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A Strategy for Climate Skeptics to Gain Public Support

William L. Kovacs

January 2024

A Strategy for Climate Skeptics to Gain Public Support

(Part III of III parts)

Parts I and II suggest climate skeptics change their lobbying strategy from the current focus on the scientific flaws in green technology to a strategy that addresses the very high cost to taxpayers of federal green subsidies and product bans. Part III sets out a proposed strategy to force cost transparency on the government and develop tactics to defeat overpriced facilities and programs that are very costly to the consumer.

As long as business has unlimited access to tax expenditures, green technology will spread, regardless of the economic harm. Fixing this problem should be easy. Due to the nation’s massive national debt, it should be apparent to Congress that tax expenditures, which are actually unlimited appropriations,  must be eliminated. Unfortunately, this will not happen; the business community and the Progressive Left control too many votes in Congress to stop the giveaways.

An alternative that might work is for the skeptics to persuade Congress to incorporate the cost of tax expenditures, like the IRA tax credits, into its budget and appropriations processes. This simple change will force Congress to centralize its budget process so it has complete control of its revenues and spending. Placing a lid on the amount of tax expenditures taxpayers can claim would force green technology to compete with every other program needing federal funds. It will also save trillions for the taxpayers who pay increased taxes to cover the revenue shortfalls in other programs deemed necessary.

Part III

Seek disclosure of the economic and job impacts of subsidies.

Shame the corporate green welfare queens into disclosing what the subsidies cost taxpayers, the cost of the few jobs created, the low wages paid to workers, and the ratio of officers’ pay to workers’ pay. Compare the dollars spent on lobbying and political donations with the subsidies received. Inform the public of the corporation’s rate of return on its lobbying dollars. An excellent newsletter on corporate subsidies is “Good Jobs First.” Its motto is “Tax breaks do not create jobs.”

Germany, however, may be leading the way in disclosing the real costs of green energy. Recently, a German court was so concerned the government wanted the citizens to believe there is no cost of green energy it declared the government’s fiscal gimmicks unconstitutional and ruled it “must level with voters about how much the net-zero energy transition will cost.”

Stop purchasing products made competitive only by green subsidies.

Climate skeptics should educate consumers on the actual cost of subsidies. Whenever the government subsidizes “energy-efficient products,” it must raise taxes on other items or individuals or reallocate taxes from different parts of its budget to pay for the subsidy. In essence, anytime the government subsidies a product, it merely passes the cost of the subsidy to other citizens or eliminates needed programs. The skeptics should explain to consumers how consumers are paying for the government’s gifts to others. Consumers need to appreciate that the government only provides subsidies for products it wants consumers and businesses to purchase and which will not be purchased under market conditions.

Oppose any bailouts of electric utilities on subsidies.

As the federal government forces more and more wind and solar units onto the market to generate more renewable power, it increases the number of facilities needing additional subsidies to avoid bankruptcy. These facilities are only viable because they receive subsidies. The skeptics must expose and oppose every rate increase due to the high cost of green technology. Educating consumers on the increased costs of green energy and its adverse community impacts will bring consumers to the skeptics’ side. Since citizens are only willing to pay $100 a year to address climate change, climate skeptics must educate them on the cost of green technology, which is thousands per year.

Advocate that all levels of government provide the actual costs of green technology to consumers.

The skeptics should lobby the government to disclose a complete and accurate accounting of the green energy project, including the actual cost of construction, the amount of tax relief, the land to be used, tax abatements on the land, the cost of the project without subsidies, who pays for the disposal of hazardous waste contained in the green technology at the end of its life, and who pays for removing abandoned bankrupt facilities. These disclosures alone may stop the construction of many marginal facilities as residents become fearful of adverse health impacts and concerns over future remediation costs.

If a German court can order disclosure of the real costs of green energy, American taxpayers should be able to persuade Congress, the courts, or federal agencies with appropriate jurisdiction to order similar disclosures.

Do as the environmentalists do: litigate, litigate, litigate.

Litigation is where the skeptics’ studies, reports, and scientific calculations are of the most value. Litigation can take many forms and, in many places, including state and federal courts, administrative agencies, municipalities, zoning boards, and against any government agency that hears a matter in dispute. The route taken most often by environmentalists is to sue under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) against any facility (usually a pipeline or refinery) or project needing an Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”) prior to permitting. The legal argument is the project’s EIS is insufficient to provide the information necessary to comply with NEPA. Filing a lawsuit can tie up a project in court for years. The time delays are costly and can often turn an alleged profitable project into an unprofitable one. That is the path taken by the environmental community. It needs to become the path of the skeptics if they are to bring sanity to the climate debate.

A recent study by David Wojick and Paul Driessen titled “Offshore Wind Cannot Be Justified” is an excellent example of how skeptics can use data to delay or stop a project over EIS concerns. The authors examine the emissions reductions achieved by offshore wind energy, which is the primary justification for its use. The authors conclude that global emissions from mining, processing, manufacturing, and transportation offset any reduction from power production. Their study focuses on the many aspects of the supply chain. These types of facts force projects to make disclosures neither the federal government nor the project developers want to make. These types of disclosures can place conditions on permits that make the project non-viable.

NEPA addresses far more than environmental protection. It requires examining the actions pursued to assure all Americans “a safe, healthful, productive and esthetically and culturally pleasing surrounding.” This type of broad language allows litigants to persuade a court to make new laws by litigation while avoiding Congress. It also requires consideration of national heritage, community diversity, and individual choice. NEPA provisions can protect rural communities and life in America from the pock-marking of the land by wind and solar facilities.

The climate skeptics might also be able to include specific international concerns since NEPA promotes international cooperation to anticipate and prevent the decline in the quality of “mankind’s” world environment. The skeptics should be creative by using NEPA litigation to address the use of slave labor in the mining of rare earth materials and the environmental harm caused by the mining of rare earth materials by oppressive regimes. Since most green energy facilities contain rare earth materials, which are often hazardous when disposed of, an analysis of these materials’ environmental impact is the purpose of NEPA, especially those that are presently unquantified.

A NEPA review will allow the skeptics to raise all the environmental and economic concerns created by interconnection difficulties, abandoned projects, the management of the hazardous wastes in the projects, and the end-of-life remediation that is not calculated in the project’s economics. The skeptics need to connect the dots between the projects with these problems and their environmental impacts. Once the dots are connected, there will be public opposition against the projects.

How it all ends.

The non-disclosure of the real costs and environmental impacts of green energy is nothing short of another deception of the American people by its government. The adverse impacts of a green economy are environmental, economic, cultural, and degrading to our national security. The American business community is bought and paid for, so it will not challenge the federal government unless it seriously hurts them financially. Fortunately, the nation’s citizens can be educated on how to fight federal green policies that are causing them economic harm and impacting their lives and communities. It is the responsibility of the climate skeptics to undertake this task. If the skeptics cannot end the green utopian delusion, no one will.

 

William L. Kovacs has served as senior vice president for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, chief counsel to a congressional committee, chairman of a state environmental board, and a partner in law D.C. law firms. His book Reform the Kakistocracy received the 2021 Independent Press Award for Political/Social Change. Kovacs also led the business coalition’s lobbying activities against Obama’s legislative climate proposals. He can be contacted at [email protected].

Part I. Memo to Climate Skeptics: You’re Losing, Change Strategies

Part II. Climate Skeptics Win by Revealing Costs Not Disputing Science

 

 

 

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  • Memo to Climate Skeptics: You’re Losing, Change Strategies

Memo to Climate Skeptics: You’re Losing, Change Strategies

William L. Kovacs

December 2023

Memo to Climate Skeptics: You’re Losing, Change Strategies

(Part I of III parts)

As 90,000 corporate and environmental elites land their private planes in Dubai to be exquisitely wined and dined at the UN Climate Conference (“COP 28”) from November 30 to December 12, 2023, they will be demanding more reductions in fossil fuels and trillions more dollars for whatever controls they want to impose on humanity. Their newest demand is no more cows, no more meat. This is on top of restrictions on thousands of products. Twenty-eight years of COP parties demonstrate the persistence of the movement to shut down human progress. Those opposing this insanity argue the facts, science, and common sense. These are useless arguments in a world where tweets, influencers, money, and misinformation rule. It is time to challenge this brave new world of hypocrites at its source of power.

The Progressive Left is winning the climate war it should be losing.

Those skeptical (“climate skeptics”) of the Progressive Left’s claim that the world is coming to an end due to manmade greenhouse gas emissions are a dwindling group. They are fighting the good fight with few supporters and little financial assistance. To prevail, the skeptics need to gain visible support from common-sense citizens who are unwittingly impacted by the increased costs of green technology. To achieve this feat, climate skeptics should move away from their current lobbying strategy that relies on well-documented science and technology briefing papers that discuss the technical inadequacies of the green agenda and focus on the adverse economic and community impacts of the Biden administration’s policies.

The transition from regulatory oppression to costly giveaways.

The Progressive Left’s change in its climate lobbying strategy between the Obama and Biden administrations illustrates why the Progressive Left is winning the climate fight to limit fossil fuels to “stop the rise of the oceans.”  While both administrations initiated aggressive attacks on the use of fossil fuels, their strategies are radically different. Obama went the traditional route of complex legislation to regulate most industries in the economy. The Biden administration gives away lots of money, which makes all the difference.

The climate skeptics in 2008-2016 organized the business community and used data in eye-catching, easy to understand charts to illustrate the complexity, costs and burdens of Obama’s legislative and regulatory agenda on business and citizens. By explaining how business, jobs, citizens, and communities were adversely impacted, the skeptics defeated Obama’s major proposals in Congress, even in years when Democrats controlled both Houses of Congress.

The Biden administration changed strategies in 2021. It recognized giving away taxpayer money is a proven path to the heart of the business community. Giving away money for a “public purpose” is also unreviewable by the courts. As such, it is easier for spending legislation to pass. Moreover, it also avoids a regulatory conflict with industry, as happened to Obama’s Clean Power Plan. Using giveaways, Biden enacted the Inflation Reduction Act (“IRA”) to build more green technology than can be absorbed by the grid or afforded by consumers. Additionally, by placing such a massive amount of green technology into the economy, Biden makes reversing his policies very difficult.

Beginning in 2021, climate skeptics challenged Biden’s climate agenda by developing excellent policy papers explaining the technological flaws in achieving zero emissions with green technology. Unfortunately, for the climate skeptics, business prefers subsidies over well-reasoned technical reports that might upset their gravy train., Moreover, most common-sense citizens do not read technical policy papers, nor are they persuaded by them.

American business is Congress’ Pavlov’s dog, and tax credits are its treats.

With a massive national debt approaching $34 trillion and annual combined deficits and interest payments approaching $2 trillion, Congress fails to understand how it is wasting the taxpayer’s money. Worse, when it spends by enacting tax expenditures, it has no control over how much is wasted.

Tax expenditures are defined by law as “revenue losses attributable to provisions of the Federal Tax laws which allow a special exclusion, exemption, or deduction from gross income or which provide a special credit, a preferential rate of tax, or a deferral of tax liabilities.” When Congress enacts these expenditures, it creates public policy by changing behavior, i.e., rewarding corporations that do what the government wants done. It transforms American businesses from defenders of competitive markets into the government’s Pavlov dog. The government offers a treat, and business gets rewarded if it does what Congress wants done.

Unlike policy determinations that must be authorized and subsequently funded by Congress, tax expenditures are not viewed as direct spending programs since Congress places them outside of the budget process. As such, they are an unlimited charge on the federal treasury since anyone who conforms to the government’s desires gets credits that reduce their income tax. For example, taxpayers purchasing an electric vehicle can receive up to $7,500 in credits to reduce their federal income taxes.

Additionally, the IRA includes a $ 400 billion loan guarantee fund that allows green energy developers to secure lower interest rates on loans that the federal government guarantees in case of default. These unfunded liabilities are also off budget.

The cost of dog treats is expensive.

The IRA gives tax credits for activities legislatively deemed to reduce emissions causing climate change. Those activities include battery storage, energy efficiency, residential green energy, hydrogen, carbon capture, solar and wind generation, and electric vehicles. The Congressional Budget Office (“CBO”) initially estimated these tax credits would cost the treasury $391 billion between 2022 and 2031.

The IRA tax credits for anything “green” incentivized more pigs to show up at the trough than CBO estimated. Within months after the program started, Goldman Sachs raised its estimated cost of the credits to $1.2 trillion for the same period. The original forecast missed the cost of the credits for electric vehicles by $379 billion; energy manufacturing, $156 billion; renewable electricity production, $82 billion; energy efficiency, $42 billion; hydrogen, $36 billion; biofuels, $34 billion; and carbon capture, $31 billion.

These federal tax credits create few jobs. “Total [cost for each green job created] range from $ 2 to $ 7 million per job.” Unfortunately, the jobs created will have an average annual wage of $45,000. Where have all the billions gone? Into corporate pockets everywhere!

Tax credits are only one type of government gift. The tax code is stuffed with over 2000 subsidy [gift] programs. Companies that receive the gifts are given a competitive advantage over non-recipients in the market. Farming is an excellent example. The federal government distributes $30 billion a year in subsidies to the farm industry. “The largest 15 percent of the farm businesses receive 85 percent of the total farm subsidies.”

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that in 2019, IRS tax expenditures carried a value of $1.3 trillion for the recipients. Additionally, the IRA tax credit adds another $1.2 trillion. None of these $2.5 trillion tax credits is part of the appropriations process. No wonder Congress cannot control spending. These same companies also received $3.5 trillion in subsidies in 2020 from state and local governments.

As long as green technology is infused with unlimited tax credits, businesses will take the credits until the government stops giving them or the project suffers losses the government will not cover. It is up to the skeptics to educate the public on these costs.

William L. Kovacs has served as senior vice president for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, chief counsel to a congressional committee, chairman of a state environmental board, and a partner in law D.C. law firms. His book Reform the Kakistocracy received the 2021 Independent Press Award for Political/Social Change. Kovacs also led the business coalition’s lobbying activities against Obama’s legislative climate proposals. He can be contacted at [email protected].