by Jon Sanders
Research Editor and Senior Fellow, Regulatory Studies, John Locke Foundation
Since the start of the 21st century, energy-based emissions have been falling dramatically in North Carolina.
There’s no crisis here, there’s no market failure, and there’s no cause for alarm. These results are exemplary, and they are market-driven.
There simply is no call for government intervention here whatsoever. Which makes Gov. Roy Cooper’s Executive Order (EO) to “Address Climate Change and Transition to a Clean Energy Economy” so unnecessary. The details of that EO don’t help.
He also said the order would “create jobs.”
Before diving into the details, let’s look at the big picture first. The governor wishes to use executive authority to alter the climate. That is the stuff of comic books.
The State of North Carolina occupies an area that amounts to about 27 one-hundred-thousandths (0.00027) of the surface of the Earth. We could cease all productive activity and emissions and still have no impact on the planet. We could all disappear like the Lost Colony, and the global climate wouldn’t change.
The idea that we could save the climate by cutting our emissions reductions just a mite faster than we already have been doing for two decades is daft.
Furthermore, the State of North Carolina, as part of the United States of America, is leading the world in emissions reductions for the same market-driven factors listed above. True, the U.S. is not part of the Paris climate accords, which is supposedly another reason behind Cooper’s EO. But it is clear the U.S. is outperforming all the other nations who are.
Overall U.S. CO2 emissions are at their lowest level since 1992. U.S. CO2 emissions per capita are at their lowest level since 1950. So why should the governor act as if Paris matters?
Furthermore, many of the major players in the world aren’t just trailing the U.S. in emission reductions. They’re still increasing their emissions. Some by a tremendous amount. Look at China, look at India, and hello, look at the European Union.
Whatever reduction in emissions we make in the great State of 0.00027th of the Earth, they’re being obliterated immediately by those belching giants.
There can be no reasonable expectation of measurable climate impact from this EO. It is a futile gesture that seems more inspired by virtue-signaling, base-pandering, crony greasing, and PAC pleasing.
Now, the details. Here is what the EO seeks to do by 2025:
How would the governor accomplish these things? By incentives for certain goods and choices, expensive infrastructure build-ups, cronyism, euphemism, and make-work.
I also suspect a great deal of it is rooted in the hope of relying on continued market-driven progress from which he can later steal credit by dint of having dropped a toothless EO in the middle of all this ongoing improvement.
The incentives seem the logical result of such language as:
Among other things, this ZEV plan would also require building “interstate and intrastate ZEV corridors” and “ZEV infrastructure,” having state agencies “prioritize” purchasing or leasing ZEVs and use them for business travel, have state agencies build infrastructure necessary for ZEV use, and have state agencies develop “procurement options and strategies to increase the purchase and utilization of ZEVs.”
If you’re a manufacturer or lobbyist for electric vehicles, forget lottery fever; Gov. Cooper just flung the door wide open for government cronyism in your field. As Ed McMahon might say, You may already be a winner!
Cooper’s order also requires setting up new climate councils, agency climate managers, agency climate plans, meeting and reporting requirements, and a “Climate Risk Assessment and Resiliency Plan.” At best these could result in a lot of meaningless bureaucratic work.
That’s at best. My worry is they also harbor potential for a great deal of burdensome rulemaking mischief.