New Carbon Regulations, at Greater Cost to America

Five years into Obama's presidency, twelve million Americans remain unemployed, ten million others are underemployed, the unemployment rate is rising, and Obama wants to make it worse.

In the fourth year of the Reagan presidency, the national economy grew by 6.8%.  Last year, under Obama, it was still stuck at 2.2%.  That difference is not accidental.  It is the result of the contrasting policies of the two administrations.  Sadly, the economic destruction of America continues in Obama's second term.

One example of this continuing damage is Obama's determination to fight the phantom of climate change.  For the past 15 years, the global climate has been cooling, not warming.  And yet Obama, together with his "climate and energy advisor," Heather Zichal, has just announced a costly new initiative to halt global warming.

On Tuesday, Obama announced sweeping new regulations that will effectively block the construction of new coal-fired power plants and force the closure of many if not most existing coal-fired plants as well.  With the economy crawling along at 2% GDP growth, this announcement is a disaster for every American (except for those like Ms. Zichal and Mr. Obama, who have spent their entire lives working in government).

Obama's new restrictions on coal-fired power plants will supposedly help to cool the planet.  America's carbon emissions have been declining for decades, and yet global carbon emissions have been rising.  If emissions cause temperatures to rise, why are temperatures falling?

Even though global emissions continue to rise, U.S. levels are falling rapidly.  Having already cut U.S. carbon emissions back to 1992 levels, how much farther back do we have to go?  1950?  1900?  How about 1776?  The president, who once spoke of the goal of cutting carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, now says that is not good enough.

The only thing more bizarre than a massive initiative to cool the climate when the climate is already cooling is the administration's determination to lower U.S. carbon emissions when emissions have already dropped to 1992 levels.  It is estimated that Obama's climate initiative will cost 50,000 jobs in the coal industry alone, not counting ancillary damage to the economy in coal-mining regions and broader damage to the national economy resulting from higher energy costs.  And regulation of new and existing coal-fired power plants is only part of the president's broader initiative.  Stricter mileage standards for heavy vehicles is another.

Obama also plans to set up a huge new bureaucracy to track carbon emissions across the economy -- an effort that will undoubtedly lead to further executive orders shutting down other industries.  Coal is just the beginning.

If the president can direct the EPA to impose industry-killing restrictions on coal, he can do the same for oil and gas.  He can cost American manufacturers the lead they now enjoy in heavy vehicle production.  He can shut down chemical plants and fertilizer plants.  He can impose crippling restrictions on agriculture.  He can enact costly new standards on commercial and residential construction.  In other words, in the name of carbon emissions, he can seize control of the entire economy.  That has been the goal of the left since Karl Marx first dreamed up the "dictatorship of the proletariat."  And now we have it in America.

To be sure, nothing that human beings do can will ever "control" the climate.  Have human actions in the past ever reduced the number or intensity of tornados or hurricanes?  Did human beings cause the warming that began in the mid-19th century and continued until the mid-1990s?  If so, what caused the vastly greater alteration in global climate that began with the Little Ice Age in 1250 A.D.?  Was it because humans were lighting fewer fires or clearing fewer forests?  Or was it a natural alteration in the climate -- the same sort that is taking place today, and that has taken place in every era of the earth's history?

None of this matters to the Obama administration.  What Obama seeks, what the left has always sought, is total control of the economy by the state, and "climate change" is a useful pretext.  The only way government can control the energy sector -- a sector of the economy traditionally regulated by the states -- is to operate under the pretext of carbon emissions.

The nature of the pretext does not really matter.  Whether it is "workers' rights," as it was for Marx and Engels, or "economic recovery," as it was in the 1930s, or climate change, as it is today, the left will always come up with some excuse.  What matters for the left is power -- and an end to individual liberty.  What the left seeks in its regulation of the energy sector, in other words, is the complete regulation of the individual by government.

As the new regulations pile up, enforced by climate czars like Heather Zichal and EPA Director Gina McCarthy, what liberties do the American people have left?  One can no longer speak or write or assemble or pray without being tracked and, if a conservative, targeted by the IRS.  One cannot receive medical treatment without government approval.  One cannot obtain a mortgage or student loan without government controlling the transaction.  One cannot drive to work or heat one's home without Washington deciding how to do it.  And now, it seems, one will not be able to purchase electricity produced by a coal-fired power plant.

That does not sound like liberty to me.  But that's the way Obama wants it.


Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books on American politics and culture, including Heartland of the Imagination (2013).