiency is often a preferred aim for private actors encouraged by market discipline, government-based efficiency solutions are too generalized and leave no room for individual choice. An efficient appliance, car, or building may be the best choice for one household or business, and not for another, and it is not the government’s role to make this determination for them.
Some of these grants are explicitly for purposes that either approach the issue from an ideological rather than realistic perspective, or that prize radical economic change over the environmental goods that they purport to seek. The Kresge Foundation made numerous grants like the $1,000,000 one to Reconnecting America “[f]or an alliance dedicated to reforming federal transportation policy.” This sort of funding likely promotes an increase in the scope of government control over individual decisions, restricting the way in which we live our lives.
Other grants have incredibly ambiguous purposes that on their face sound like they may be doing some good, but which are ultimately a thin veneer over the true intention, to remake our energy economy in a way that jeopardized the American dream as we know it.
One notable exception to this is the foundation’s funding of energy-efficient building efforts. The foundation has made significant contributions to the construction of LEED-certified buildings. This is an example of a constructive purpose, encouraging individual action through private commerce rather than by coercing government policy to actualize their goals. Constructing energy-efficient building, to reiterate is often of benefit to firms and households; paying people to petition the government to force new regulations on everyone else is quite the opposite.
Overall, many of these “climate change mitigation” and “climate justice” grants seek to increase the power of government, rather than manage negative climate outcomes.