Green Business as Usual
President Biden says he’s doing all he can to help Ukraine. “We are inflicting pain on Russia and supporting the people of Ukraine,” he declared in his State of the Union address last week. “Yes, we the United States of America stand with the Ukrainian people.”
That was nice to hear, but the real test is not words, but deeds. And as for deeds, it seems that the Biden administration is operating on a kind of green autopilot, still acting as though the Russian invasion hasn’t happened—and so it’s not doing much. Overall, the Biden plan is still think green, with little true regard for the changed world situation.
To illustrate, just two days after Biden’s speech, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen hosted a “best practices roundtable” to talk about . . . climate change. Yellen’s speech showed zero acknowledgement that Russia had attacked Ukraine on February 24. Instead, at that March 3 event, she prattled along: “Our entire Department—and our entire Administration—know how vital your partnership is in the fight against climate change.”
Recalling last year’s global climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland (you know, the confab to which all the big shots and eco-glitterati took their personal jets, as they always have and always will), Yellen added:
Last fall I had the chance to travel to COP26 in Glasgow, where I saw firsthand the global community’s resolve to tackle climate change; and, of course, climate change is a big, global problem that requires big, global solutions. We need multilateral agreements like the Paris Agreement. We need international fora like COP.
During her speech, this top-tier cabinet official made no mention of “Russia,” “Ukraine,” or “Putin.” Nor did she use the word “production,” as in, more energy production.
In the minds of the Biden folks, the climate change issue sails along, untroubled by news from Eastern Europe. So the fact that Russia is the world’s third-largest oil producer, and the second-largest natural gas producer—and that the U.S. is doing nothing to stop Russia from selling hydrocarbons, thereby financing its aggression—meant little to those assembled at the Treasury Department. Their work was talking about climate change.
Indeed, since the Biden administration has chosen to crimp U.S. production, the Russians are the big winners. How so? Because if we produce less, the Russians will gain market share, and in the meantime, as supply tightens, the price is demanded up—and that helps the Russians even more. In the past two weeks, the price of oil has risen by nearly a quarter; great news for the financiers of Putin’s war machine.
Yet none of this strategic calculus—that the U.S. is helping to finance the terror-war we decry—has intruded on the Bidenites. (And let’s remember, too, that some left-wing Democrats are happy with higher prices.)
So while the commander-in-chief can say that he’s shifting his emphasis to the Ukraine crisis, it’s not apparent that those supposedly under his command are feeling any need to shift. But wait, what all those sanctions the Biden administration says it’s imposing? Well, what about them: first off, they do not apply to Russia’s energy exports; second, Yellen’s Treasury Department clarified on March 4 that they will also not apply to financial trading on Russian energy.
That means, in Treasury’s words, “energy-related activities–including the purchase, sale, or transport of Russian-origin oil, gas, or other energy-related products by U.S. or non-U.S. persons—remain permissible.” In other words, the biggest sector of the Russian economy is left wide open, open for business. Oh wait, sanctions will be imposed, Treasury says, but not until June 24. That’s three long months from now; how many Ukrainians will be killed, exiled, or tyrannized by then?
We can step back and observe that it would take an enormous effort to make sure that a message of change trickles down to the 4,000 or so Biden appointees across the executive branch, as well as the tens of thousands of career Deep Statists at the Environmental Protection Agency and fellow activists scattered across dozens of greened federal agencies. And does Biden seem to be an energetic change agent?
Let’s keep in mind that these people, climate change isn’t merely an important issue, it’s the issue. So just because the president gives a speech or two on Ukraine, before heading off to Delaware, that doesn’t do enough–not nearly enough–to enforce a genuine whole-of-government shift toward concern about the bloody conflict and its implications for U.S. policy. The deep greens, who came to power to fight climate change, not Russia, can keep the faith, same as it ever was.
After all, the Biden underlings know that the president has said many times that climate change is really important; for instance, on November 1, he proclaimed it to be “the existential threat to human existence as we know it.” So to judge the 46th president by the totality of his words, nothing he has said lately about Ukraine will convince a green activist-bureaucrat that there’s any reason to ease up on the rush to de-carbonize. Thus it’s amusing—in an unfunny way—to realize that on February 24, the very day that the Russians invaded, Biden’s Department of Energy reiterated its pious green commitments:
The U.S. is committed to achieving a 50 to 52 percent reduction from 2005 levels in economy-wide net greenhouse gas pollution by 2030, creating a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035, and achieving net zero emissions economy-wide by no later than 2050.
We might pause over these commitments: The U.S. itself may, or may not, ever achieve these climate goals, and, in the meantime, there’s good reason to doubt that the rest of the world will be with us. Most obviously, does anybody think that the Russians are interested in playing along? Or how about Russia’s ally China, which declared last month that the Beijing-Moscow alliance has “no limits”? And what about the green sincerity of the 160 or so countries outside of North America and the European Union? Do we see any Greta Thunbergs in India? Or Indonesia? Or Nigeria?
Given the way of the world, one has to wonder what, exactly, the Western greens think is going to happen in the decades ahead. Do they really believe that the energy-hungry peoples of the world are going to obey the wishes of the U.S. (for as long as it is led by Democrats) and the Europeans? Is the rest of the world that in awe of the West, especially as the West sits by helplessly as the Russians crush Ukraine? Does that display of weakness encourage others to emulate us? Indeed, the fact that the Russians are so obviously ignoring the climate and other environmental effects of their aggression only further underscores Western weakness.
Yet no world event seems to penetrate the smug complacency—mixed with a kind of smug urgency—of the greens. Why is this? Because they’ve built themselves their own little happy dollhouse, giving free rein to their fancies. In that green playland, Mr. Bad News is not welcome.
If Only You Believe
For the last three decades, as the issue morphed from “global warming” to the more catch-all “climate change,” the motley crew of greens have become well-funded and rich. They’ve become Big Green.
And, along the way, Big Green has created its own parallel world—simultaneously expensive and childish—which weirdly mimics venerable diplomatic and security institutions. So whereas once the world watched summits where, say, wars were ended, these days, Big Green has its own “high stakes” summits, such as COP (for Conference of the Parties) 26, which self-aggrandizingly bills itself as “the supreme decision-making body” of the United Nations’ campaign against climate change. (The “26,” by the way, indicates that last year’s Glasgow summit was the 26th such annual meeting, which shows that this has been a long-playing gravy train for conference-goers.)
Astonishingly, total annual expenditures for climate-change research and mitigation amount to $632 billion. For that kind of money, it’s no surprise that people everywhere want in. For instance, as Breitbart News reported last year, Richard Moore, the head of MI6, Britain’s top intelligence agency, has pledged to use MI6 resources to spy on other countries to verify their compliance with climate-change pledges. Such “green spying” is needed, Moore said, to address the “climate emergency . . . the foremost international foreign policy agenda item for this country and for the planet.” (emphasis added)
Got that? So the threat from Russia, China, ISIS, and other genuine malefactors has been downgraded, and green whimsy has been upgraded. But meanwhile, more green money for Moore, as he keeps a watchful eye on those dreaded carbon dioxide molecules.
Closer to home, President Biden set the tone for green believers in his first week in office, by issuing an Executive Order which declared his intention of “PUTTING THE CLIMATE CRISIS AT THE CENTER OF UNITED STATES FOREIGN POLICY AND NATIONAL SECURITY.” (Capitalization in original).
To that end, the administration hired Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, White House National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy, and numerous others across the government—many of them, of course, blessed with limos and access to government aircraft—including those greens who set up that March 3 conference at the Treasury Department.
That’s right, even with a war raging, and the Russians spewing more CO2 than ever, the greens carry on, telling themselves, and each other, that their work is just as important as, maybe even more important than, anything happening in and around Ukraine.
This is truly the way green liberals think: that climate change is an “existential” threat, just as Biden says. Revealingly, Biden’s Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, has used the same word: “existential,” to describe the supposed climate danger; such thinking is thus seeping into the DOD bureaucracy. Speaking of deep bureaucracy, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Gutteres, also describes climate change as an “existential” threat. Of course, CNN shares the sentiment.
So we can see: Green liberals have convinced themselves that they are fighting an epic war, a good war, akin to say, World War II. Only this time, the enemy is not Hitler, but CO2. And so for them, the prospect of Russia conquering Ukraine—and all that that entails, in terms of suffering Ukrainians and signal-sending to bad actors elsewhere around the world—does nothing to change their thinking. They don’t worry about an atomic World War III, they worry about World War E. That is, E for Environment, E for Existential.
For instance, on March 2, as the Russian invasion grew even more threatening, when Vladimir Putin issued a nuclear alert, green liberal journalist Peter Beinart tweeted that nobody should be “any less cavalier about nuclear annihilation than climate annihilation.”
Why should they be any less cavalier about nuclear annihilation than climate annihilation? https://t.co/wDAt9YHxKr
— Peter Beinart (@PeterBeinart) March 3, 2022
In such a mental context—where the emissions from auto tailpipes are just as dangerous as an a-bomb—it’s little wonder that the Biden administration has not moved on energy policy. Naturally, White House chief of staff Ron Klain dismisses the idea of cutting off Russian oil imports.
To which Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) responded, “At $112 per barrel, the United States is sending $22.4M to fund Putin’s war machine today. It’s time for Biden to sanction Russian oil.” To be sure, for most people, the idea of paying Putin nearly $700 million a month is a bad idea, as that money is a kind of downpayment on World War III. But to those who think they’re fighting World War E, this blood money is a mere detail; the real issue is the sea level in the year 2100.
Yet, interestingly, there’s been a rupture in this green dogmatism. On March 4, Elon Musk, who has made much of his fortune on Tesla cars and batteries, was moved to tweet, “Hate to say it, but we need to increase oil & gas output immediately. Extraordinary times demand extraordinary measures.” Musk conceded that such fossil-fuel production might damage the interests of Tesla, but the needs of patriotism, and humanitarianism, must come first—and that means stopping Russia and maybe World War III.
But the greens fighting World War E needn’t worry too much. They still have Biden as their useful, er, ace in the hole.