President Biden’s Climate Aspirations – OpEd


Most of what the political class calls policies are really aspirations with no policy content. They are feel-good statements that promote goals most people would support, with no associated policies that would move toward those goals. The following is an example.

The White House’s web page for the National Climate Task Force (skip down to the section “President Biden’s Actions to Tackle the Climate Crisis”) lists emissions goals for 2030, 2035, and 2050, well after President Biden will have left office, even if he serves out a second term. These are aspirations and aspirations that would have to be met by his successors, letting the president off the accountability hook.

What prompted me to write about this subject was this article titled “Biden’s scaled-back power rule raises doubts over US climate target,” which reports on an actual policy. The Biden administration has decided to exclude natural gas power plants from upcoming emissions standards.

The key point in this example is that the president’s actual policy works against the president’s stated goals.

Further down, the website lists the Biden administration’s accomplishments toward fulfilling his climate aspirations. They include a record number of electric vehicles and charging stations, new solar and wind projects, and supporting domestic manufacturing of clean energy technologies.

Those may be good things, but they are things the private sector is doing. “Support” isn’t a policy; it’s an attempt to take political credit for private sector action. If these things count as accomplishments, they are private sector accomplishments, not Biden administration accomplishments.

The website also credits the Biden administration for finalizing the strongest vehicle emissions standards in American history and proposing more robust standards for greenhouse gas and air pollution emissions. Those are not policies; they are aspirations. Should those aspirations be realized, it will be because the private sector has figured out how to reduce its emissions.

As the political season ramps up this year, notice that the “policies” that politicians will propose are not really policies at all; they are aspirations. They say, “Here are some good things I would like to accomplish if I am elected,” but they don’t say how they intend to accomplish them. They amount to feel-good slogans rather than actual public policies.

Most people will be in favor of mitigating climate change, reducing crime, securing the border, and reducing the budget deficit. Those are feel-good aspirations. Fewer people will favor specific policies aimed at realizing those aspirations. That’s why politicians talk about aspirations rather than specific policies. That’s also why those aspirations often fail to be realized.

The aspirations are popular; the policies to accomplish them are less so. That’s why the Biden administration is enacting a policy that works against his own stated goals.

This article was published at The Beacon

Randall G. Holcombe

Randall G. Holcombe is Research Fellow at The Independent Institute, DeVoe Moore Professor of Economics at Florida State University, past President of the Public Choice Society, and past President of the Society for the Development of Austrian Economics. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Virginia Tech, and has taught at Texas A&M University and Auburn University. Dr. Holcombe is also Senior Fellow at the James Madison Institute and was a member of the Florida Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors.

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