In the fall of 2013, Environmental Protection Agency head Gina McCarthy testified before Congress defending the Obama administration’s climate change policies – policies that have defined its second term by political calculation, rather than diplomatic or legislative achievements.
McCarthy told Representative Mike Pompeo (R-KS), “What we’re attempting to do is put together a comprehensive climate plan across the administration that positions the U.S. for leadership on this issue, and that will prompt and leverage international discussions and action.” The statement spoke to the administration’s eagerness to show strength on the issue of climate change several years after a cap-and-trade system died in the U.S. Senate and as the president faces the reality that his ability to get much done is waning.
In the same hearing, Administrator McCarthy symbolically added, “Climate change requires a global effort.” But despite all the rhetoric on the issue, few nations are embracing the White House’s approach, and an increasing number are doing just the opposite. Without the global participation the administration agrees is needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reductions will be inconsequential.
Around the world, nation after nation has declined to follow the Obama administration’s lead, and those who adopted similar measures have seen devastating economic results.
Take Australia, which recently repealed a tax on carbon emissions as a way to boost manufacturing and lessen the economic toll it was taking on consumers. Prime Minister Tony Abbott said, “people [in Australia] will notice a significant difference when they get their next quarterly power bill,” as a result of the reversal.
Australia’s implications go much deeper, as the Wall Street Journal recently reported: “In Europe, Australia’s repeal has hobbled ambitions of linking up similar carbon emissions trading systems around the globe to the EU’s own. Since the emissions trading system (ETS) was first introduced in 2005, it has been a key plank of the EU’s aim to achieve a 40 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030, compared with 1990 levels.” Like many nations in Europe, including the United Kingdom, Australia has come full circle and is now importing large amounts of American coal. A separate Wall Street Journal article notes, “The 28-nation EU imported 47.2 million tons of U.S. coal last year, up from 13.6 million tons in 2003.”
President Obama once called on Americans to “look to Berlin” for sound green energy policy, but Germany’s renewable energy-subsidized market has been a disaster. A review by the Institute for Energy Research noted that “residential German electricity prices are nearly three times higher than electricity prices in the U.S.” Germany is now looking to provide more affordable electricity by utilizing low-cost lignite coal. As Bloomberg News reported, “Utilities all over Germany have ramped up coal use, as the nation has watched the mix of coal-generated electricity rise to 45 percent last year, the highest level since 2007.” Coal is an affordable, abundant source of energy, but the Obama administration is opposed to increasing its use.
Then there’s Spain, which was heavily subsidizing its robust renewable energy market, so much so that the system was on the verge of collapse. Some energy companies are already suffering losses as a result of the upheaval. That begs the question: Can Spain’s renewable market be sustained without these subsidies? Spain’s unemployment rate is well over 20 percent, and in a 2009 study, Spanish Professor Gabriel Calzada found that for every green job created in Spain, 2.2 non-green jobs are lost — hardly a pattern to follow. Not surprisingly, President Obama previously regarded Spain as a model for cleaner sources of energy.
In many ways, the Obama administration has undertaken efforts to reduce carbon emissions in good faith. However, its proposed new and existing plant rules and forthcoming ground-level ozone rules will significantly and negatively impact our nation’s jobs and economy, and they contradict the president’s promise to create five million energy jobs. A recent National Association of Manufacturers report said the ozone rule would be the “most expensive regulation ever imposed on the American public.”
Countries around the globe have tried to implement greenhouse gas-reduction policies without including existing sources of energy as part of a national economies energy mix, and the results have been devastating. As the old saying goes, a man with no followers is just a guy taking a walk. Around the globe, nation after nation is simply refusing to follow the administration’s greenhouse gas reduction attempts, or has learned the hard way not to follow them in the future.
Andrew Powaleny is a director at The Herald Group, LLC, based in Washington, D.C. He works on media affairs for the firm and handles energy, health care, and manufacturing issues. Previously, he worked for the House Energy and Commerce Committee and CRAFT Media/Digital, in addition to numerous political campaigns. He can be found on twitter at @AndrewPowaleny.