Magazine | December 31, 2015, Issue

Feel the (Non-Fossil-Fuel) Bern!

The Paris climate-change agreement is a remarkable document. If every printed copy were wadded up into a gigantic ball, it could be stuffed down the chimney of a Chinese coal plant, reducing its emissions to zero. If they printed a few hundred million more copies, they could be laid on the shores of vulnerable islands and soak up all the rising water.

Thirty-one pages to reduce the temperature 0.2 degrees Celsius, you say? Remarkable. Why stop there? A 62-page accord would have pushed it down 0.4 degrees. But what if someone fell asleep at the photocopier and 6,000 pages were printed off? A new ice age, glaciers in Kansas, mastodons roaming Times Square — no, 31 pages is just right. And thus the Earth is saved!

Not so fast, says Bernie Sanders. If you assumed he would nix the agreement for insufficient coercive enforcement measures and opportunities to shave shekels off your salary and shovel them into the maw of the state, you were right. It goes “nowhere near far enough,” he said before launching into an attack on the Victrola record company, which he claimed had a monopoly on needles. After shifting to a demand to power the nation’s strategic Zeppelin fleet with gaseous ambergris, he returned to the subject of climate:

“In the United States we have a Republican Party which is much more interested in contributions from the fossil fuel industry than they care about the future of the planet,” he said on his website, which no doubt is powered by virtuous hummingbirds beating their wings to move turbine blades. You expect him to wander off into a tirade about the need to break up the Petroleum Jelly Trust, but no: He gives specifics. “Sanders introduced legislation in the U.S. Senate which would cut U.S. carbon pollution by 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050 from 1990 levels.”

Wow. He doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk — and so will you, because it’ll be too costly to drive. There are several ways to achieve this cut in CO2:

Trucks driving around every major urban center spraying a dense fog of aerosolized Ebola; welding shut the door to every manufacturing plant; putting sugar in the tank of 97 percent of all automobiles; a new carbon tax that requires you to saw off a finger or toe for every tank you buy; force Uber to move to a rickshaw model. And so on.

According to the Wall Street Journal, there’s more. Sanders would “ban natural gas and oil exports” and “force states to ban fracking.” Don’t worry about jobs; those displaced filthy-power serfs will get good work in clean energy, hosing eagle guts off the windmill blades. They won’t get work in nuclear plants; Sanders wants them closed. (If there’s one thing that terrifies the Party of Science, it’s science.) Anyway, we won’t need juice from nukes. Why, by 2024 or 2037 or 2059 or Stardate 42568 we’ll have so much solar power that electricity will be shooting out of uncovered sockets, vaporizing house pets in a puff of fur.

Sanders would also require cars to get 65 miles per gallon within ten years. This is easily done. All vehicles shall be made out of balsa wood with holes in the floor so you can Flintstone your way to work, and the government will require all trips of more than six miles to be downhill. If Detroit can’t solve the problem, Bernie could take a page from the land of the Soviets, where he took his honeymoon. Engineers will be put on trial and shot in the basement of the Capitol if they don’t meet the standard. 

Sanders’s site adds: “The measure would put a price on fossil fuels by imposing a tax on carbon pollution.”

Imagine that: a price on fossil fuels. Imagine the ruinous cost of outfitting every single gasoline pump at every single service station with a device that takes credit cards. The man’s mad.

He wants high-speed passenger rail, of course. The progressive dream: You take a fast train to another city, where you board a streetcar to get to the bike-rental place, and then you bike to your destination, which is a physician-assisted-suicide center. Because there’s just no point to life anymore.

It won’t happen, any of it. And even if it did, it wouldn’t change a damned thing. Here’s the grim truth:

Even if every single American citizen biked to work, carpooled to school, used only solar panels to power their homes — if we each planted a dozen trees — if we somehow eliminated all of our domestic greenhouse-gas emissions — guess what? That still wouldn’t be enough to offset the carbon pollution coming from the rest of the world. If all the industrial nations went down to zero emissions, it wouldn’t be enough.

That was John Kerry on December 9, explaining why we should pour billions down our low-flush toilets and ban the stuff trees like to breathe. It’s those damned developing nations. They want to be more prosperous. They want to be like the West so they can stop worrying about food and disease and build a society so secure its self-hating intellectual class can devote itself entirely to figuring out ways to drag everyone back to mud huts and dung fires. There’s only one way to stop the developing world, and that’s the return of imperialism. Invade; conquer; set up governments that think right-thoughts.

Sure, imperialism was bad before, but that’s because the reasons were bad. This time it’s with regret. As the parent about to spank sometimes says: “This hurts me more than it hurts you.” The spanker actually believes it. The spankee never does.

– Mr. Lileks blogs at

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