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Energy Poverty

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In Newsweek, Joel Kotkin writes,

Regions from the Appalachians to the Rockies could experience massive job losses, particularly if Biden embraces the green demand to ban all fracking, even on private land. In Texas alone, as many as a million good-paying jobs would be lost. Overall, according to a Chamber of Commerce report, a full national fracking ban would cost 14 million jobs, far more than the eight million lost in the Great Recession. That could turn even vital smaller towns into instant slums. And in places like New Mexico, where spending on public programs hinges on the oil industry—now experiencing a 60-day moratorium on new permits, thanks to President Biden—even issues like education will be impacted.

The climate story is just one part of a bigger one, which led Ohio Democrat Tim Ryan to complain that the party of the people increasingly resembles the old Republicans, with lockstep support from Wall Street, the celebrity circuit, Silicon Valley and other elite sectors like professional service and law firms. Put simply, the Democrats have won the battle of the elites, with Democratic campaign spending more than tripling in recent years.

But we don’t have to project what these policies will mean to working-class Americans. That reality is amply demonstrated in California, a state whose policies are widely embraced by Biden and his administration (“Make California Great Again? That’s Biden’s plan,” read an ecstatic account in the Los Angeles Times). California’s Democratic leaders like to tout the state’s social justice capitalism. But its state policies have been disastrous for California’s middle and working classes. State energy policies have made California gas and electricity prices among the highest in the nation, increasing electricity prices since 2011 five times as fast as the national average. In 2017 alone, those prices increased at three times the national rate. These prices have been devastating to poorer Californians—particularly in the hot interior, where “energy poverty” has grown rapidly.

Rather than follow the flawed California approach, the Biden administration has the opportunity to address climate issues without worsening the condition for working-class Americans. Instead of a precipitous elimination of fossil fuels, a gradual shift toward using natural gas over coal—the source of the biggest reductions in GHG—as well as continuing investment in nuclear power would allow us to reduce emissions without the expense and unreliability stemming from total reliance on renewables.

We cannot afford a return to Obama-era policy, which favored Wall Street and Silicon Valley and did little for middle- and working-class voters while their incomes stagnated.

It’s time to abandon the current tendency to please the progressive gentry first—the brand of liberalism that Harry Truman warned about and, if he were alive, would find truly appalling today.

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