What’s worse for people and the planet, bad climate policy or bad climate change?
Increasingly, changes in climate patterns around the world are being talked about as a serious issue in need of solutions. Reducing the environmental impact of our energy sources and uses, along with shoring up our infrastructure to be more resilient in the future is a top priority for virtually every policymaker and business leader.
God only knows what the future holds for our planet a hundred years from now, and rational people can disagree about temperature and storm predictions, but one thing is for sure, bad climate policy can be worse than even the bad impacts of climate change. Look at what’s happening in Germany and the ripple effects across Europe right now to see how.
The economy or the climate? Why not both?
Subscribe for ideas that support the environment and the people.
Proudly, for decades, Germany has declared itself a leader in the transition away from coal and nuclear energy in the name of climate change and the environment. Its political leaders bowed to the green ambitions of the left and picked renewable energy as the winner, with solar and wind energy winning the beauty contest. Germany was determined that it would lead the world in developing, manufacturing and using solar and wind energy. It was an economic growth strategy along with a “put your money with your mouth is” climate strategy.
There are just a few problems with that plan.
First, Germany isn’t very sunny or windy. So while solar panels can be a great source of energy when the sun is shining, and wind turbines when the wind is blowing, if you want electricity all the time, day and night, you’ll need to pair them with baseload generation (coal, nuclear, natural gas) or enough batteries to fill several football stadiums.
Second, Germany still needed a fuel source for its baseload electricity generation. So what did it do? It imported Russian natural gas. And not just a little, but a lot. Before Putin invaded Ukraine, Germany got 55 percent of its natural gas from Russia. Now it’s closer to 35 percent and Germany is having to ration energy.
Third, Germany played a greenhouse gas emission shell game by exporting its greenhouse gas emissions to Russia who then supplied Germany with natural gas. Makes your head spin, so you might have to read it again.
Fourth, when mandates are used by politicians to “create” markets, beware of the unintended consequences. Germany had no business being so overly reliant on solar and wind energy, especially without having its own baseload sources of generation.
As I write this, sitting in the Munich, Germany airport, the news outlets are reporting that Germany will nationalize one of its largest natural gas companies due to the energy crisis. Let that be a lesson to us, the unintended consequence of government interference in free markets is more government interference.
Make no mistake, the energy crisis in Germany was sparked by the war in Ukraine, but the root cause is bad climate policy.
In the United States, progressives won’t be outdone by Germany’s bad climate policies. In California, Governor Gavin Newsome’s regulators passed a “Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV)” mandate that bans the sale of gas-powered cars in California by 2035. And liberals in Congress, led by Nancy Pelosi and AOC, are calling for the US to go even faster with the energy transition away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy.
The problem with those plans is that more electric vehicles powered by more renewable energy require more batteries. Currently, the US is dangerously reliant on China for over 80 percent of the types of minerals that are needed to make those batteries.
If progressive politicians in the U.S. get their way, America will become even more reliant on China for the batteries that are necessary to power our electric vehicles and renewable energy sources without having the necessary baseload generation that only natural gas, coal or nuclear can provide. This could create an energy crisis the likes of which will make Germany blush.
Electric vehicles are not bad, nor is solar or wind energy. They can be tremendously valuable for improving people’s lives under the right circumstances. But if government mandates make us overly reliant on them before the market can provide competitive choices at affordable prices with abundant supplies, people will get hurt.
And it’s people who seem to be lost in all of this. Consumers across Europe, the United States and the rest of the world are hurting from high energy prices that have been a result of bad climate policy. Climate policy for the sake of the changing climate has to put people first.
The good news is that there is a solution, and it starts with policies rooted in economic freedom. As our report Free Economies are Clean Economies has shown, free economies are twice as clean as unfree economies. And as our Climate and Freedom Agenda specifies, there are a multitude of actions that policymakers can take to solve the problem.
For my friends who see the changing climates as the biggest existential threat to humanity, it’s time to get serious about economic freedom. For my friends who think that bad climate policy is the biggest existential threat to humanity, it’s time we get serious about good climate policy.
Both roads lead in the same direction and if we decide to work together, I am confident we can reach the best destination.