Help Solve Climate Change through Deregulation

A dramatic increase in renewable and clean energy technology, as well as the associated transmission capacity is required to stabilize global greenhouse gas emissions. Although the bipartisan infrastructure bill was recently approved, funding is only available for certain projects. This funding will not be used unless these projects are built. Government regulation, which includes much of the environmental regulation, can sometimes get in the way. This could delay or discourage the installation and deployment of cleaner technology and related infrastructure.

Ted Nordhaus from Breakthrough Institute points out multiple instances in this article Wall Street Journal:

Nevada’s Black Rock Desert is home to environmentalists, Burning Man devotees, and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). They are opposing a geothermal power plant. The Sierra Club, along with enthusiasts of all-terrain vehicles, has joined forces to block the development of the country’s largest solar plant. It claims it threatens endangered tortoises. Plans for large offshore wind farms along the Atlantic coast have been hampered by the Jones Act. This obscure law requires that maritime cargo be carried only by U.S. flagged ships between U.S. ports. The Jones Act is not an obstacle, but it may prove irrelevant because wind energy projects in American coastline regions are also being stopped by a barrage NEPA and Endangered species Act (ESA) lawsuits.

Renewable energy is not the only problem. In California, environmentalists have used a state law designed to protect fish eggs as a pretext to close the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, the state’s largest source of clean energy, while the California Environmental Quality Act has hobbled efforts to build both high-speed rail and high-voltage transmission lines that the state is counting on to meet its climate commitments. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Washington, D.C., rejected last month the request of an advanced nuclear reactor designer to be licensed before it, much to the delights of prominent environmental groups.

Today, the nation’s environmental laws that were passed in the 1960s and 1970s are still a barrier to the construction of infrastructure and energy systems. This is despite the fact that they have been in place since the beginning to help protect our environment and public health. The Democrats and Biden currently plan to invest close to $1 trillion in low-carbon technology and infrastructure. However, there are few reasons to think the U.S. can do this quickly or economically.

The bipartisan infrastructure bill, as well as the “Build Back better” proposals do not address the problem. Although there are many people who want to invest in clean technologies, they don’t have the will to remove regulatory hurdles that hinder rapid development and construction. It is worse that Trump Administration modest reforms in the NEPA review process, which could have helped speed up some clean projects, are being reversed.

Not turning off the lights is an option. Our moden economy will be powered in one or another way. If it becomes too costly or difficult to develop clean energy resources and build the infrastructure necessary to support them, then we will continue to use more expensive and carbon-intensive sources. It is possible to choose to continue to use dirtier energy sources if you don’t want to speed up and encourage clean energy development. Unfortunately, at least some environmentalists will make this decision.