Reality Check for the Democrat Agenda

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A week of hearings in the Energy and Commerce Committee was supposed to build momentum for the Democrat agenda. But testimony offered at the hearings by witnesses, whether those called by the majority or with backgrounds in liberal causes, should serve as a reality check to the grand progressive schemes being advocated.

The first hearing on March 22 convened the full committee to look at H.R. 1848, the LIFT America Act, the committee Democrats’ bill on infrastructure. This bill would potentially be a piece of the sprawling $3 trillion package President Biden wants to assemble.

Looking at the text of H.R. 1848 and reading the signals from the Biden Administration, it appears that infrastructure will be used to justify spending on the liberal wish list and enacting parts of radical plans such as the Green New Deal.

In energy policy, H.R. 1848 would mean lavishing subsidies on other fuel sources that lack the reliability or capacity to serve our energy needs, increasing counterproductive regulations, and raising energy costs on Americans.

Although a former U.S. Secretary of Energy under President Obama and a witness called by the Democrat majority on H.R. 1848, Dr. Ernest Moniz was willing to provide a check on this vision. When I had the chance to question Dr. Moniz, I asked him about the importance of permitting carbon capture utilization and sequestration (CCUS) technology to reduce carbon emissions.

Dr. Moniz expressed his belief that CCUS would remain important going forward, and “what we need is at the Federal and at the State levels, ways of streamlining, not short cutting, but streamlining the permission process.”

His views on this matter contradict the emerging Democrat consensus that sees no future role for fossil fuels and prefers regulating our way out of environmental challenges, rather than relying on American innovation and technology.

It was important to hear this message from someone like Dr. Moniz, with his stature in energy policy and previous service in the Obama Administration.

Similarly, at a Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing two days later on March 24 about February’s Texas blackouts, we heard from a witness who had spent his life in environmental activism but warned of overreliance on renewable fuels.

Michael Shellenberger is the founder and president of the advocacy organization Environmental Progress. Past causes he has championed include saving California redwoods and improving conditions for workers in Nike’s Asian factories.

He offered testimony on the Texas blackouts during a period of extreme cold. Analyzing the performance of the major various fuel types during the event, he found that the performance of all dropped somewhat. Nuclear energy, however, did best, and wind the worst.

One of the lessons to be drawn from the blackout is the preservation of baseload power. Coal and nuclear primarily serve this purpose, but intermittent sources such as wind and solar cannot. The latter fuel sources also do not offer adequate energy density to power everything we expect the electrical grid to support.

Mr. Shellenberger’s testimony should caution Democrats as they pin their energy hopes on wind and solar. Depending only on renewables jeopardizes electrical grid reliability with potentially disastrous consequences.

A final word of warning for the Democrat agenda came later that day from a witness at a Subcommittee on Energy hearing on the majority’s CLEAN Future Act (a Green New Deal cousin), which sets the economy on a path to decarbonization by at least 50 percent in 2030 and completely by 2050.

I noted the lessons from the earlier hearing on the Texas blackouts about the need for grid resilience. One of the witnesses called by the Democrats, energy consultant Alison Silverstein, mentioned in her testimony that an energy policy based around renewables would require the massive expansion of the continent’s high-voltage electric grid. That means more high-voltage lines crisscrossing the country, and the costs of building those lines will be paid by you, the consumer, through higher rates.

I asked Ms. Silverstein if such a project would take “twenty to thirty years at a minimum,” and she replied, “Yes.”

Taken together, the answers from these witnesses should be taken by Democrats as a significant reality check on their agenda. The transformative change in energy policy they seek would take decades and yet fail to meet the power needs of our society.

Instead, we can pursue practical energy policies rooted in innovation that solve environmental challenges while supporting economic growth. Choosing such a course would be heeding the lessons of this series of hearings.

If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov.