House Democrats must choose economically viable solutions on climate change

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The House Ways and Means Committee will take up the subject of climate change in a hearing this week. If the House Democrat’s agenda – and the campaign speeches of their presidential candidates – are any indication, the hearing may be heavy on scare tactics and light on real, viable solutions.

The hearing takes place in the context of a presidential campaign dominated by former Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s (D-Texas) environmental doomsday clock, which says the world will essentially end in 12 years unless America embraces the left’s all-encompassing environmental agenda wholesale and without delay.

{mosads}That agenda, as outlined in Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-N.Y.) “Green New Deal,” whether intended or not, amounts to a government takeover of not only our energy sector, but also agriculture, transportation and health care. This eventuality is exactly the opposite of what we need to fight climate change. The answers to common-sense conservation in the 21st century do not lie in a larger centralized U.S. government.

The answer lies in the innovation; from advancements in technology, from scientific breakthroughs. Economically crippling U.S. companies in the global marketplace will only serve to halt the advancements we need to solve this crisis.

The price tag of the Green New Deal is $93 trillion. At the normal rate of production, it would take the Bureau of Engraving and Printing 470 years to print that amount in U.S. currency. This will cost every family in America up to $65,000 per year.

America outside the Beltway is skeptical, and with good reason. As a Kansan, I can tell you no one cares more about the environment than farmers and ranchers whose very livelihoods depend on protecting and preserving our natural resources. But America can’t unilaterally disarm in the global economy while China and India continue to pollute at will.

Efforts to get America to clean up its environmental act must not be allowed to result in U.S. pollution being merely outsourced to other countries. China isn’t taking our recyclables anymore because American plastic was ending up in Chinese waterways after sorting machines broke down or became clogged. Soon, Malaysia won’t be taking our trash anymore either, same reason.

{mossecondads}If American companies are held to the standards of the Green New Deal but Chinese companies aren’t, and Americans continue to buy Chinese goods because they are subject to fewer environmental restrictions and therefore cheaper, is America really improving the environment?

The poorly conceived Paris climate agreement would have done almost nothing to improve the environment, while destroying hundreds of thousands of American jobs and reducing our gross domestic product by about $2.5 trillion over the next 15 years. It would, however, have allowed China and India to continue to destroy the environment with no consequence.

U.S. emissions have remained mostly flat since 1990 while emissions from China and India have skyrocketed. Why should we subsidize through carbon taxes and costly mandates the countries that are not reducing emissions and happen to be our economic rivals? 

The fact that U.S. emissions have remained relatively flat since 1990 shows how market innovation and efficiencies, not the heavy hand of centralized government, is the better way to address climate policies.

A company in my district in Kansas, Occidental, is using carbon capture technology to reduce emissions and support sustainability. Congress can and should encourage environmental innovation and technology, but we should never agree to crippling mandates that our economic competitors will never adopt.

The left is also ignoring facts that don’t fit its narrative. Consider the example of electric vehicles. The facts just don’t line up with a truly progressive ideology. For instance, taxpayers rarely hear that electric vehicles are not necessarily better for the environment than modern gasoline-powered combustion engines.

The energy required to power electric vehicles has to come from somewhere. That somewhere is our electric grid, which happens to be powered to a significant extent by fossil fuels. The IFO Institute in Germany recently concluded that electric vehicles produce more pollution than diesel engines.

Further complicating the issue, electric vehicles redistribute the incomes of hard-working Kansans to wealthy environmentalists, especially those living in California. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin was right when he said, “I own a Tesla, and I didn’t need the $7,500 tax credit.” About 79 percent of electric vehicle tax credits are claimed by households earning more than $100,000.

Meanwhile, more than 46 percent of new electric vehicles sales in 2018 were made in California alone. In a real sense, single moms in Kansas and 48 other states are working hard to subsidize electric vehicles for Hollywood celebrities.

Our country needs an honest and common-sense debate about climate change. Sadly, too often this debate is about how Democrats want to create a political environment in which they can impose their otherwise legislatively impossible agenda on the rest of the country. Reading between the lines of this agenda, we find a hidden host of unintended consequences that will hurt U.S. businesses in the short term, cripple the U.S. economy in the long term and fail to truly conserve our natural resources ­– ever.

The U.S. has stabilized emissions while less free economies pollute at will because we promote innovation, entrepreneurship and celebrate private property owners who practice environmental stewardship.

If Democrats truly believed that climate change is an existential threat they would be clamoring to find common ground and practical solutions. It is time to shelve the over-the-top campaign promises, the fear mongering, and the not-ready-for-prime-time manifestos like the Green New Deal that calls for bans on airplanes, cars and cow flatulence.

Hopefully, this week’s hearing will feature less hype and fewer doomsday prophecies, leaving us more time to explore practical solutions.

Estes represents the 4th District of Kansas and is a member of the Ways and Means Committee.

Tags Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

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