As world leaders flocked to Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum last month, the hypocrisy surrounding this gathering received well-deserved commentary. Much of the cynicism centers on the amount of fossil fuels used in their journey, one that culminates in those with means far beyond those of the average world citizen discussing ways to solve the climate crisis — usually by regressive punishments such as higher taxes or restrictions on energy use — is indeed deserved.
But if these leaders were serious about climate policy, rather than posturing from their ivory towers, they’d embrace different solutions for our planet that work to balance human rights, worker interests and environmental progress.
The causes of the varying temperatures on the Earth are rightfully up for debate. But too often, the solutions follow the mantra “rules for thee but not for me.” These include carbon taxes, tariffs on carbon-intensive imports and exports, and forcing manufacturers to comply with arbitrary rules that increase the costs of home appliances. The recent non-serious “solution” comes in the form of shaming the innocent gas stove. These are not real solutions or solutions that U.S. politicians will adopt anytime soon. Raising taxes or implementing regressive regulatory policies is not brave, nor are talking points put forward when leaders are too lazy or inept to govern.
Take the nation’s climate goals. The Biden administration set a goal to have 100% of our power come from clean electricity by 2035. While this should have led to a U.S. manufacturing boom, the move has resulted in convoluted policies that counter the administration’s own goals. Most solar components come from China. The rare mineral polysilicon largely comes from the Xinjiang region of China, known for its human rights violations and enslavement of the Muslim Uyghur minority.
Chinese law does not allow the type of transparency or disclosure of labor practices to meet Biden administration standards. The result is these products, necessary to employ U.S. solar jobs, are held at ports by Customs and Border Protection using a withhold release order, leaving Americans without promised work and the Biden solar agenda flailing. Domestic environmental and mining restrictions make it virtually impossible to replicate the polysilicon refining process in the U.S., and thus this process occurs overseas. Strike one.
Electric vehicles and their supply chain land strike two. Lithium and cobalt, two minerals necessary to manufacture EV batteries, are largely procured outside the U.S. from countries that violate human rights. The Biden administration turns a blind eye to these transgressions and further instills restrictions on our ability to mine these minerals here at home. This is not to mention the lack of infrastructure in the U.S. required to travel in an electric vehicle easily and reliably from point A to point B.
Strike three comes from a self-inflicted wound in the demonization of our fossil fuel industry. The U.S. oil and natural gas sector can provide thousands of high-paying, high-quality jobs while contributing millions of dollars in rents, royalties, and lease payments to state and federal governments. Dollars that can be used to address EV infrastructure or other policy priorities without raising taxes. These companies also invest in research and development to advance clean, renewable technologies. This administration, however, insists that the companies procuring our resources are “war profiteering,” and their policies toward them will have long-term impacts if a course correction is not applied.
While we continue to swing and miss at the climate change curveballs thrown our way, world leaders will insist we are still winning — all at the expense of citizens suffering the consequences of higher taxes and more regulation, with a goalpost that is constantly moving. Real solutions come in the form of realistic energy consumption goals that support U.S. manufacturing, addressing supply chains to combat human rights abuses, and tax policies that give companies incentive to innovate in America.
So, while our entourage of global brain trustees gallivants around the world, burning hundreds of thousands of gallons of fossil fuels, embracing corrupt global regimes that violate human rights and promoting our reliance on Chinese supply chains, I’ll keep working on real solutions with actual leaders — sipping a hot cup of tea from my gas stove, of course.
• Karina Lipsman is a visiting fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum (iwf.org).
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