So what exactly does $369 billion buy us in climate-change impact? “Questions loom,” reads the sub-head at the Washington Post, and for good reason. After Senate Democrats spent the day bragging about passing the biggest package of spending to fight global warming, the Post immediately tried to downplay expectations:
A wide range of economists and energy and climate experts agree the money will be a powerful tool to reduce carbon emissions and transition America’s economy to one that contributes much less to global warming. Yet even if the federal money becomes available, a lot else will have to come to pass to make the investment pay off.
An entire supply chain of rare minerals, semiconductors, batteries and financing all have to fall into place before Americans give up their combustion engines. American consumers can only claim the full $7,500 credit for an all-electric engine if their manufacturers displace Chinese batteries by 2024 and minerals from China or other countries lacking free-trade agreements by 2025 — a threshold that automakers are warning could be impossible to meet. And China, furious right now over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s recent visit to Taiwan, is expected to watch as the United States openly strives to liberate itself from manufacturing in the People’s Republic.
Non-financial barriers — such as local opposition to building wind and solar farms or a lack of transmission lines — must be overcome. And with roughly 40 tax credits in the legislation, some of those aimed at transforming the energy economy from automobiles to wind turbines to heat pumps will inevitably miss the mark. Some portion of those funds will be pocketed when they aren’t entirely needed — many companies have promised to transition to clean energy irrespective of federal policy.
What about the top-down model of picking winners itself? Conservatives warned repeatedly during this bill’s development that we tried the same strategy in 2009 in Barack Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which was nicknamed “Porkulus” by the skeptical. The skeptical turned out to make the accurate call, which the Post now belatedly recognizes:
And some money will go to projects that never materialize or fail altogether. The 2009 stimulus bill, the largest investment in clean energy before the new bill, created a clean energy loan program that infamously funded the failed solar start-up Solyndra, which became an embarrassment for the Obama administration. And it poured billions of dollars into a light-rail system in California that has still not come to fruition.
There’s only one way to respond to that, NSFW though it may be:
Welcome to the party, pal. Democrats keep insisting that they can force the transformation of energy production by subsidizing so-called “green” production while penalizing fossil- and nuclear-powered generation. Not only has that not worked, but it has produced massively perverse incentives that leave the grids without the supply necessary to meet demand.
California isn’t just an example of risk for its insipid plan to build an unnecessary high-speed rail system along and over the San Andreas Fault to connect Los Angeles and San Francisco. The state has modeled this subsidized/punitive approach to energy generation for at least a decade. The result has been rolling blackouts, emergency buys of out-of-state generation of electricity, and steep costs for businesses and consumers alike. And all of that has come before a wholesale transfer of personal vehicles from self-generated power through gasoline to energy supply from the grid.
And guess what the Post highlights as the most potentially successful part of the incentives?
GM and other major carmakers say they have ambitious plans for increasing electric vehicle sales, plans that are essential if the United States is to meet its climate change targets. Bolt’s 2021 sales number set a record, but it still came to a measly 24,827 — about a seventh of 1 percent of all the cars sold in the United States last year.
Looking to 2030, by comparison, GM is investing $15.7 billion to convert much of its entire fleet to electric vehicles — and it’s counting on Congress for a boost.
“The reason why these types of policies are so important is because it is an accelerator of EV adoption,” said Matt Ybarra, a GM spokesman.
And … where will the power originate to charge all of those vehicles? Right now, vehicles produce their own power independent of the grid, and the grid is still overextended. If EVs proliferate as a result of these subsidies and we fail to produce the power necessary for them, a lot of those car owners will be stuck in their homes — or paying high prices for charging them, at the very least.
Because even the subsidies aren’t going to overcome some obstacles, especially the power of NIMBYism:
Yet even with this new federal support, other barriers might stand in the way.
Off the Atlantic coast in the New York area, developers must deal with “local opposition from certain communities and fishing groups, the need for interconnection and transmission upgrades, and the usual array of commercial, technical, legal, and financial hurdles that accompany billion-dollar infrastructure projects, particularly those that involve installation of towers the size of a Manhattan skyscraper at sea,” Carl Valenstein and Jonathan Wilcon, lawyers at Morgan Lewis, wrote in an analysis in December.
Be sure to also read Jazz’ post earlier today about the bill’s impact on energy production, too.
The Washington Post’s analysis raises a lot of questions about the Senate Democrats’ climate-change bill. Too bad they weren’t raising these questions before the bill passed under the dishonest guise of inflation reduction, and too bad the rest of the media didn’t raise those, either. Chuck Schumer conducted a bait-and-switch on inflation to get a climate-change boondoggle passed, and now it looks like even that may be a flim-flam.