By Robert Bradley Jr. — January 26, 2022
“Personally, I don’t see any interest on the other side to debate anything. Rather, they seem to think their environmental nirvana can only be achieved by replacing our free-market system. For that, they want a ‘green’ form of command-and-control socialism.” (Mark Krebs, below)
Q. Yesterday, you explained how DOE’s Office of Energy Efficient and Renewable Energy employs “garbage-in, garbage-out” (GIGO) to justify more stringent gas-appliance regulation. But step back: specifically, when and how did electrification become official energy policy?
A. Electrification, aka “deep decarbonization,” was in the background through at least the Obama and Trump Administrations. But it had come out of the woodwork with a vengeance under Biden. This started with an unprecedented gush of Executive Orders starting on day one. This implementation is now well underway.
Q. Please identify the primary Biden Administration regulatory chain of events that empowered this present “transition” to electrification through refocusing its mission on “carbon efficiency.”
A. This expedited transition towards carbon efficiency was initiated by Biden’s Executive Order (EO) 13990, “Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis.”’ 86 FR 7037 (Jan. 25, 2021). Section 1 of that Order lists several policies related to the protection of public health and the environment, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions and bolstering the Nation’s resilience to climate change. Id. at 86 FR 7037, 7041.
Section 2 of the Order also instructs all agencies to review existing regulations, orders, guidance documents, policies, and any other similar agency actions promulgated, issued, or adopted between January 20, 2017, and January 20, 2021, that are or may be inconsistent with, or present obstacles to these policies.
Agencies were directed, “as appropriate and consistent with applicable law,” to consider suspending, revising, or rescinding these [Trump Administration] agency actions and to immediately commence work to confront the “climate crisis.”
Q. And then?
A. In addition to EO 13990, the Biden Administration environmental policies include a “FACT SHEET ” titled President Biden Sets 2030 Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Target Aimed at Creating Good-Paying Union Jobs and Securing U.S. Leadership on Clean Energy Technologies. Excerpt: “[This is] a new target for the United States to achieve a 50-52 percent reduction from 2005 levels in economy-wide net greenhouse gas pollution in 2030.”
As part of re-entering the Paris Agreement, Biden also launched a “whole-of-government” process, organized through his National Climate Task Force, to establish this new 2030 emissions target—known as the “nationally determined contribution” or “NDC,” a formal submission to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The present NDC is titled “The United States of America Nationally Determined Contribution. Of particular importance is the following excerpt regarding building decarbonization:
- “Building sector emissions come from electricity use, as well as fossil fuels burned on site for heating air and water and for cooking. There are many options to avoid these emissions while reducing energy cost burden for families and improving health and resilience in communities. The emissions reduction pathways for buildings consider ongoing government support for energy efficiency and efficient electric heating and cooking in buildings via funding for retrofit programs, wider use of heat pumps and induction stoves, and adoption of modern energy codes for new buildings. The United States will also invest in new technologies to reduce emissions associated with construction, including for high-performance electrified buildings.”
On December 8, 2021, Biden signed Executive Order 14057 titled Catalyzing Clean Energy and Jobs through Federal Sustainability. This EO is focused on mandating Federal building compliance for deep decarbonization through fuel switching to electricity ostensibly powered from renewable sources. This is evidenced by the following excerpt:
- “It is therefore the policy of my Administration for the Federal Government to lead by example in order to achieve a carbon pollution-free electricity sector by 2035 and net-zero emissions economy-wide by no later than 2050.”
And, once again, unsuspecting taxpayers are required to fund all of it. For additional information, Alex Epstein published a series of tweets about this EO on twitter.
Q. So a whole new thrust behind deep-decarbonization …
A. Yes. But note that Biden’s NDC closely followed President Obama’s “deep decarbonization” plan for buildings that you, Rob, wrote about in 2017, ‘Deep Decarbonization’ vs. Direct-Use Natural Gas.
Q. Did EERE’s longstanding pro-electric biases get reformed at all during the Trump years?
A. Yes, but temporarily, as it is now turning out. But to give credit where credit is due, there was a brief (but partial) respite in EERE’s biased behavior under the Trump administration and EERE’s (then) Assistant Secretary Daniel Simmons. We could discuss some specific dockets later.
Regardless, throughout the Trump Administration, EERE retained the “clean energy” mission of the Obama Administration. Consequently, the direct use of natural gas was never considered “clean” at least by EERE’s “award winning” staff (even though gas-fueled combustion turbines were considered “clean”).
The legislative stage was set before Trump with a lot of help from the “usual suspects” in writing the language. From the beginning of EERE, energy efficiency and renewable energy were “joined at the hip. Read 42 U.S. Code § 16191 – Energy efficiency to see the result.
The strong relationships between EERE and its “energy efficiency advocates” runs deep; you wrote a good review of this in November of 2020: Waste? Speak for Yourself (energy appliance mandates anti-consumer, pro-bureaucrat) where I posted comments to it that elaborated on the subject.
A. This gets to the macro-policy associated with climate alarmism/forced energy transformation. President Trump was right in pulling out of the Paris Agreement because it devastates consumer choice and our economy by vastly escalating energy costs. That is why I twice voted for him.
Biden’s reentering the Paris Agreement—and his NDC plan to achieve it—is non-binding and has yet to be ratified by Congress. Accordingly, the Paris Agreement and the NDC are not “applicable law.” However, it remains to be seen who is willing to legally challenge these policies.
This “transition”—which directly conflicts with the EPCA’s (the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975’s) intent to protect consumers against regulatory overreach—also strengthens the economic and strategic hands of “bad” international actors, while weakening international “social justice” and increasing adverse environmental impacts associated with growing the market share of “renewable” wind and solar energy.
Q. The “clean energy” ruse plays into all of this.
A. I could go on about the numerous and devastating ill-effects about so-called “clean energy” but that would take too much time to cover now. In addition to Paris Lives! “Deep Decarbonization” at DOE), the following articles are recent and thorough:
As far as what over-reliance on “clean” energy is likely to cost consumers, it varies regionally and depends on what you want to include or ignore. For example, one usually overlooked cost category is what Ed Reid calls “deadweight losses” (the costs of leaving fossil fuels in the ground, stranded investments, etc.).
Q. This has been a major area of research for you.
A. I reviewed and reported upon most of the costing studies available up to 2019 in Costing the Green New Deal and “Deep Decarbonization”: Some Clarifications. I collaborated with Tom Tanton who recently published some “do-it-yourself” estimating tools and users guide available from the Energy & Environmental Legal Institute. And Minnesota’s Center of the American Experiment has an outstanding series on “clean” energy costs as well. Overall, excluding deadweight losses, total cost for the “clean energy transition” appear to be around $30 Trillion (± $10 Trillion). If deadweight losses are included, costs could triple.
For every free-market study looking at the costs of transitioning to all-electric economy, the AGW environmentalists have dozens, with the usual theme that “clean” energy will cost much less than continuing to use fossil fuels. Personally, I don’t see any interest on the other side to debate anything. Rather, they seem to think their environmental nirvana can only be achieved by replacing our free-market system. For that, they want a “green” form of socialism. In which case, Pol Pot would be proud.
Q. “Green” energy can kill, too.
A. The ultimate cost to consumers is that over-reliance on inherently unreliable “clean” energy can and does kills people. Take Texas for example. During last February’s “Winter Storm Uri, 210 people officially died because of prolonged electricity outages. While many died of hypothermia and carbon monoxide poisoning, many also died because they were dependent upon various sorts of electric powered medical equipment.
Even if people had gas furnaces and boilers, those appliances require electric blowers and/or pumps to operate, However, if people also had gas stoves they could (and did) use them to keep themselves (and their water pipes) from freezing.
And it looks like history in Texas is poised to repeat itself, as Donn Dears point out here: Texas Remains in Peril.
Q. And with this comes unintended consequences.
A. This inherent unreliability of renewables could lead to a thriving market for small emergency generators to serve select critical electric loads. However, regulators are trying to prevent that; as seems to be the case in California: Why California’s Move to Ban Gas-Powered Generators (and Lawn Equipment) Could Leave Californians in the Dark.
Mark Krebs, a mechanical engineer and energy policy analyst, has been involved with energy efficiency design and program evaluation for more than thirty years. He has served as an expert witness in dozens of State energy efficiency proceedings, has been an advisor to DOE and has submitted scores of Federal energy-efficiency filings. Mark’s first article was in the Public Utilities Fortnightly and was titled “It’s a War Out There: A Gas Man Questions Electric Efficiency” (December 1996).
For more about Mark, see his MasterResource archive.