Having grown up on a farm in California’s San Joaquin Valley, I have seen firsthand how environmental extremists smashed a flourishing agricultural region. Citing the need to protect a three-inch baitfish called the Delta smelt, green activists succeeded in getting farmers’ water supplies drastically cut. As some of the world’s most productive soil degenerated into a drought-stricken landscape, farmers — some of whose families had worked these lands for generations — packed up and left. The local economy sank, with unemployment in the Valley now doubling the national average.
President Obama’s recent speech unveiling his “new national climate action plan” — with its centerpiece proposal to begin regulating carbon emissions from power plants — shows this extremist agenda being applied nationwide. All the key elements we have seen in California are there — the doomsday demagoguery, the brazen dishonesty about the policy’s economic effects, the breezy dismissal of democratic norms, and other deceptions large and small. The following is a partial list:
Scaremongering. In the days leading up to Obama’s speech, the press was full of reports about the dramatic decline in the pace of global warming over the past 15 years. Some climate-change Cassandras, most notably The Economist, suggested this could imply inaccuracies in the computer modeling that underlies the “scientific consensus” on global warming.
But Obama’s speech contained no hint of this debate, no clue of skepticism or doubt. Ridiculing his opponents as part of a “Flat Earth Society,” Obama cavalierly invoked an array of weather events — hurricanes, droughts, wildfires, heat waves — to prove the need to completely transform our economy and our way of life in order to fight global warming. The fact that these kinds of weather events predate the Industrial Revolution apparently did not impress the president.
“Ultimately,” Obama intoned, “we will be judged as a people, and as a society, and as a country” by what we do about this issue. With that declaration, he identified global warming as the single most urgent issue of our time. This alarmism is a staple of every green crusade of the past half century — acid rain, overpopulation, resource depletion, global cooling (remember that one?), deforestation, etc. Every green campaign is said to be crucial for preserving life on Earth — until it isn’t.
Anti-democratic tendencies. The issue is so urgent, in fact, that the president can’t be bothered to observe constitutional niceties in solving it — he will implement drastic new regulations administratively through executive-branch agencies. In fact, his entire “plan” is a response to the administration’s failure to get these kinds of measures passed by the American people’s elected representatives in Congress. Early in the Obama presidency, the Democrat-controlled Congress blocked his cap-and-trade carbon-taxing scheme, prompting him to remark that there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Well, this is how he’s “skinning the cat.” The pleas for bipartisanship that littered Obama’s speech were pure disingenuousness, considering the entire effort is designed to bypass Congress and vest himself with the authority to implement these regulations directly through the bureaucracy.
Deception. In some ways it’s hard to accuse the Obama administration of deception, since during his first presidential campaign Obama stated his intention to bankrupt the coal industry. Still, the White House usually doesn’t like to express its goals so openly. Shortly before his speech, a member of Obama’s science advisory panel told the New York Times, “Politically, the White House is hesitant to say they’re having a war on coal. On the other hand, a war on coal is exactly what’s needed.” Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune understood that Obama’s speech marked precisely this kind of “direct confrontation with the fossil fuel industry.”
Until now, regulating carbon emissions from power plants has largely been regarded as a “nuclear option” so radical that it could be used only as a threat. In fact, as the American Action Forum notes, EPA administrators, assistant administrators, and other administration officials all denied the Obama administration was planning to do it, and the proposal did not appear in the “Unified Agenda” of federal regulations for 2013.
Shortly before Obama’s speech, the administration laid the groundwork for this move with similar secrecy, boosting the “social price of carbon” by more than 60 percent. This figure is used in government calculations about the price of regulations, meaning the higher the “price,” the more beneficial regulations appear to be if they reduce carbon. The announcement of the change was buried in a trivial new rule about microwave ovens. As Bloomberg reported, “Even supporters questioned the way the administration slipped the policy out without first opening it for public comment.”