A recent House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on the Environmental Protection Agency’s effect on American jobs highlighted some of the follies of leftist environmental policies and also described the problem with banking on green jobs to save the economy. Using the Clean Air Act, the EPA has exercised vast powers to regulate CO2 emissions with little regard for the economic well-being of the nation or its individual citizens.
In conjunction with CARB, the powerful California regulatory agency that will carry out the state’s cap-and-trade law, the EPA has enforced a hodgepodge of standards that have hampered growth in the economy and have added costs to both businesses and consumers. These measures are on top of the CAFE standards—which were used to set national emission standards—that have already been enacted by Congress.
The heavy-handed, obtuse, and muddled medley of regulations has been destructive to businesses around the country that produce useful products, play by the rules, and create an onslaught of useful jobs. The panelists before the committee were mostly in agreement about the economic harm caused by EPA regulations, except for Stanford professor and former Google employee Dan Reicher and the assistant administrator of the EPA, Gina McCarthy.
A long history of donating to Democratic campaigns and the undivided attention of Rep. Henry Waxman (D.-Calif.) were a dead giveaway that Reicher was that party’s handpicked panelist. He gushed about how China was leading the world in green technology investment. He talked about how far China had advanced, and how it was leaving the U.S. in the dust.
In their testimonials, both Reicher and McCarthy used the example of a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal produced by a large number of utility company CEOs. The article praised the EPA’s regulations as being a bonus and a huge job creator. What it didn’t mention is how many of these companies use ties to government in order to shield their industry. This is how many companies in China operate and achieve success.
Many utilities are simply government-backed monopolies that operate outside of the free market, and use government power to protect their business. A recent example of this was PG&E—one of the sponsors of the article—which poured more than $45 million dollars into a California ballot proposition. It wanted to change the Constitution to ensure that it wouldn’t have any future competition. PG&E—like most businesses—protects its own self-interest, but it does this by using government protection, not through succeeding in a free market.
What Reicher didn’t mention is how China has achieved such dominance in the green industry. Not only is it the world’s largest user of coal, China’s policies have left numerous environments wracked by pollution and misuse. Evidence of this would be the country’s largest and most important river, the Yangtze, which has been devastated by pollution and contamination. Reicher admitted to seeing some of this while kayaking on the river, a recreational activity the impoverished locals can’t afford.
Worse still for China is the impact of its policies on Chinese citizens. Tens of thousands of people have been pushed out of their homes with meager compensation so the country can build new power plants. When China invests in energy and builds its infrastructure, it does so with little regard to its individual citizens, who mostly live in abject poverty.
China has come to dominate the green sector because it is willing to trample on the individual rights of its people, and heavily subsidize the industry. This doesn’t mean that the industry has dramatically increased the quality of living for its nation’s citizens. Crony capitalism, mercantilist policies, and overly rapacious use of natural resources might help China dominate in a specific industry, but will not improve the country in the one place that counts: the individual well-being of Chinese citizens.
For the EPA and its proponents, China is held up as a model of 21st century innovation. The world that the EPA operates in is not one of innovation, progress, and individual opportunity, it is instead one the looks remarkably similar to the Third World.