When Trump rolled back environmental regulations on coal mining many commentators pointed out that the action would not save very many j0bs. After all, they noted sagely, coal is being replaced by natural gas as an energy source. Nothing the Trump administration can do will reverse that trend.
But, if that is true, Holman Jenkins points out, why are Democrats so hell bent on implementing regulations that are, at the least, redundant? Why do they want to be responsible for killing coal jobs? Remember when Hillary Clinton declared that she wanted to kill the coal jobs in West Virginia. How did that work out?
The oddest criticism of Donald Trump’s climate action this week was the claim, mentioned almost triumphantly by every news source, that it would save few coal jobs. The economic and technological forces, especially the flood of low-carbon natural gas from fracking, are just too powerful.
Then why, if you’re a Democrat, put yourself in that position in the first place to take blame for killing coal jobs?
Why use regulation to do what technology and the market are already doing? Jenkins continues:
Of course the news reports are right: “The regulatory changes are entirely outweighed by these technological changes, not to mention the price of natural gas or renewables,” Mark Muro of the Brookings Institution was quoted telling the New York Times .
And also, the rule change-- denounced as the dagger that would kill the climate and the earth and the entire human species-- will have no real impact on any of them.
So potent and large are these global forces that repealing the Obama rules, costly as they are, not only won’t affect coal jobs, it won’t affect climate.
Gina McCarthy, Mr. Obama’s EPA administrator, admitted as much when confronted, during a 2015 House hearing, with the fact that, by the agency’s own climate models, the effect would be only 1/100th of a degree Celsius. Instead, she said success should be measured in terms of “positioning the U.S. for leadership in an international discussion.”
So, the Obama rules would not have impacted the climate by any appreciable measure. Idem for the Trump change. The Obama administration was virtue signaling. It wanted to be on the right side of the climate change debate:
Yes, the relative decrease would be tiny but measurable, though the climate effect would be zip. This is akin to medical researchers claiming a drug a success because it’s detectable in the bloodstream, not because it improves health.
But, you will be thinking, what about Germany? Isn’t Germany leading the way to a greener future, by shutting down its nuclear power plants and expanding its use of renewable energy?
Jenkins points out, strangely enough, that Germany is now producing more carbon dioxide emissions than it did before the new policies. I guess you can’t have it all:
Pile up all the government policies enacted or seriously on the table, and their net effect is zilch. A new McKinsey study, that would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad, points out that Germany’s switch to renewables has been a success by almost every metric except CO 2 output—which is up instead of down.
But then there is the question of cost. Renewable energy is far more expensive than coal or nuclear. The results could have been predicted. Germans have been having more trouble paying their electric bills. More and more of them are having their electricity cut off:
Rising energy prices to support this energy transition have had one measurable effect—more than 330,000 German households have had their electricity shut off in the past year from nonpayment of bills almost three times as high as those paid by U.S. households.
Germany, needless to add, is many greens’ idea of a country “positioned for leadership in international discussions.”
One suspects that the greater sacrifice can be sold as a sign of greater virtue. How strong is your faith? How deeply do you believe in climate change? When the facts say that your belief system has nothing to do with reality, you can think that it's a test of your faith:
No rational consideration, however, will abate the torrent of priestly imprecations hurled by green activists this week at Mr. Trump. The New York Times insists that Trumpian action “risks the planet”—plainly false since nothing either Mr. Trump or Mr. Obama did will make a difference to the planet.
As Jenkins notes, it’s all about religion, not science:
Literally no amount of money dissipated on climate policy is excessive to such people, because their shamanistic status is directly proportional to the social waste they can conjure. In the realm of religion are we called upon to perform symbolic actions whose purpose (and cost) is aimed at testifying to our membership in the elect.
But, some people are profiting from the regulations. More regulations mean more bureaucrats to enforce them. It is about taking power out of the hands of corporate interests and putting them in the hands of government officials. It drains power from the private sector and puts it firmly in the hands of the public sector, whose employees are reliably Democratic voters:
The Democratic Party once had a brain where regulation was concerned, understanding that the ultimate purpose was a net public good, not an in-gathering of power to Washington for the benefit of lobbyists and influence peddlers.