Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney testified on Capitol Hill on May 25 to explain and defend the president’s budget proposal. (Photo: Jeff Malet Photography /Newscom)
Aside from being inappropriate and irresponsible, these remarks are how some in the policy world and media have depicted cuts to global warming spending in President Donald Trump’s first budget proposal.
People seem to have forgotten—or perhaps never noticed—just how much the government spends on direct climate programs.
Trump’s budget proposal does in fact eliminate or cut a number of climate programs. But you don’t have to scratch too far beneath the surface to realize there are legitimate justifications for doing so.
Even if the federal budget won’t be balanced on the back of eliminated climate programs, there are a number of basic problems with government climate spending.
1. Quite simply, there are a lot of global warming programs.
At least 18 federal agencies administer climate change activities, costing at least $77 billion between fiscal years 2008 and 2013, according to the Congressional Research Service.
The Government Accountability Office noted in 2009 that “the federal government’s emerging adaptation activities were carried out in an ad hoc manner and were not well coordinated across federal agencies, let alone with state and local governments.”
For all the Obama administration’s emphasis on global warming as an issue, the Government Accountability Office’s December 2016 assessment found only partial improvement in program management and could not yet determine if government standards showed whether programs were being effective, as they had only just been implemented.
2. Most of the money goes to green tech rather than science.
According to the Government Accountability Office, the bulk of federal climate spending has gone to technology development rather than science, wildlife, or international aid.
This has been particularly true in more recent years as a result of the Obama administration’s failed stimulus package, which funneled billions of dollars into energy technologies.
The Department of Energy is notorious for spending on research, development, demonstration, and commercialization of technologies like wind, solar, geothermal, electric vehicles, biofuels, coal carbon capture and sequestration, small nuclear, and batteries.
If these technologies are economically viable, there will be plenty of private sector capital available to develop them. Hardworking taxpayers shouldn’t have to dump money into speculative or failing technology companies or pad the bottom lines of successful ones.
3. There’s a lot of wasteful spending.
As just one example of wasteful spending, Office of Budget and Management Director Mick Mulvaney highlighted the National Science Foundation’s grant for a global warming musical. (The nearly $700,000 grant was awarded in 2010.)
There are many other equally ridiculous examples, such as an Environmental Protection Agency grant for “green” nail salon concepts in California.
There are other much larger boondoggles, too. The Navy spent hundreds of millions of dollars on biofuels to meet a political objective to “jumpstart” a domestic biofuel economy with no strategic advantage for military capabilities.
Despite clear direction from Congress that fuels be cost-competitive, the executive branch camouflaged the costs of the Navy’s biofuel program by subsidizing it through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Commodity Credit Corporation program and the Department of Energy.
While the Navy’s price per gallon may appear cheap, the actual total cost to the government is much higher.
4. International climate initiatives are fatally flawed.
There are a number of problems with America’s continued participation in the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, the body that has produced international global warming agreements and, most recently, the Paris Protocol.
One would think that an international climate conference aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions would be the perfect opportunity to have a teleconference to show some good faith. But instead, government officials from around the world fly to lavish venues while telling you to buy hybrids and eat less meat.
Each year, the result is the same: symbolic commitments that shame industrialization and the use of fossil fuels with little to no actual impact on the climate.
Furthermore, the Palestinian Authority’s participation in the Paris Protocol should be cause enough to halt funding as Congress has stipulated under current law.
As the Trump budget proposes, the U.S. should also end funding to the quasi-scientific body behind the Paris Protocol—the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This panel’s studies have been subject to bias, manipulation, and poor data.
5. There are major problems and gaps in climate science.
Exacerbating this is the role the federal government has played in toxifying the scientific debate on global warming. Rather than fostering scientific discovery in a field that is a mere few decades old, the federal government appears to have expressed bias in funding science that supports federal climate policies.
Science that challenges the current narrative is pilloried in the press and labeled “denialism,” whereas an intellectually honest approach would seek to understand and improve the science.
The debate is not improved by demands for RICO investigations or anti-science statements castigating those with different opinions as part of the “flat earth society” with their “heads in the sand,” and encouraging people to “find the deniers near you—and call them out today.”
We don’t need more spending on iterative studies telling us that coffee could be more expensive and snakes bigger thanks to global warming. We need better modeling, better understanding of basic science, more data, and a better, transparent discussion on climate science and climate policies.
Even after the president’s proposed cuts, there is plenty of money left in the federal budget to study and model the climate.
For instance, the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, a division that includes many climate programs within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, would be cut by more than $150 million, but still retain a hefty $324 million.
Let’s also not forget the role that universities, nonprofits, and international organizations play in studying the global climate.
Eliminating wasteful spending, some of which has nothing to do with studying the science at all, is smart management, not an attack on science.
It’s time to end the boondoggles and hold the federal government’s climate science activities to the same standards of rationality and cost effectiveness as other government spending.
The Possible Reasons Big Corporations Are So Eager for Trump to Break His Promise on Paris Climate Deal
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump greet French President Emmanuel Macron while attending a performance of La Scala Philharmonic Orchestra during the G-7 summit in Sicily on Friday. (Photo: Philippe Wojazer/Reuters/Newscom)
European countries and major corporations are pressuring President Donald Trump to remain in the Paris climate agreement despite his promises on the campaign to withdraw the United States from the Obama-era deal that never gained congressional approval.
The Trump administration so far is sticking with being undecided—at least until Trump returns to the United States from his first foreign trip, where on Friday, he’s meeting with Group of Seven ally countries, which support the agreement.
Back home, the pressure is growing from multinational corporations, even the energy sector, which have opposed stricter limitations on carbon.
Exxon Mobil Corp., once run by Trump’s secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, Royal Dutch Shell, and BP are urging the administration to remain in the agreement. Meanwhile, coal mining company Cloud Peak Energy urged the administration to remain.
“BP and Shell are European companies and it’s impossible to do business in Europe without towing the political line,” Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told The Daily Signal. He added that for oil and gas companies, “the only way to get the price of gas back up is to kill coal. The Paris Agreement kills fossil fuels, but it kills coal first.”
Ebell was part of Trump’s transition team overseeing the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute sponsored an ad showing Trump during the campaign saying, “We are going to cancel the Paris climate agreement and stop all payments of the United States tax dollars to U.N. global warming programs.”
While corporate support might seem surprising, it’s very much the same old story for large companies seeking an advantage over smaller competitors, said Katie Tubb, a policy analyst with The Heritage Foundation.
“Big business and big government often go hand-in-hand. Big businesses generally can absorb and adapt to the costs of complying with burdensome regulation, of which Paris is a wellspring,” Tubb told The Daily Signal. “Smaller companies have a much harder time complying, which means less competition for big business. This is especially true if big business can influence the substance of regulations to favor themselves or freeze out competitors. I think in other cases; these large companies are just looking for PR points.”
President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry led the United States into the Paris climate change agreement, along with 170 other countries. The agreement commits member countries to shift their energy industries away from fossil fuels and toward green energy.
Two dozen major U.S. companies—including Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, the Hartford, Levi Strauss, PG&E, and Morgan Stanley—sent an open letter to Trump published in The New York Times and other newspapers across the country, urging him to remain in the deal. The letter says:
By requiring action by developed and developing countries alike, the agreement ensures a more balanced global effort, reducing the risk of competitive imbalances for U.S. companies … By expanding markets for innovative clean technologies, the agreement generates jobs and economic growth. U.S. companies are well positioned to lead in these markets.
U.S. business is best served by a stable and practical framework facilitating an effective and balanced global response. The Paris Agreement provides such a framework. As other countries invest in advanced technologies and move forward with the Paris Agreement, we believe the United States can best exercise global leadership and advance U.S. interests by remaining a full partner in this vital global effort.
Generally, larger energy companies have an advantage under the climate deal, said Fred Palmer, senior fellow for energy and climate at the Heartland Institute.
“Follow the money,” Palmer told The Daily Signal. “There are companies that want to game the system of using [carbon dioxide] as a currency to make money.”
After meetings at the Vatican earlier this week, Tillerson said, “The president indicated we’re still thinking about that, that he hasn’t made a final decision.”
Ahead of the G7 meeting, Trump chief economic adviser Gary Cohn, the director of the White House National Economic Council, told a pool reporter Friday that the president is weighing both sides.
“I think he’s leaning to understand the European position. Look, as you know from the U.S., there’s very strong views on both sides,” Cohn said. “He also knows that Paris has important meaning to many of the European leaders. And he wants to clearly hear what the European leaders have to say.”
Ebell warned that if the administration seeks to make a deal to stay in the agreement, perhaps with a lower commitment than the Obama administration pledged, then a future president could simply increase the U.S. commitment. That’s why, Ebell said, it’s best for the United States to get out.
“Obviously foreign leaders don’t care what Trump promised voters in the campaign,” Ebell said.
To be sure, many U.S. business groups oppose the Paris Agreement, such as the Industrial Energy Consumers of America—which represents manufacturers and other larger energy-using businesses—that wrote an April 24 letter to administration officials. The letter said:
We are the ones who eventually bear the costs of government imposed [greenhouse gas] reduction schemes. At the same time, we are often already economically disadvantaged, as compared to global competitors who are subsidized or protected by their governments.
Given the above concerns, IECA fails to see the benefit of the Paris Climate Accord. And, the long-term implications of the Paris Climate Accord, which includes greater future [greenhouse gas] reduction requirements, raises serious competitiveness and job implications for [energy-intensive, trade-exposed] industries.
The Daily Signal depends on the support of readers like you. Read more ..