Central planning always fails, but the utopian visionaries implementing the plans cannot admit that they are at fault. A scapegoat must be found. As a leading example, when Soviet dictator Josef Stalin’s collectivization of agriculture led to mass starvation, the official blame was placed on “saboteurs” and “wreckers.”
Our current-day analog is the centrally-planned replacement of our very large, inexpensive and highly functional energy system, mostly based on fossil fuels, with the alternatives of intermittent wind and sun-based generation, as favored by incompetent government regulators who don’t understand how these things work or how much they will cost. Prices of energy to the consumer — from electricity to gasoline — are soaring; and reliability of supply is widely threatened.
All of which brings our President forth to blame the current price and supply issues in the energy markets on anything but his own administration’s intentional efforts to suppress the functional fossil fuel energy. One day the scapegoat is Vladimir Putin; another it is “companies running gas stations,” who stand accused of price gouging.
Unfortunately, a wide swath of the electorate is only too ready to believe that the failure of central planning is correctly blamed on the saboteurs or the wreckers or the price gougers or the Rooskies or whoever, rather than on the incompetent central planners. And the central planners can generally maintain their narrative, as long as they can impose their control widely enough to keep their subjects from becoming aware of successful alternatives.
And thus the maintenance of federalism in energy policy is crucial to avoiding the disaster of green energy central planning. And it is why the recent Supreme Court decision of West Virginia v. EPA is so important in the ongoing energy battles. West Virginia v. EPA struck down a centralized federal effort to dictate the structure of the electricity generation system nationwide, on the ground that the Congress had not explicitly authorized such a sweeping exercise of authority by an executive agency.
With federalism in energy policy, we can have New York forging ahead with its “Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act,” and California doing the same with its SB 100 — both of them seeking to eliminate fossil fuels from the generation of electricity, and then to force all energy consumers to use only electricity for their supply. Will that work? If New York and California are successful, they will be a model for the rest of the country to follow. Congratulations will be in order. If they fail relative to other states — that is, if they see energy prices soar, or frequent blackouts or shortages of needed energy — then it will be obvious to all that it was the green energy that failed, and not that there were “saboteurs” or “wreckers” or “price gougers,” who after all could have attacked the other states as well.
The federal bureaucracies will do everything they can to force all the states into a federal energy straightjacket, so that the (inevitable) failures of green energy cannot be blamed on the perpetrators. In Friday’s post I took note of two new federal initiatives, post-West Virginia, to seek national suppression of fossil fuels, one by imposing “ozone” emission limitations in Texas, and the other by declining to conduct offshore leasing auctions.
Yet another such initiative was announced on Thursday July 7: a so-called “Transportation Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Framework” from the Federal Highway Administration. This one takes administrative audacity to a whole new level. Under the proposed rule, states must set declining greenhouse gas emissions targets for highway traffic that must align with the Net-Zero target as directed by the President in two Executive Orders and agreed at the international “Leaders Summit on Climate.” The federal Net Zero targets have not been enacted or authorized by Congress in any way, and exist only by virtue of a press release issued by President Biden on April 22, 2021. In other words, the administration and the FHA are thumbing their noses at the Supreme Court’s West Virginia decision.
Fortunately, the red states are not just going along with this kind of thing any more. This will be a critical battleground over the next five to ten years.