Shafting The Poor

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

Let me start with a couple of the most callous and heartless quotes that I know of. Here’s a description from Politico of the first one:

President Barack Obama’s Energy secretary unwittingly created a durable GOP talking point in September 2008 when he talked to The Wall Street Journal about the benefits of having gasoline prices rise over 15 years to encourage energy efficiency.

“Somehow,” Chu said, “we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.”

And here’s the second quote, from President Obama:

“Under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket, regardless of what I say about whether coal is good or bad, because I’m capping greenhouse gases”

In agreement with the beliefs of President Obama and Secretary Chu, and a vain attempt to fight the imaginary menace of CO2, the countries of Europe have driven up the price of energy. This is supposed to make people use less of it, and thus reduce CO2 emissions.

As a result of the European policies, the current energy price situation looks like this:

Not a pretty picture …

So consider the effect of this on the poor. To begin with, the poor spend a much larger part of their income on energy than do the rich. 

Now, the energy prices in Europe are more than twice what they are in the US. So if the US doubled to match the fantasies of Secretary Chu and President Obama, the richest fifth of the nation would only be paying 10% of their income for energy … but the poorest fifth of the nation would be paying close to half of their income for energy. And as I pointed out about the poorest of the poor in my post “We Have Met The 1% And He Is Us“,

Those people have no slack. They have no extra room in their budgets. They have no ability to absorb increases in their cost of living, particularly their energy spending. They have no credit cards, no credit, and almost no assets. They have no health insurance. They are not prepared for emergencies. They have no money in the bank. They have no reserve, no cushion, no extra clothing, no stored food in the basement, no basement for that matter, no fat around their waist, no backups, no extras of any description. They are not ready for a hike in the price of energy or anything else.

(In passing, let me suggest that you might enjoy reading that post, which discusses this issue of energy and the poor in some detail.)

The result of all of these factors is what is called “energy poverty”. That’s where you don’t have enough energy to keep your home warm. That’s where you’re a single mom with three kids and your old car you need to get to work drinks gas faster than your ex-husband drank whiskey … so if gas prices double your kids will do without something important. That’s where you and your family sit in the cold and the dark and shiver because you can’t pay your energy bills.

And that’s where a study from the Jacque Delors Institute says (emphasis mine):

During this winter of 2020-2021, hundreds of millions of Europeans are constrained to stay at home because of lockdowns and curfews instituted to contain the propagation of COVID19. For millions of them, this means staying in poorly heated houses, which causes both discomfort and a threat to their own health. 

This policy paper gives an overview of the state of energy poverty in the European Union (EU) and the way this issue is currently addressed by Member States and by the EU. While it appears that energy poverty has generally been decreasing over the last years, in 2019 there were still over 30 million Europeans who claimed to be unable to heat their home adequately in the winter.

Thirty million Europeans, many of them pensioners, many of them kids, all of them poor, sitting in unheated houses … that’s about the population of California. Or for the folks across the pond, it’s about the population of Hungary, Austria and the Czech Republic combined. Again per the report, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Greece, Portugal and Cyprus are the countries with the highest share of the population who are unable to heat their homes.

Now, there’s an old saying, “No pain, no gain.” Me, I think that’s crazy because I’ve had lots of painless gains. But if there is pain, well, there should at least be some gain to go along with it. So … shall we take a look at the purported gain in the question of CO2 emissions?

I mean, all those countries signed on to the Paris Climate Discord, they all have followed President Obama’s and Secretary Chu’s theories and driven their energy prices through the roof to reduce greenhouse gases, so now at the end of the day there must be some real gains in per capita CO2 emissions, right?

Here you go:

Thirty million Europeans are freezing in the winter, unable to heat their homes, and for what?

For nothing. Zip. Niets. Diddley-squat. Ingenting. Zero. Nada. Rien. Nichts. Not one thing.

Despite Europe creating widespread energy poverty, despite the US not being in the Paris Agreement, the US has reduced emissions more than any of the countries shown above. Europe is condemning old people and children to shiver in the dark and cold, and for absolutely no gain at all.

Look, I don’t think CO2 is the secret knob that controls the climate. I think that’s a simplistic scientific misrepresentation of a very complex system. As a result, I think that the “War On CO2” is a destructive, costly, and meaningless endeavor.

However, perhaps you do think that the climate, one of the more complex systems we’ve ever tried to analyze, is ruled by just one of the hundreds of different factors affecting the system. If so, I presume you think the European actions are justified because you believe you will be helping the poor people in the year 2050 or 2100.

So … if those are your motives I ask you, I beg you, I implore you, don’t wage your war on CO2 by screwing today’s poor to the floor! 

Because I can assure you, possibly helping tomorrow’s poor by actually hurting today’s poor is a crime against humanity, one you absolutely don’t want to have on your conscience.

My best to all, regardless of your views regarding the climate control knob,

w.

PS—Misunderstandings are the bane of the intarwebs. Accordingly, I ask that when you comment you quote the exact words you’re discussing, so that we can all know who and what you’re talking about.

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February 5, 2021 at 04:17PM

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