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GRAY: American Energy, Chinese Ambition, and Climate Realism, American Affairs, November 19, 2021

By November 19, 2021December 3rd, 2021No Comments

Former White House Counsel C. Boyden Gray published an essay in American Affairs on November 19, 2021 urging climate realism in setting American energy policy. He writes,

President Biden should stop his ears to the siren song of climate utopianism. Levelheaded climate diplomacy must instead recognize two inconvenient truths about U.S. interests. Policies that restrict the domestic supply of oil and gas and mandate renewable and electric car deployment will reduce U.S. geo­political power. The United States is the world’s largest producer of oil and gas. It is a net loser from unilateral restrictions on domestic hydro­carbons, while Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Iran have the most to gain.

Beyond being bad for American geopolitical interests, these policies would not even effectively curb global emissions. Gray writes,

They would simply subsidize continued emissions in other coun­tries. Domestic “Green New Deals” will impose enormous costs on U.S. citizens far above the projected costs of the avoided climate damages. Cass Sunstein, President Obama’s regulatory czar, puts the implication this way: “The United States and China are the largest emitters, and on prominent projections, they also stand to lose relatively less from climate change. In terms of their own domestic self-interest, these pro­jections greatly weaken the argument for stringent controls.” Cli­mate idealists, who argue that the United States must nevertheless lead, ignore the free rider problem this policy approach creates. If the United States agrees to bear a disproportionate share of the cost of mitigating climate damages, this will reduce the need of foreign countries to curb their own emissions. Put bluntly, disproportionate U.S. mitigation policies com­pared to the rest of the world are a form of foreign aid that enlarges China and India’s “carbon budgets.” China and India understand this reality, which is why they have no immediate plans to even begin reducing carbon emissions and likely why they even failed to update their Paris commitments. U.S. climate diplomacy must recognize the perverse incentives created by this kind of foreign aid.

The essay explains that our current energy policy cedes control of the environment, and global politics more broadly, to China. Gray writes,

Leaving future energy supply chains reliant on a China that is willing to lap the world in coal plant production, to create black, sulfurous, toxic lakes, to use slave labor, and to partner with the Taliban is not just bad geopolitics, it is morally reprehensible. Only by taking responsibility for energy can the United States be a climate leader.

The full essay, entitled American Energy, Chinese Ambition, and Climate Realism, is available here.

Boyden Gray Staff

Author Boyden Gray Staff

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