COP21: Carbon Regulation without Representation

Consumers are enjoying low gas prices, low home heating and electricity prices, and low costs for the shipment of goods to homes and stores.  President Obama and the representatives of 150 other countries at the Paris climate conference, COP21, are working overtime to raise these prices.  A global agreement on carbon restriction will carry a big price for consumers.

How big is the price?  If Obama succeeds in getting a binding agreement, or one that his successors would find it difficult to disavow, consumers will no longer enjoy natural gas at less than $2.00 per mBtu.  Doubling this price – the cost of new carbon taxes and regulation of fracking – would in effect double home heating and other utility bills tied to natural gas.  Think of that as the Paris conferees' Christmas gift to snowy America, which has shown no evidence of warming for 15 years.

It's not just natural gas.  Cheap oil, the result of fracking, is now providing record low gasoline prices, adjusted for inflation.  Most Americans don't want to go back to $4.00 gas, but if the Paris conferees have their way, it could be $10 – the goal Obama set during his 2008 campaign.

Beyond oil and natural gas, there's coal, for which new demand has been killed off already in the U.S. but which is still expanding globally.  Cheap coal is fueling the economies of China, India, and dozens of other developing nations.  In these countries, coal makes it possible for the poor to enjoy the benefits of electricity.  As a result, children are educated, patients receive modern medical care, and businesses thrive where only primitive agricultural methods once existed.  But apparently the Paris conferees are more interested in signing an agreement – any agreement – so as to aggrandize themselves than they are in the lives of those at the margins of society.

The extraordinary thing about COP21 is the sheer audacity of global leaders who presume to legislate rules governing a vital global industry without the input of their people.  In what is now a familiar pattern, President Obama plans to return from Paris with a sweeping agreement, one that would slash carbon "pollution" by 32% from 2005 levels by 2030, without so much as a by-your-leave from Congress.  Once again, as with Obamacare, immigration, and the Iran nuclear agreement, he seems oblivious to the wishes of the American people.  Not since Woodrow Wilson's failed campaign to impose the League of Nations on America has a president been so contemptuous of the will of the people.  

In opening remarks, world leaders vied with one another with one daft remark after another.  U.N. secretary general Ban Ki-moon announced that humanity has "never faced such a test."  (Never?  WWII?  The Napoleonic War?  The bubonic plague?  The last great Ice Age?)  Russia's Vladimir Putin proclaimed that climate change is "one of the gravest challenges humanity is facing."  Obama stated that a climate pact would be the greatest possible "rejection" of terrorism.  (Huh?)  Ever ready to shame his country on the world stage, he proclaimed Monday that America "recognizes our role in creating this problem."  French president Hollande went one farther and suggested that "the future of life" rests on what would be agreed upon at the Paris summit.

Among major leaders, the only sensible one seemed to be Premier Xi of China, who simply remarked that it was "very important for China and the United States to be firmly committed to the right direction of building a new model of major country relations."  At least there is one major power that believes that the world has not been doomed by an increase of one degree Celsius over the past half-century.  Too bad it's not an American.      

For the leaders of many developing nations, the motivation seems to have more to do with cold, hard cash.  Already Obama and other Western leaders have pledged $100 billion in wealth transfers per year, but this seems not to be enough.  The leaders of developing countries in Africa and Asia are holding out for more, and Obama seems willing to comply.

The question is, what happens to this cash once it is sent to third-world dictatorships to promote green alternatives?  Does it really get spent on windmills and solar panels (not that the West should be sending anything for any reason)?  As has been the case with similar aid programs in the past, most of this huge sum will get swallowed up in bureaucratic costs, waste, and outright corruption.  No wonder a roster of third-world heavies, including Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and Swaziland's King Mswati III, has descended on Paris demanding climate reparations.    

American taxpayers don't support sending $100 billion to third-world dictatorships any more than they support new taxes and regulation on carbon at home.  And no one wants to pay the prices that would result from a carbon agreement, yet Obama is proceeding as if the Constitution contained no mention of Congress.

If the climate summit imposes a sweeping tax on carbon, the poor will find themselves making hard choices between paying the rent (and buying food, medicine, and clothing) and going cold.  The Paris conference will do more to increase homelessness than any governmental action in history.  And Obama said he was fighting for the poor!  His climate fanaticism shows that he is actually their worst enemy.

Not that the poor get any say in this.  No one does.  Obama's circumvention of Congress has grown to the point that he is now governing in defiance of the will of the people.  Of all the explanations for the popularity of Donald Trump, this is the most obvious: the people are disgusted with a president who treats them with contempt, and they seek a president who listens.

Trump could score a coup by showing up at COP21 and delivering a stern rebuke from the American people.  Barring that, I'm sure he will still make himself heard on the issue.  Of all the candidates, he, along with Ted Cruz, is the most aligned with ordinary Americans.    

The public needs to speak for itself as well.  We need to tell our representatives in Congress (and the White House, not that it will listen) that we want no part of any agreement hatched at COP21.

America is still a democracy, for the moment anyway, and in a democracy, one man, even a president, does not decide for the people.  Given the chance, Americans will vote against new carbon taxes and regulation.  That message needs to be sent immediately to our representatives – or else, a few winters from now, large numbers won't be able to turn on the heat and stay warm.  When they ask why, they can look to what's happening in Paris for the answer.

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture, including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).

Consumers are enjoying low gas prices, low home heating and electricity prices, and low costs for the shipment of goods to homes and stores.  President Obama and the representatives of 150 other countries at the Paris climate conference, COP21, are working overtime to raise these prices.  A global agreement on carbon restriction will carry a big price for consumers.

How big is the price?  If Obama succeeds in getting a binding agreement, or one that his successors would find it difficult to disavow, consumers will no longer enjoy natural gas at less than $2.00 per mBtu.  Doubling this price – the cost of new carbon taxes and regulation of fracking – would in effect double home heating and other utility bills tied to natural gas.  Think of that as the Paris conferees' Christmas gift to snowy America, which has shown no evidence of warming for 15 years.

It's not just natural gas.  Cheap oil, the result of fracking, is now providing record low gasoline prices, adjusted for inflation.  Most Americans don't want to go back to $4.00 gas, but if the Paris conferees have their way, it could be $10 – the goal Obama set during his 2008 campaign.

Beyond oil and natural gas, there's coal, for which new demand has been killed off already in the U.S. but which is still expanding globally.  Cheap coal is fueling the economies of China, India, and dozens of other developing nations.  In these countries, coal makes it possible for the poor to enjoy the benefits of electricity.  As a result, children are educated, patients receive modern medical care, and businesses thrive where only primitive agricultural methods once existed.  But apparently the Paris conferees are more interested in signing an agreement – any agreement – so as to aggrandize themselves than they are in the lives of those at the margins of society.

The extraordinary thing about COP21 is the sheer audacity of global leaders who presume to legislate rules governing a vital global industry without the input of their people.  In what is now a familiar pattern, President Obama plans to return from Paris with a sweeping agreement, one that would slash carbon "pollution" by 32% from 2005 levels by 2030, without so much as a by-your-leave from Congress.  Once again, as with Obamacare, immigration, and the Iran nuclear agreement, he seems oblivious to the wishes of the American people.  Not since Woodrow Wilson's failed campaign to impose the League of Nations on America has a president been so contemptuous of the will of the people.  

In opening remarks, world leaders vied with one another with one daft remark after another.  U.N. secretary general Ban Ki-moon announced that humanity has "never faced such a test."  (Never?  WWII?  The Napoleonic War?  The bubonic plague?  The last great Ice Age?)  Russia's Vladimir Putin proclaimed that climate change is "one of the gravest challenges humanity is facing."  Obama stated that a climate pact would be the greatest possible "rejection" of terrorism.  (Huh?)  Ever ready to shame his country on the world stage, he proclaimed Monday that America "recognizes our role in creating this problem."  French president Hollande went one farther and suggested that "the future of life" rests on what would be agreed upon at the Paris summit.

Among major leaders, the only sensible one seemed to be Premier Xi of China, who simply remarked that it was "very important for China and the United States to be firmly committed to the right direction of building a new model of major country relations."  At least there is one major power that believes that the world has not been doomed by an increase of one degree Celsius over the past half-century.  Too bad it's not an American.      

For the leaders of many developing nations, the motivation seems to have more to do with cold, hard cash.  Already Obama and other Western leaders have pledged $100 billion in wealth transfers per year, but this seems not to be enough.  The leaders of developing countries in Africa and Asia are holding out for more, and Obama seems willing to comply.

The question is, what happens to this cash once it is sent to third-world dictatorships to promote green alternatives?  Does it really get spent on windmills and solar panels (not that the West should be sending anything for any reason)?  As has been the case with similar aid programs in the past, most of this huge sum will get swallowed up in bureaucratic costs, waste, and outright corruption.  No wonder a roster of third-world heavies, including Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and Swaziland's King Mswati III, has descended on Paris demanding climate reparations.    

American taxpayers don't support sending $100 billion to third-world dictatorships any more than they support new taxes and regulation on carbon at home.  And no one wants to pay the prices that would result from a carbon agreement, yet Obama is proceeding as if the Constitution contained no mention of Congress.

If the climate summit imposes a sweeping tax on carbon, the poor will find themselves making hard choices between paying the rent (and buying food, medicine, and clothing) and going cold.  The Paris conference will do more to increase homelessness than any governmental action in history.  And Obama said he was fighting for the poor!  His climate fanaticism shows that he is actually their worst enemy.

Not that the poor get any say in this.  No one does.  Obama's circumvention of Congress has grown to the point that he is now governing in defiance of the will of the people.  Of all the explanations for the popularity of Donald Trump, this is the most obvious: the people are disgusted with a president who treats them with contempt, and they seek a president who listens.

Trump could score a coup by showing up at COP21 and delivering a stern rebuke from the American people.  Barring that, I'm sure he will still make himself heard on the issue.  Of all the candidates, he, along with Ted Cruz, is the most aligned with ordinary Americans.    

The public needs to speak for itself as well.  We need to tell our representatives in Congress (and the White House, not that it will listen) that we want no part of any agreement hatched at COP21.

America is still a democracy, for the moment anyway, and in a democracy, one man, even a president, does not decide for the people.  Given the chance, Americans will vote against new carbon taxes and regulation.  That message needs to be sent immediately to our representatives – or else, a few winters from now, large numbers won't be able to turn on the heat and stay warm.  When they ask why, they can look to what's happening in Paris for the answer.

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture, including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).