Mark W. Hendrickson
Mark Hendrickson is an economist who recently retired from the faculty of Grove City College, where he remains a Fellow for Economic & Social Policy for the college’s Institute for Faith and Freedom. These articles are from The American Spectator, The Epoch Times, and The Institute for Faith and Freedom, an online publication of Grove City College, in Grove City, Pennsylvania.
Democrats’ Cynical Politics and Pernicious Energy Policies — There Is a Lot of Money Being Made Due to the Climate Change Cabal’s Entrenchment in the Democratic Party
Americans are deeply (and rightly) concerned about high energy prices. All we have to do is look across the Atlantic to see how grim life can be when there is an acute energy shortage. Clearly, an intelligent energy policy should be a priority of our national government. Electing representatives who will formulate such a policy is not only a crucial mega-issue for this midterm election, but will continue to be of immense, and potentially existential, importance in American elections for the foreseeable future.
Americans need to wake up to how wrong-headed and destructive are the Democratic policies of stifling domestic fossil fuel production and imagining they can replace the lost energy with intermittent (misnamed “renewable” or “clean”) energy in the next decade or two. There are encouraging signs that the great awakening has commenced. Americans are aware of the Biden Administration’s animus against American oil and gas companies, and how Biden has preferred to beg the governments of Venezuela and Saudi Arabia to increase production so as to lower gas prices and hopefully boost his popularity in an election year. That seems rather anti-American for an American president, doesn’t it?
The American people generally have the common sense to connect high prices at gas stations to tight supplies. They know that Team Biden jettisoned the “let Americans produce oil and gas” spirit of the Trump Administration that led to U.S. energy independence. They know that Biden has restricted drilling, shut down the Keystone XL Pipeline, and made no secret of his desire to put American oil and gas companies out of business by 2030. They have seen his Secretary of Energy, Jennifer Granholm, laugh callously when asked what she intended to do to encourage domestic drilling for fossil fuels, and then offer the nonsensical rejoinder that she had no power to make OPEC increase production. That is all the proof that anyone needs to see that Team Biden favors foreign production over domestic. (That hasn’t stopped Biden and Democratic candidates such as New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan from squealing in indignation that the oil companies against which the Dems are waging a jihad of destruction won’t come to the rescue of Democratic candidates — their would-be executioners — by upping production to lower prices, at least until the election is over.)
The Democrats’ complaints about the presently high profits of American fossil fuel producers show their economic ignorance. All Biden et al. had to do to lower gasoline prices was to make peace with “Big Oil” (and little oil companies, too, since the anti-fossil fuels policies have been wonderfully nondiscriminatory, harming both big and small producers with admirable impartiality). If the Dems had simply let those companies do what they are designed to do — produce fossil fuels — then supplies would be higher and prices necessarily lower. Alas, Dems seem not to understand the law of supply and demand.
Unfortunately, Dems don’t have much of a grasp on the problematic physical, economic, geopolitical, and environmental ramifications of their pro-intermittent energy fixation, either.
First of all, physical reality: as the physicist Mark Mills has shown, the supply of raw materials needed for electric vehicles and other “green” technologies (i.e., lithium, cobalt, nickel, manganese, rare earth metals, etc.) is simply way too small for production on the scale that greens envision.
Economically, because of these scarcities, the costs of green technologies will soar.
Geopolitically, because most of those desired materials are located outside of the United States, the pursuit of green energy will progressively diminish U.S. energy independence and make us vulnerable to unstable and sometimes hostile governments.
Finally, and most unforgivably, environmentally speaking, the supposedly “green” party is pursuing solar and wind technologies that are by no means “clean” energy sources. The production of the essential raw materials for wind and solar are in many cases highly polluting, as are many “green energy” practices in the U.S. (See Michael Moore’s superb documentary, free on YouTube: “Planet of the Humans.”)
As an aside, let me share an ironic contrast with anti-green “green” technologies: Fossil fuels are the true “green” energy source in terms of their environmental impact. The carbon dioxide that fossil fuels have put into our atmosphere has enriched the growth of crops and plant life. Carbon dioxide, after all, is plant food, and in the last four or five decades, an area equal to twice the size of the continental United States has been transformed from barren to plant-covered. Even the vast Sahara Desert has shrunk by 8 percent; that is, an area nearly the combined area of France and Germany has gone green where the land had been desert.
What are the forces (other than stupidity and ignorance) that are holding Democrats in solidarity with their anti-fossil fuels agenda? I see at least three main pillars in this partisan coalition:
- Green Paganism — These are neo-Malthusian misanthropes descended from the late-’60s strain of environmentalism that followed the pied piper, Paul Ehrlich, down the path of “there are too many humans, and that’s bad.” From there, some environmentalists often came to regard humans as a plague or a scum or cancer on the earth.
Few correlations in economic history are more significant than the high correlation between oil consumption and standards of living. It is no exaggeration to state that modern prosperity was powered by oil.
Because the pagan greens think there are too many people, and that people (themselves excluded, of course) don’t deserve modern standards of living, they are, and have been for years, essentially anti-energy. Fossil fuels are their primary, but not their only energy target.
The pagan greens fail to see, even today after a half-century of marked environmental improvements, that more people are an asset, not a liability, and as explained by what economists call the Kuznets curve, when the wealth of a society gets to a certain point, pollution turns downward. These green fanatics repeatedly issue shrill and dire predictions and can’t seem to enjoy the good news that the climate-related death risk has fallen by 99 percent over the last century. What a bunch of humbugs!
2. Good old-fashioned cronyism — There is a lot of money being made due to the climate change cabal’s entrenchment in the Democratic Party. Government-funded scientists have found that lending credence to climate alarmism has been highly profitable for them and their universities, bringing to mind President Eisenhower’s warning in his farewell address: “The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocation, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded” and there is a “danger that public policy could itself become captive of a scientific-technological elite.” Indeed, while there are many fine scientists who have done work for Uncle Sam and the UN’s Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the structure of the IPCC has empowered political actors to co-opt and misuse scientific research (for example, by issuing scary predictions on the basis of pathetic climate models that cannot be validated by real-world data).
Wall Street, seeing that trillions of dollars are in play, has been all too willing to jump on board the Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) bandwagon and to direct capital away from fossil fuel companies and toward producers of intermittent (sorry, “renewable”) sources of energy — for a fee, of course. Various political cronies and opportunists have been all too willing to dip into the federal treasury for the financing of this or that green boondoggle. Indeed, green energy probably has been responsible for more cronyism and corporate welfare than we’ve ever seen before.
3. Hunger for power — I’ve lost count of all the leaders in the U.S. Government and in the United Nations and various multilateral government-sponsored organizations who have openly stated that the primary goal of the climate change movement has been to effect a radical transformation of society, with socialism being the desired goal. One representative from a senior official of the UN’s Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change: “One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. [One] must say clearly that we redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy.” The Green New Deal being pushed by Democrats is clearly a socialistic plan for a centrally planned command economy. To this cadre, climate change is the path to amassing immense personal power.
The solution to our energy woes is simple. It is encapsulated in the famous reply that a French business leader named Legendre gave to Louis XIV’s Minister of State, J.B. Colbert, when the latter asked leaders of business how he could help stimulate the economy back then: “Laissez-nous faire” — roughly translated: Leave us alone and conditions will improve. Yes, you enthusiasts for Big Government, get out of the energy business and let the market bring the needed supplies to market. That policy alone will provide us with the kind of energy we most need: the most efficient, reliable, and affordable forms.
Why the Red Wave Never Came Ashore — If Trump’s Followers Cling to His Cult, There Will Be a Civil War Within the Republican Party.
Thirty years ago, during the 1992 presidential campaign of Bill Clinton, Clinton adviser James Carville boiled the primary campaign message down to the simplest terms: “It’s the economy, stupid.” Indeed, that pithy statement is largely considered a truism in politics. Americans can put up with a lot of garbage from their political leaders as long as the economy is functioning well enough to allow John and Susie Voter to prosper more than struggle.
This year, polls showed that economic concerns — particularly the ravages of inflation — were at the top of the list of what voters cared about. Judging by the historical pattern where the sitting president’s party suffers large congressional losses in midterm elections, it seemed like a red wave was inevitable. Oops. Many conservatives were guilty of counting their chickens before they hatched. What happened? What explains the unusual and unexpected outcome that seemed to hold President Joe Biden and his party unaccountable for the obviously negative impact of their policies?
In this case, I would say, “It’s NOT the economy, stupid.” I would attribute the Republicans’ historically weak performance to three factors that are not economically related.
1. The Trump Factor — I don’t mean to pile on because the former president is taking a lot of flak right now, but it is undeniable that the candidates he helped nominate were largely repudiated by voters in many states. Donald Trump is, I believe, one of the tragic figures in American political history. His key policies — tax cuts, deregulation, appointing serious jurists rather than left-wing ideologues to the Supreme Court — helped our country tremendously. Unfortunately, his penchant for un-presidential nastiness — directed as it is toward anyone of either party who seems to get in his way — and his narcissistic obsession with 2020 even as voters have yearned for solutions to the problems of 2022 have alienated a majority of the electorate.
The challenge facing Republicans in 2024 will be how to avoid not mere internecine squabbling, but out-and-out civil war in the party’s ranks. Trump has tens of millions of supporters who are nearly fanatical in their devotion to him. However, there is no indication that the ranks of those supporters can be expanded to comprise a majority of the electorate. The question is whether Trump’s people will be willing to “settle” for an alternate candidate. Trump himself has given every indication that he is unwilling to have anyone other than himself run as the Republican standard-bearer in 2024. How else can one explain his perplexing ridiculing of Ron DeSantis after the Florida governor won reelection in a rout? To insult a Democrat in such a childish and petulant way is off-putting enough, but to lash out at a fellow Republican who is rising in national popularity shows a dangerous monomania.
Trump’s motto seems to be: It’s me or nobody. This is personality cult fanaticism. If his followers cling to that cult and work to undercut all other Republicans, there will be a civil war within the Republican Party. What I hope the Trumpistas will recognize before it is too late is that if they think the United States is so messed up that only Donald Trump can save it, then our country is lost already. There are a lot of decent, likable, highly competent leaders in the party, and millions of patriotic Americans who want to “Make America Great Again.” If Republicans want to have a good chance to win the White House in ’24, they need to refrain from petty personal attacks and unite behind one of their many qualified party members in the presidential race.
2. Abortion Politics — The abortion issue appears to have galvanized Democrats in many states, greatly increasing their motivation to vote even if they were lukewarm about Biden’s weak performance. The Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision several months ago appears to have been a pyrrhic victory. Constitutionally, Dobbs was the right decision. In terms of practical impact, though, post-Dobbs state laws and amendments point to a possible slowing of the long-term rate of decline in U.S. abortions.
The coming years are going to be very challenging for pro-life Americans. Fearful of substantial restrictions on abortion, many pro-choice Americans will oppose any and all limits, however modest, just because they don’t want to take what they perceive as the first step down the slippery slope to making abortion completely illegal. Pro-lifers will have to make some excruciatingly difficult tactical decisions. While the goal is to save every life, pro-lifers may have to compromise with pro-choicers if they want to accomplish even a small diminution in the number of abortions. More specifically, pro-lifers may have to make a choice between pushing for legislation that would reduce abortions from the around 900,000 performed in the U.S. last year to a few thousand — a measure with no discernible possibility of passing — or aiming for far more modest restrictions that might reduce abortions by, say, 50,000. Which is morally preferable: a law designed to save 900,000 lives that has no chance of passing, or a law that would save around 50,000, but has a chance to pass? Is it better to save 50,000 lives, or to crash and burn and save no lives in the attempt to save 900,000 lives? Tough question.
3. The Democratic Machine — A week before the 2020 election, Newt Gingrich was the speaker at the 15th annual Reagan Lecture at Grove City College. Of his many penetrating observations and astute analyses, one comment that struck me as particularly insightful was his characterization of the Democratic Party as a machine. That makes a lot of sense. Nancy Pelosi has adopted proxy voting in the House. It doesn’t matter who the representative is; what matters is that each Democratic seat represents an automatic vote for the agenda of Pelosi and the elite leadership circle. Same thing in the Senate: It doesn’t matter, for example, if the Democratic candidate is impaired (and let me sincerely wish Pennsylvania’s senator-elect, John Fetterman, a full recovery from his stroke, which is an awful thing to happen to anybody); the key factor is not the individual human being, but his or her status as a reliable vote for the Democrats’ progressive/socialist program. And then there is the president of the United States. I chastised Democrats in March 2020 for deciding upon Joe Biden as the titular head of the Democratic machine because they knew back then that his mental faculties were sliding. The message to the American people is that it doesn’t matter to the Democratic puppet masters that POTUS is impaired. Why? Because the machine doesn’t need a fully competent president in order for the machine to march steadily toward its socialist elitist plan for America.
There was something robotic — machinelike — about voters in 2022 who cast their votes for Democrats in spite of their miserable track record. Could they not connect the dots between Democratic policies and high gas prices? Alas, most of them seem to be on automatic pilot. The cost of living is rising? Well, shucks, Dem voters think, that’s unfortunate, but we know that we are the good guys, and no matter how much we have to suffer now, the important thing is to keep those bad guys — those profit-loving, xenophobic, LGBTQ-shunning Republicans — from getting into office. Certainly, the exit polls showing that a sizable majority of under-30 voters went Democratic indicates that woke education has indoctrinated that cohort into believing that virtue equates to being progressive.
I’m sure there are other factors that contributed to the Democrats’ success in limiting the damage to their party in the 2022 election, but the Trump factor, the abortion issue, and the advanced state of the Democratic machine get my vote for being the top three. I think all three will impact the 2024 elections. They bear monitoring going forward.
ESG Is Evil — More Than Just an Illegitimate Power Grab, It Is Threatening the Global Food and Energy Supply.
The Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) scoring system is undergoing intense scrutiny. It also has become quite a political football; conservative governors, attorneys general, and other officials are pushing back against the movement while progressive politicians argue that ESG needs to go further.
This political tug-of-war has exposed the evil essence of ESG: It is an attempt by progressives to arm-twist the leaders of investment firms controlling the allocation of over $20 trillion in investment capital away from firms disfavored by progressives, including, most notably, producers of fossil fuels.
The question arises: What gives these custodians of vast amounts of wealth the right to target certain industries for destruction by deliberately choking off their supply of financial oxygen? If such draconian steps, with vast implications for our entire society, are to be taken at all (itself a dubious proposition), those steps should be taken in the relatively open air of democratic politics rather than in the exclusive boardrooms of an unelected financial elite.
Apart from attempting to arrogate power to themselves that they do not rightly have, the perpetrators of the ESG maneuver — that is, the money-management megafirms that have been downgrading firms for the alleged sin of being in the “wrong” business — are behaving in a morally corrupt manner. They have violated their legal fiduciary responsibility to the millions of people who have trusted them with their funds so as to maximize their returns, not to transform society.
In the process of poorly serving their clients’ interests, those pushing the ESG scheme have committed greater evils. One of those has been to jeopardize our national interests. Attempting to stamp out oil and gas production at a time of rising energy prices is an act of aggression against American consumers. When one considers the potential for suffering in Europe this winter due to the cutoff of Russian energy supplies, preventing American companies from producing potentially life-saving energy is perversely inhumane.
When one further considers that ESG scores have rated Chinese companies producing “green energy” equipment more highly than American companies producing fossil fuels, one can detect both geopolitical short-sightedness and the most cynical hypocrisy. Do we really want the United States to become more dependent on an increasingly hostile China for energy? And how dare they bestow passing ESG grades, which are supposed to be sensitive to human rights, to companies controlled by the Chinese Communist Party? The CCP is known to torture and persecute its Muslim Uyghur minority; has stamped out democratic freedoms in Hong Kong, shamelessly jailing good people like Jimmy Lai; employs slave labor; engages in aggressive religious persecution against everyone from Muslims to Christians to adherents of Falun Gong; and is known to kill dissidents by harvesting their organs from them. To pretend that such savage oppressors are better for society and therefore merit a higher ESG score than American oil and gas companies is a moral obscenity.
The evil doesn’t stop there. Another front in the ESG offensive is to reduce food supplies by reducing the use of nitrogen-based fertilizers and farm equipment. After international organizations such as the World Economic Forum and the International Finance Corporation leaned on Sri Lanka to take these steps in spring 2021, food production there fell by half. The result was a painful mixture of food shortages, energy blackouts, and hyperinflation that has led to a social, economic, and political breakdown in that country.
Similar moves to reduce food supplies are afoot in the Netherlands and Canada. This is at a time when the Russian invasion of Ukraine and drought conditions in various parts of the world are precariously reducing the food supply. The Netherlands is the second-biggest food exporter in the world, but already its government’s pursuit of ESG goals has caused thousands of Dutch farmers to go broke. Farmers in both of those developed countries have organized huge protests, and the social fabric of these traditionally stable societies is at risk.
The ESG cabal is proposing to save the world by impoverishing millions of people and possibly starving millions more. No thanks! ESG is evil. It is not just an illegitimate power grab. It is not just an illegal violation of investors’ rights. In deliberately reducing food and energy supplies at a time of critical need, ESG is a crime against humanity. *