Contributed by Robert Lyman © July 2016
I don’t know whether you have read the 2016 Democratic Party Platform setting out what Hillary Clinton and her party are pledged to do if she is elected President. I am sure that 99% of Americans have not.
The platform is full of promises to expand the social entitlements system, including offers to have taxpayers pay all the cost of university and college tuition, expand health care insurance, guarantee against any reductions in current programs, and implement new programs to benefit women, visible minorities and LGBT individuals. There is a promise to move towards legalizing marijuana, to expand public funding for abortions, to close private prisons and privately-operated schools, to close the detention centre at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, to abolish the death penalty, to increase gun controls, and a host of other liberal-favoured causes. The Democrats would refuse to sign the Trans Pacific Trade Partnership, and take a skeptical approach to all future trade agreements. They would impose even more stringent controls on banks and other financial institutions, sharply raise corporate taxes (U.S. corporate taxes are already among the highest in the world) and place high surtaxes on anyone who earns more than $1 million per year. Overall, there is no doubt that the effect would be to increase spending far more than revenues, and thus to increase U.S. indebtedness.
It is the areas of energy and the environment that the platform is especially striking. It states that a Democratic Party Administration would (1) meet 50% of U.S. electricity generation by renewable energy sources within a decade; (2) phase down or end hydrocarbon drilling on federal lands and in the offshore areas; (3) force a 40 to 45% reduction in methane emissions from oil and gas production and transportation; (4) severely restrict the construction of new oil and gas pipelines, possibly by subjecting them to a “climate change test” to ensure that they do not add to net emissions; (5) institute federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing; and (6) most significantly, reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to 80% below 2005 levels by 2050, just 34 years from now. The platform guarantees massive federal funding to promote wind, solar energy, and electrified transportation systems.
Bernie Sanders was quoted as saying that he was pleased with the platform, as it contains 80% of what he wanted in every area. In the field of energy, Sanders was mainly disappointed that the platform did not commit to end all hydraulic fracturing and shale gas production. I suspect that he hopes this can be achieved by regulatory means.
Many political commentators are shocked by the promises made by Donald Trump. I don’t think I have seen any Trump promises that are as dangerous as the ones contained in the Democratic Party Platform. The commitment to reduce GHG emissions by 80% would mean the virtual ending of coal use, even for metallurgical steel, and the drastic reduction of oil and gas production and use to levels equivalent to those now in countries like Afghanistan. One wonders how environmental extremists could so achieve control of a major political party that it would formally embrace the ruin of a nation’s economy. However, the Bernie Sanders supporters who now control the Democratic Party agenda are deadly serious. They believe that replacing the 85% of U.S. energy now supplied by hydrocarbons with wind, solar and other green energy sources can all be done and funded by the taxpayer.
The platform does not state how much global temperatures will be reduced as a result of the proposed measures. Bjorn Lomborg, an environmental policy expert and statistician, recently published a peer-reviewed article in which he calculated the effects of the emission reduction commitments made at COP21. The U.S. commitment, he estimates, could reduce global temperatures by somewhere between 0.008 and 0.031 degrees Celsius by 2100. Reducing emissions by 80% might actually decrease global temperatures by a larger amount, but it would be unlikely to exceed 0.1 degree. Meanwhile, by 2030, China’s emissions will be four times those of the U.S., and global emissions will continue to rise inexorably regardless of what the United States does. It is all for naught.