Pollak: Efficiency, the Reasonable Alternative to Democrats' Green-by-Force Policy
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Pollak: Efficiency, the Reasonable Alternative to Democrats' Green-by-Force Policy

Democrats have decided that American must be forced to choose “green” technologies, whether they work or not.
Pollak: Efficiency, the Reasonable Alternative to Democrats' Green-by-Force Policy

Last week, California finalized regulations to phase out gasoline-powered cars by 2035 and to force consumers to buy electric vehicles. This week, California authorities advised drivers not to charge those same vehicles at certain times of day because of an energy shortage. You will be forced to buy a vehicle you cannot use. If you can’t get to work, or you’re stuck on the road, at least you saved the planet. Or maybe not: the emissions savings from California’s electric vehicle mandate will be paltry next to the continued growth in carbon emissions from China, India, and other “developing” nations.

The idea seems to be that if California models “good” behavior, other states and countries will follow. But that has not worked with democracy, which China seems quite happy to do without. In fact, China can point to the way California is imposing green policies by fiat as evidence that its own, authoritarian model is spreading.

The odd thing is that consumers who buy electric vehicles don’t usually need to be told to do so. Most who can afford these cars are eager to buy them, and would do so regardless of federal and state tax incentives. People like the idea that their cars are good for the environment; it provides the same kind of narcissistic pleasure, and envy, that fancy cars have always evoked. And companies like Tesla have made electric vehicles even more attractive by adding special features that identify their products as a luxury brand.

The reason the Toyota Prius — now ubiquitous in ride-share fleets — became so popular more than a decade ago was that they offered a way to save money on fuel and a way for drivers to boast that they were reducing American dependence on Middle Eastern oil. It was no accident that many of the Bush administration hawks who planned the Iraq War started driving what was then a pioneering “green” vehicle.

They were making a statement — without forcing others to do the same. People bought the car because they liked it. Likewise, it is completely unnecessary for American energy consumers to be frog-marched into accepting “renewable” sources as the only options. An abundance of natural gas — thanks in part to fracking, which environmentalists want to ban — has allowed the U.S. to reduce emissions over the long run even while growing the economy. Other fossil fuels, such as coal, produce more emissions but also burn cleaner than they ever have before. And nuclear power remains the simplest way to produce lots of zero-emission energy. As Republicans have been saying for at least a decade and-a-half, we need an “all of the above” energy policy.

The most important factor is not “emissions,” but another e-word — efficiency. When utilities and consumers are able to use energy efficiently, they are able to enjoy more of its benefits while using fewer resources and paying lower prices. And efficiency is best promoted by having a variety of resources from which to choose, as needs change. Over time, energy prices will favor renewables as technology improves.

There is nothing so efficient, and so bad for the planet, as an artificial energy shortage. Because when people cannot turn on the heat or lights, they use whatever energy sources are available — from diesel-powered generators to wood cooking fires. And intermittent energy supplies also risk destroying consumer electronics, and utility hardware, as power switches on and off, over and over again. Energy shortages cause widespread misery, and make it far more difficult for people to work, to learn, and simply to lead their lives. Rather than set arbitrary targets (zero emissions by 2050!), a truly “green” energy policy would prioritize efficiency. Rather than subsidies that reward cronies without producing much of value (think Solyndra and Fisker, both Joe Biden flops), the best way to reduce emissions is simply to let people choose what is most efficient. A carbon tax could help — only if it is joined by a reduction in taxes that promote waste, such as the payroll tax. Most people want to be “green”; forcing us to be so is backwards and unnecessary. Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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