Green energy mandates would hamper coronavirus recovery efforts

Emblematic of the environmental left's response to the coronavirus pandemic, Time magazine published an ill considered article by Justin Worland titled "What Coronavirus Means for the Possibility of a Carbon-Free Economy."  The author cites Democratic political hack Rahm Emanuel's infamous pronouncement, "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste," to push the idea that now is the time to go big on green energy subsidies in an effort to avert the imagined climate crisis.

"[T]here are a lot of reasons why governments might want to use this moment to double down on measures to address climate change," writes Worland, approvingly citing the International Energy Agency as making the case the COVID-19 response represents a "historic opportunity" (IEA's words) to push a green energy revolution.  In fairness, he could have cited any number of press releases, statements, and articles from the myriad environmental special interest groups and their green lapdogs in the media, making the same argument.

Those concerned about limiting COVID-19's damage to the economy, national debt, and personal freedom have a ready response to these claims: nonsense!  A big green energy push would deter the economic recovery and cause huge net harm.

The GOP correctly points out that the economic meltdown brought on by state governments shutting down their economies to prevent the spread of the coronavirus is directly comparable to the financial devastation that would result if the country adopted the Green New Deal (GND) policies the Democratic leadership is trying to get in through the backdoor as part of a new coronavirus stimulus package.

As David Wojick, Ph.D. has detailed, entire industries would have to be fundamentally transformed or written off in the space of just 10 years with trillions of dollars of investment stranded and squandered to cut carbon dioxide emissions by the amount required under the GND.  The GND's mandates would replace good-paying jobs in the oil, gas, and coal fields — which commonly pay $25 to $50 or more per hour — with $9- to $15-per-hour solar installer jobs do not make for a good tradeoff.

Cheap fossil fuels are what dragged the economy out of the recession in 2009, and fossil fuels are even cheaper now.  Thus, the recovery will be accelerated if we take advantage of this fact.  Even if enough green energy technologies existed to underpin the economy in the here and now — they don't — pushing more expensive, less reliable green energy instead of using readily available, reliable fossil fuels would only slow the recovery, delaying significant employment growth.

From a government budgetary perspective, it would be foolish as well, because the fossil fuel industry pays a lot of taxes.  Not even counting the income taxes paid on jobs refining, delivering, pumping, and selling fossil fuels, the leases, fees, and royalties paid from coal, oil, and gas produced on federal lands and offshore are the federal government's second largest source of revenue — behind only income taxes.

By contrast, wind and solar power facilities do not pay for themselves.  Instead, the factories, installations, and power provided are heavily subsidized by government, and as a result, green energy is almost certainly a net economic drain on federal and state budgets.  This is why Democratic leaders are trying to tack green energy programs onto the next stimulus package: wind, solar, biomass, and other renewable energy sources require government support, and the more exotic the power source, like offshore wind, or batteries, the less competitive it is with traditional fuels, meaning the more government help they need.

A number of organizations have calculated how much the GND would cost the economy.  The figures are frightening.

Citing a Power the Future analysis, PJ Media says a conservative estimate of the GND's costs would top $49.109 trillion through 2030.  The American Action Forum estimated the GND's costs from $52.6 trillion to $94.4 trillion through 2029.  Put another way, it would cost the average American household $367,000 to $681,000 over the 10-year period.

And for all the economic havoc wrought by the GND, it would have an immeasurable impact on the climate.  The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated even if the United States were to completely eliminate carbon dioxide emissions, it would avert less than 0.2 degrees Celsius of global temperature rise by the end of the century.  Perhaps this would prevent three sheets of paper's worth, or less than a millimeter, of sea level rise.

Folks, that's a lot of pain for less than a millimeter of "gain," which is why when it comes to adding GND provisions to any fourth round of COVID-19 relief, the Republican response should be that no deal is better than a Green New Deal.

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. ( is a senior fellow on energy and the environment at The Heartland Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

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