President Joe Biden, contrary to expectations, said something consequential in his first address to members of Congress…by mistake.
It was a whopper that went unnoticed on Wednesday night; with just a few ill-chosen words Biden utterly toppled any justification for the Green New Deal, which plays a central role in his $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan and which, without a doubt, puts our economy at risk.
This is what he said, according to a New York Times transcript of the president’s remarks: "The United States accounts, as all of you know, for less than 15 percent of carbon emissions. The rest of the world accounts for 85 percent. That’s why I kept my commitment to rejoin the Paris Accord, because if we do everything perfectly, it’s not going to matter."
That was not in the version of the speech the White House handed out ahead of time.
No wonder House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris looked visibly anxious throughout the president’s remarks: they were petrified he could make just exactly this kind of goof.
This is not a "gotcha moment", where a politician is caught embellishing his life story or fabricating excuses for some misdeed. On the contrary, Joe Biden was being honest.
And, for once in his life, Joe Biden was completely correct. Even if the Biden White House clobbers our economy, puts every last coal miner and oil driller out of work and drives down U.S. fossil fuel production and consumption, it will barely bend the curve on rising global emissions.
Why? Because the rapid growth in emissions from China and India, and other developing countries, will dwarf any action taken by the U.S. and will continue to push global carbon output higher.
The EIA predicts that, with current laws in place and no Bidenesque manhandling of our energy industries, U.S. carbon emissions will decline from 2023 to 2035 as we continue to shift away from coal and towards greater use of natural gas and renewable energy. After 2035, a growing population and consequent rise in energy demand will tilt emissions slightly higher; by 2050 our energy-related emissions will be roughly 5% more than the amount in 2020, which was severely depressed by Covid.
In other words, over the next thirty years, even if Uncle Sam does not demand Americans switch to electric cars or stop eating steak, our emissions will still be 20% below the peak total in 2007.
It is the rest of the world we must be concerned about. The EIA projects that between 2018 and 2050 emissions from non-OECD countries will grow 1% per year. China today accounts for 28% of global carbon output; India produces 7%. The U.S., as Biden accurately noted, contributes only 15%.