With President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better bill mired in Congress, the administration is taking aim at the U.S. industrial sector as the next target for climate action via new regulations and programs scattered across different executive agencies.
Among the new programs announced as part of Biden’s focus on industrial emissions are a new hydrogen initiative that will allocate $8 billion for the creation of regional clean hydrogen hubs; the establishment of a Buy Clean Task Force overseeing federal construction projects; a joint project with the European Union to advance carbon-based trade policies to reward American manufacturers of clean steel and aluminum; new guidance issued by the Council on Environmental Quality relating to responsible deployment of Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Sequestration (CCUS) technologies to reduce emissions from heavy industry; and launch of a new Initiative for Interdisciplinary Industrial Decarbonization Research.
Are Industrial Emissions Growing?
The Biden administration claims the industrial sector will soon surpass transportation and electricity generation as the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.
Currently, transportation accounts 29 percent of U.S. emissions, followed by electrical generation at 25 percent, and the industrial sector at 23 percent of total U.S. CO2 emissions.
The belief that industrial emissions will soon surpass transportation is based on the Biden administration’s assumption its programs to greatly expand the use of electric vehicles and restrict fossil fuel use for electric power generation will be successful.
Government’s Poor Innovation Record
It is doubtful the Biden administration’s heavy-handed initiatives will yield results commensurate with the economic damage they are likely to cause, says Craig Rucker, president of the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow.
“When government places itself a position of leadership on matters such as ‘innovation’ and ‘efficiency,’ things rarely go well,” said Rucker. “For example, a new study refutes a previous USDA study that claimed ethanol had a 39 percent lower carbon impact than gasoline, finding that when all factors are taken into account, it may have as much as a 24 percent greater carbon footprint than gasoline.
“There’s no reason to believe government bureaucrats are any better suited to create ‘hydrogen infrastructure,’ to deploy ‘carbon capture technologies,’ or forge a ‘comprehensive strategy’ to reduce emissions from steel, cement, and chemical production — all of which are part and parcel of Biden’s Clean Manufacturing initiative—than their past interventions in the market proved to be.”
History amply demonstrates government mandates and subsidies are ill suited to drive innovation, says Ben Lieberman, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
“Economic central planning has never worked before, and this time won’t be any different,” Lieberman said. “The federal government has a long history of trying to pick winners and losers among emerging technologies, and they invariably waste tax dollars on what turns out to be losers.
“For example, it was not long ago that cellulosic biofuels were in fashion among the inside-the-beltway experts,” Lieberman said. “Billions of dollars were then wasted on what turned out to be yet another government boondoggle.”
Politics Over Common Sense
These programs are nothing more than political pandering at the expense of economic sanity, says Dan Kish, senior vice president with the Institute for Energy Research.
“Energy has been politicized in the United States, so that many pampered and politically approved of sources of energy now lobby Washington on behalf of their industry, building a powerful political force,” said Kish. “As it has become more politicized, the merits of a fuel and technology as an energy source have been jettisoned for influence in Washington, and consumers and the free market are now ignored.
“In Western countries, Europe and the United States, politicians show no sense of what is good for their nations, replacing that with a special interest driven “sounds good, feels good” approach that is yielding much higher energy costs and reduced energy security,” said Kish. “The Chinese pinch themselves at their good luck to be in competition with posturing politicians who ignore physics and economics to pursue the good media that comes from virtue signaling; some get rich by driving energy costs up and making their countries poorer. American consumers suffer and America’s place in the world declines.”
Kevin Stone (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes from Arlington, Texas.