DC’s Climate Virtue Signaling Carries Big-Time Costs
Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser thinks people worldwidehave a “human right” to come to the United States, legally orillegally. Our nation’s capital proudly proclaimed itself a “sanctuary city” in 2016. “We celebrate our diversity and respect all DC residents,” the mayor said, “no matter their immigration status.”
But when Arizona and Texas were overwhelmed by a million-plus illegal migrants – and their governors sent a couple thousand of them to Washington – she was outraged.
They have “overwhelmed” our public services, she complained. The sanctuary city faces a “humanitarian crisis.” DC taxpayers “should not be picking up the tab” for housing and feeding these once-celebrated immigrants. We need National Guard troops to help cope, she pleaded – twice.
Her city of 707,000 people, 10,000 city government employees and a proposed FY2023budget of $19.5 billion cannot cope witha few thousand migrants? But little border towns should happilyaccommodate the tsunami of illegals Mr. Biden has allowed to cross our southern border?
Chickens coming home to roost can be painful. But the realproblem is the (willful) inability of progressive politicians and activists to foresee even easily foreseeable consequences of their decisions – and then demand that scapegoats pay to fix the problems the progressives caused.
The District of Columbia is about to inflict an enormous new set of roosting-chicken realities on its residents – and even more on its neighbors: Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.
Led by Councilwoman Mary Cheh, DC’s City Council recently passed two laws banning fossil fuels for heating, cooking, and city-owned vehicles. Together, they position their city as a top virtue signaler on manmade climate change, which Ms. Chehcalls “the single most important environmental issue of our time.” Mayor Bowser enthusiastically endorsed the efforts.
The “Clean Energy DC Building Code Amendment Act” prohibits fossil fuels for home and water heating in new commercial buildings (including residential buildings four stories and higher), starting in 2027. It also requires that restaurants and families cook with electricity instead of natural gas. Only buildings deemed “essential to protecting public health and safety” may use gas for backup electricity generation.
The “Climate Commitment Act” forbids fossil fuel heat for new district-owned buildings, including schools, by 2025. It requires that all DC vehicles be “zero-emission” by 2026; all District operations be “carbon-free” by 2040; and the entire city be “carbon-neutral” by 2045.
Every successive fossil fuel reduction will require expanded electricity use – and generation. With DC-based nuclear almost certainly a nonstarter, power generation will presumably be via “renewable energy,” mostly wind and solar. But these technologies are intermittent, unreliable and weather-dependent. They must be backed up by batteries that must be recharged constantly, by more wind and solar power.
Let me say it yet again. Wind and sunshine are renewable and sustainable. However, the materials needed to harness this energy to power modern civilization absolutely are not. This DCGreen New Deal alone would require millions of tons of metals,minerals, concrete and plastics; billions of tons of ores, and hundreds of new mines and factories – in the United States, China, Africa, Latin America and elsewhere.
With China, India and other countries burning more fossil fuels to improve people’s living standards – and supply all those “green energy” needs – global greenhouse gas emissions will continue rising. Even assuming fossil fuel emissions actually do drive climate change, DC’s “historic” laws might therefore reduce average global temperatures by 0.0002 degrees by 2100.
Washington already imports 100% of its electricity from neighboring states. So can virtue-signaling DC government officials answer just a few of many fundamental questions?
Exactly how many wind turbines, solar panels and backup-power battery modules will DC need by 2025, 2026, 2040 and 2045, as your electricity requirements skyrocket? (Please factor in the size and type of “renewable” energy equipment you plan to install each year – and how many hours per day, week and year the sun will shine and wind will blow in the decades after the systems are installed.)
Exactly how many tons of lithium, cobalt, rare earth elements, copper, iron, magnesium, aluminum, concrete, petroleum, fiberglass, and other metals, minerals and materials will be needed to manufacture all these turbines, panels, batteries, transmission lines, transformers, and electric vehicles and appliances?
Exactly how much coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear power will be required to operate all those mostly overseas mines, processing facilities and factories? How much carbon dioxide, other greenhouse gases, and toxic air and water pollutants will they emit?
Will DC require “responsible sourcing” for the massive amounts of metals and minerals needed to honor its “climate commitment” – regardless of how this will increase your costs?
Will you campaign for more mines and quarries in the United States – and for opening more US onshore and offshore areas to mineral exploration – so that America is not more dependent on China, child and slave labor, and environmental desecration in foreign lands, for your raw materials?
Where exactly do you intend to locate the hundreds of wind turbines and millions of solar panels this “transition” will require? On DC city rooftops? In Rock Creek Park and the Potomac River?
Or do you plan to install them in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean – and connect them to DC with hundreds of miles of new high-voltage transmission lines through your neighbors’ back yards? Don’t their scenic areas, habitats and wildlife have value?
Where do you plan to warehouse your electric vehicles and a half-million half-ton battery modules for just one week of backup power? Those batteries pose significant fire hazards, and therefore must be located far from residences, offices, garages and parking lots. Electric cars and buses must be parked far from buildings and one another, to avoid chemical-fueled infernos.
What “say” will residents of these states have in these decisions – especially those who’ll be expected to live next to vast wind and solar “farms,” and suffer the infrasound, light flicker and other tranquility-disrupting and health-impairing effects of your“clean, renewable” energy facilities in their backyards?
How will you respond if Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland citizens vote, sue or take other (perhaps Antifa-like) actions to reject these facilities, the way “mostly peaceful” “progressive” protesters have rejected fracking, pipelines, mining, inequalityand police brutality?
We assume you think DC taxpayers should not be expected to “pick up the tab” for trying to “save the planet” from “climate cataclysms.” But why should your neighbors be forced to pick up the tab for your meaningless zero-emission virtue-signaling? Why should the rest of the world do so?
One has to wonder whether DC’s real objective is sustainability, sustained moralizing – or eco-imperialism and totalitarian control over people’s lives, livelihoods and living standards. Why doesn’t DC just buy carbon credits and pretend it’s becoming a virtuous shade of green, like Al Gore does?
In any event, not many DC neighbors are excited about becoming energy colonies for our nation’s capital, as it tries to become a chief arbiter of climate, energy, environmental, social and government ethics.
For that matter, we’re definitely not thrilled about Democrat and Biden Administration actions records on these issues. Maybe they can start answering these same questions – on statewide and national scales, where the amounts of “clean, green, renewable” energy installations, raw materials, mining, manufacturing, pollution, and slave and child labor are truly monumental and mind-boggling.
Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and author of books and articles on energy, environmental and human rights issues. He lives in Virginia.