Forbes | by Larry Bell | 8/23/2011
The U.S. Government Accounting Office (GAO) can’t figure out what benefits taxpayers are getting from the many billions of dollars spent each year on policies that are purportedly aimed at addressing climate change.
A May 20 report noted that while annual federal funding for such activities has been increasing substantially, there is a lack of shared understanding of strategic priorities among the various responsible agency officials. This assessment agrees with the conclusions of a 2008 Congressional Research Service analysis which found no “overarching policy goal for climate change that guides the programs funded or the priorities among programs.”
According to the GAO, annual federal climate spending has increased from $4.6 billion in 2003 to $8.8 billion in 2010, amounting to $106.7 billion over that period. The money was spent in four general categories: technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, science to understand climate changes, international assistance for developing countries, and wildlife adaptation to respond to actual or expected changes. Technology spending, the largest category, grew from $2.56 billion to $5.5 billion over this period, increasingly advancing over others in total share. Data compiled by Joanne Nova at the Science and Policy Institute indicates that the U.S. Government spent more than $32.5 billion on climate studies between 1989 and 2009. This doesn’t count about $79 billion more spent for climate change technology research, foreign aid and tax breaks for “green energy.”
OMB pointed out that their previously noted agency budget compilations didn’t include revenues lost for the special deductions and tax credits intended to encourage greenhouse gas emission reductions. They attributed to those subsidies a cost of $7.2 billion in federal revenue losses during 2010 alone, ($16.1 billion since 1993), bringing the total since 2003 to $122.8 billion. Then there’s still another $26.1 billion earmarked for climate change programs and related activities within the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (or “Stimulus Bill”).
Climate change spending won’t slow any time soon…not so long as current Obama policies prevail. A proposed $1,328 million FY 2012 budget for its Global Climate Change Initiative (GCCI) aimed at helping developing countries address man-made global warming problems that we’ve allegedly caused represents a 557% increase since FY 2008 (then $202 million). Implemented through programs sponsored by the Department of State, Treasury, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), it is funded by the administration’s executive budget. As stated, “The President’s FY2012 budget request follows on the December 2010 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) negotiations in Cancun, Mexico, which formulated a package of ‘nationally appropriate’ measures toward the goal of avoiding dangerous climate change.” This is part of “…a commitment to near-term and long-term climate financing for the least developed countries amounting to near $30 billion for the period 2010-2012, and $100 billion annually by 2020.”
Then there’s the matter of those escalating climate-premised EPA regulation costs that are killing businesses and jobs under cover of the Clean Air Act. These rampant overreaches are being justified by the agency’s Endangerment Finding proclaiming CO2 to be a pollutant. The finding ignored a contrary conclusion in EPA’s own “Internal Study on Climate” that: “Given the downward trend in temperatures since 1998 (which some think will continue until at least 2030), there is no particular reason to rush into decisions based upon a scientific hypothesis that does not appear to explain most of the available data.”
The Small Business Administration estimates that compliance with such regulations costs the U.S. economy more than $1.75 trillion per year — about 12%-14% of GDP, and half of the $3.456 trillion Washington is currently spending. The Competitive Enterprise Institute believes the annual cost is closer to $1.8 trillion when an estimated $55.4 billion regulatory administration and policing budget is included. CEI further observes that those regulation costs exceed 2008 corporate pretax profits of $1.436 trillion; tower over estimated individual income taxes of $936 billion by 87%; and reveal a federal government whose share of the entire economy reaches 35.5% when combined with federal 2010 spending outlays.
A U.S. Energy Information Administration economic forecasting model indicates that a proposed 70% cut in CO2 emissions will cause gasoline prices to rise 77% over baseline projections, kill more than 3 million jobs, and reduce average household income by more than $4,000 each year.
The EPA is now embarking upon still another among many anti-fossil fuel rampages through new pending utility rule legislation to reduce coal-fired mercury emissions.
Paradoxically, this is occurring when Americans are being virtually forced to abandon incandescent light bulbs in favor of compact fluorescent fixtures containing mercury, much of which is destined to end up in landfills. EPA rushed the utility rule through in March, allowing only 60 days for public comment rather than the basic practice of 120-180 days, and overstating U.S. mercury emissions by a factor of 1,000 in the process. Even the agency admits that the rule will cost $10.9 billion annually. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, a usual White House ally, says it will directly destroy 50,000 jobs, and 200,000 more down the supply line.
The EPA has also recently announced new environmental guidelines that will essentially end surface “mountaintop” mining in a six-state region centered on Appalachia that produced more than 10% of U.S. coal in 2008, and employed nearly 20,000 people. And just how much consideration does the EPA give to the severe economic and employment impacts of its initiatives? The unambiguous answer is — none.
When Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo) raised the cost consequence question, the letter she received back from Assistant EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy was very clear: “Under the Clean Air Act, decisions regarding the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) must be based solely on evaluation of the scientific evidence as it pertains to health and environmental effects. Thus, the agency is prohibited from considering costs in setting the NAAQS.” Responding to a question by Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Col.) before the House Environment and Energy Committee regarding regulations that would govern industries that recycle coal ash and other fossil fuel byproducts for concrete, wallboard and roofing materials, EPA Administrator Mathy Stanislaus stated: “We have not directly taken a look at jobs in this proposal.”
Isn’t it maybe high time that those responsible for regulatory oversight take a serious look at those costs and impacts? After all, didn’t President Obama issue an Executive Order 13563 in January specifically requiring that all new rules issued by federal agencies take job creation into account?
Consider that current policies are costing hundreds of billions we can’t afford along with millions of lost employment opportunities; all based extensively on a bogus, politically manufactured climate crisis devoid of any supportable scientific evidence. This is occurring at a time when our gross national deficit following a ceiling rise exceeds the size of our GDP, and the U.S. credit rating has been devalued for the first time in history.
Forget about trying to stop natural climate change. It is the political climate responsible for these circumstances we really need to change. That’s the threat that presents really serious reasons for alarm!