The Corner

Energy & Environment

The Not-So-Green Biden Plan

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the April jobs report from the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., May 7, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Last week, I wrote a column in which I argued that Biden’s infrastructure plan wasn’t as green a plan as the administration would like us to believe. This fact was first pointed out to me by Chris Edwards at Cato, who explains that:

Perhaps the most striking contradiction in Biden’s plan is that it is supposed to combat climate change, but the plan’s $2 trillion in taxpayer funding is not green. The green way to fund infrastructure is through user charges that restrain consumer demand. But Biden’s plan relies on income taxes to pay for infrastructure subsidies, and that approach does not moderate consumption or reduce resource use.

One other major factor that few green advocates want to acknowledge is that the greener our lives are, the more minerals we need. Unfortunately, as I noted last week, the terribly burdensome regulatory regime in the U.S. makes it harder to open mines here, and shifts some of the mine production to less-than-environmentally-friendly countries:

Those higher-income taxes on top of the many costly labor and environmental mandates in the bill would also raise production costs in the United States. That would shift production of many products to other countries that have more competitive tax rates and lower production costs — but also, oftentimes, questionable environmental standards. This was nicely highlighted in a recent Kite & Key Media video that explains how our already burdensome labor, health and climate regulations make it impossible to open a mine or to operate one profitably in the United States. This matters because the greener our lives, the more we need minerals like graphite, lithium and manganese.

Here is the Kite & Key video.

As it happens, the International Energy Agency (IEA) agrees with Kite & Key Media. The WSJ has an informative piece this morning by Mark P. Mills that starts with this paragraph:

The International Energy Agency, the world’s pre-eminent source of energy information for governments, has entered the political debate over whether the U.S. should spend trillions of dollars to accelerate the energy transition favored by the Biden administration. You know, the plan to use far more “clean energy” and far less hydrocarbons — the oil, natural gas and coal that today supply 84% of global energy needs. The IEA’s 287-page report released this month, “The Role of Critical Minerals in Clean Energy Transitions,” is devastating to those ambitions. A better title would have been: “Clean Energy Transitions: Not Soon, Not Easy and Not Clean.”

He adds this:

The IEA finds that with a global energy transition like the one President Biden envisions, demand for key minerals such as lithium, graphite, nickel and rare-earth metals would explode, rising by 4,200%, 2,500%, 1,900% and 700%, respectively, by 2040.

The world doesn’t have the capacity to meet such demand. As the IEA observes, albeit in cautious bureaucratese, there are no plans to fund and build the necessary mines and refineries. The supply of ETMs is entirely aspirational. And if it were pursued at the quantities dictated by the goals of the energy transition, the world would face daunting environmental, economic and social challenges, along with geopolitical risks.

Read the whole thing here. And here is an interesting thread from the executive director of the IEA. This is a bummer for central planners such as our president. The question is: Will the administration acknowledge this reality? I doubt it, but would love to be surprised.

For a few greener policies go here.

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