September Was Cruelest Month for Jonathan Chait’s Feature on Climate Change Policy in New York Magazine

by William Yeatman on September 24, 2015

in Blog

[Editor’s noteThis is the latest in a semi-regular series whose purpose is to correct the record whenever New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait writes a story about climate change politics or policy]

Earlier this month, Jonathan Chait penned a cover story for New York Magazine on climate change, which he has since described thusly:

My story in the magazine describes how political pressure and technological innovation are feeding into each other, producing a virtuous cycle of affordable green energy and stronger willpower to reduce emissions.

As always, Chait’s climate change story is peppered with factual inaccuracies. For example, writes Chait:

[I]n 2010, President Obama, temporarily enjoying swollen Democratic majorities in both houses, tried to pass a cap-and-trade law that would bring the U.S. into compliance with the reductions it had pledged in Copenhagen. A handful of Democrats from fossil-fuel states joined with nearly every Republican to filibuster it.

For starters, President Obama did not “try to pass a cap-and-trade law.” In fact, the “cap-and-trade” in question never made it out of the democrat party caucus in the Senate. More to the point, the President effectively killed the effort by punting on a meeting about the measure with Senate democrat leadership. Also, while it’s true that opposition to the bill was bipartisan, there was never a filibuster. Again, the bill never made it out of the democrat Senate caucus, due to intra-party opposition. Republicans didn’t have to lift a finger. So Chait’s history is totally wrong (again).

Of course, there are more mistakes in the piece, but the two most prominent errors undercut his thesis altogether. Chait’s argument is that we should be optimistic because green energy is taking off, and also because China is fervently doing everything it can to reduce emissions. As fate would have it, both of Chait’s primary talking points were refuted by events in only the 17 days since he published his ill-destined article.

Regarding green energy, Chait claims:

The energy revolution has rippled widely through the economy. In the sunniest locations in the world, building a new solar-power plant now costs less than coal or natural gas, even without subsidies, and within six years, this will be true of places with average sunlight, too. Taller turbines, with longer and more powerful blades, have made wind power competitive in a growing swath of the country (the windy parts). By 2023, new wind power is expected to cost less than new power plants burning natural gas.

Sounds rosy, no? Per Jonathan Chait, wind and solar are vibrant industries, on the cusp of competing and beating conventional energy production on the open market, without the aid of taxpayer handouts or mandates.

wrong again

wrong again

Chait’s article was published on September 7th. In the time since, the wind and solar industries have been singing a diametrically different tune. For example, in a report released mid-September, the wind lobby says that the industry it represents will face a sharp decline without the extension of a single federal subsidy by the end of this year. A week after the wind lobby report, a study was published by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (and condoned by the top solar lobby with a press release) warning that the industry will nose dive in 2017, if congress fails to extend a single subsidy by the end of 2016. To Chait, I ask: how can green energy industries be even close to market readiness, if they crash absent a single subsidy (and despite soviet-style production quotas in 30 States)? The obvious answer is that they can’t. (Moreover,  they won’t, ever).

Regarding Chait’s second primary point, about a supposed green energy revolution in China (one that’s allegedly taking place at the same time as the fictitious green energy revolution in this country), here’s his big evidence:

But in the past year, something amazing has taken place. In 2014, China’s coal production and its consumption both fell, and the drop appears to be continuing, or even accelerating, this year.

As noted above, Chait’s cover story was published on September 7th. What poor timing for him that in mid-September, Reuters reported that Chinese emissions in 2014 did not “decouple” from economic growth, as claimed by Chait.

I have one concluding note, which is more an exercise in armchair psychology than it is a fact check. In an early August blog post, Chait wrote of his affinity for air conditioning. Perhaps his energy hog ways explain his mistaken perception of global energy markets. Like most everyone, he has no interest in sacrificing any of his material well-being on behalf of climate change mitigation. He wants to “do something” about climate, but he doesn’t want to give anything up. I suspect that the only way to square this circle in his conscience is to imagine that green energy can power all his material wants, if only those rascally, meanie republicans would get out of the way.

Ray Exley September 27, 2015 at 7:13 am

It seems that the liberals can never understand the cost of their attempts to impose wind and solar power on the rest of us. They refuse to push atomic power, which makes the most sense economically and if one is concerned about CO2 production and if one shares all of their views about the causes of global warming, but they refuse of understand both its great record of safety and cost effectiveness. (Much of the costs of nuclear are caused by the irrational regulations imposed by the liberals, who seem to think that they can impose an absolutely no risk environment upon any man made enterprise. The always seem to think that laws will trump economic facts. They always want the government to fix things, while they ignore that it can not change the underlying costs. But while they keep their heads where the sun does not shine (in the clouds, not where you were thinking), they can ignore the reality of the damage that they cause to the rest of us, particularly the poor, by raising the cost of the most liberating thing on the planet. And that is the replacement of human labor with energy from other sources.

I think to be a liberal, one must be an illiterate about economics, business, taxation and a host of other issues which they choose to ignore while they try to ram down the throats of the rest of us, their irrational and costly “solutions” to problems that largely exist only in their minds. And, of course they refuse to recognize that much of their funding comes from the Russians who want to prevent Europe from becoming less dependant upon Russian Gas for energy. Read Oleg Kalugin’s book about how the Soviets created the “peace” movement, which is what they are now doing again in funding the “green” movement. (Kalugin was the top KGB general in the US during the 1970s, now an american citizen because the Russians convicted him of treason to the Soviet Union, a state which did not exist at the time of his conviction, if you want to understand the thinking of the current government of Russia.) They are old KGB guys who want a new cold war to justify their existence. and to prop up the Russian economy which they are destroying, by the use of the very techniques the Liberals in the country want more of here. And, such a confrontation will help them conceal how much they are stealing from the rest of the Russians. Again, the same old, same old.

But, as the article above points out, truth never interferes with the “thinking’ and policy positions of the left, because they don’t deal in “truth” they deal in “propaganda” which they think it true. They have no ability to separate the lies they like from reality, and they like it that way. Their motto is “don’t bother me with the truth, as I have my mind made up.” and the last thing I want to do, is to think.

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