Opinion

Omnibus/Coronavirus Relief Bill Was Congress Making Bad Sausage

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Posted: Dec 23, 2020 11:59 AM
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Omnibus/Coronavirus Relief Bill Was Congress Making Bad Sausage

Source: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

German statesman, Prince Otto von Bismarck once famously quipped, “laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.” At no time has this statement been truer than in the making of the monstrous, 5,593-page omnibus/coronavirus relief bill that Congress recently passed. President Donald Trump has threatened to veto the bill. He should do so.

While there is much to loathe in this bill, some of the worst elements pertain to energy and climate, in which Democrat and Republican swamp creatures colluded to impose more inside-the-beltway big-government energy mandates and subsidies on a captive public.

You can hardly access the news today without seeing a story claiming wind and solar power are cheaper than any other form of electricity. As such, if subsidies were ever justified for these unreliable, wildlife and wildland-destroying sources of energy, that time has long past.

However, not so for Congress, which, in the $2.3 trillion 2021 omnibus/pandemic relief package extends the wind production tax credit for another year, the solar investment tax credit was extended for two years, and the offshore wind tax credit was extended for five years. The latter program is especially egregious from both environmental and fiscal standpoints. Not only is offshore wind one of the most expensive sources of energy, but it is destroying among the last wild places on earth, the seas, where human structures and development don’t currently dominate.

On top of all that, the law provides more than $35 billion in discretionary spending on politically favored, unspecified “clean energy” projects, and tax credits specifically for carbon capture projects. The bill would also provide $13 billion in agricultural assistance, allowing the Agriculture Secretary discretion to direct part of that funding to biofuels producers. And, of course, these direct fiscal costs don’t even account for the higher prices people and businesses will pay for energy because affordable fossil fuels are being pushed out of the marketplace, in favor of politically correct renewable energy sources.

In total, the energy portion of the omnibus/coronavirus relief bill alone could easily top $400 to $600 per household. Putting that in perspective, Congress committed nearly as much or more money to paying off big green energy companies, as they did to relief for families, $600 per person, suffering from COVID-19 related financial hardships over the past year. I’ll bet if asked, the people Congress is supposed to be serving would have said send the additional money directly to them—as Trump demanded in his veto threat— rather than to billionaire green energy profiteers.

Republicans could have fought these provisions but many didn’t, choosing instead to sell out America, again.

Most Republicans have long advocated for sound climate science and environmental policies. They recognized the best science indicates climate change does not actually pose an “existential threat” to humanity. Congress has also repeatedly passed resolutions acknowledging the policies proposed to fight climate change, which would do nothing to prevent increased carbon-dioxide emissions, but would hurt the United States economically. The latest omnibus monstrosity trashes Republicans’ past support for climate sanity. It will raise energy prices, put hundreds of thousands of people out of work, make our country subservient to foreign powers for our energy needs, and put U.S. manufacturers at a competitive disadvantage to companies in China and other developing countries that—carbon dioxide emissions and climate treaties be damned—continue to use cheap, reliable, fossil fuels to power economic growth and trade.

In addition, with Republican support, Congress for the first time ever restricted use of a valuable chemical, based solely on the grounds of fighting climate change. The outrageous omnibus phases down the use of non-toxic refrigerants known as HFCs by 85 percent over 15 years, solely on the grounds that the chemicals supposedly contribute to dangerous climate change. Some Republicans supported the provision because the much more expensive chemicals that would replace HFCs are or would be manufactured in or by companies with offices in states they represent. To bring home that potential pork, Republicans foolishly collaborated with radical Democrats to ban HFCs on the phony grounds of fighting climate change.

This provision is akin to putting the camel’s nose under the tent, dangerously opening the door for further climate change-based legal restrictions in the future. After all, if one type of greenhouse gas is bad and should be banned, why shouldn’t other products contributing to climate change also be banned or regulated?

Sadly, unless Trump carries through on his veto threat, it seems Americans will now be forced to swallow this inedible legislative sausage, filled with the offal of numerous proposals that were so bad Congress refused to openly adopt them on their own, and so they crammed them into a must pass bill to keep the government open and provide support for people and businesses hurting as a result of COVID-19. This is not how representative democracy—a government of, for, and by the people—is supposed to function.

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. (hburnett@heartland.org) is a senior fellow at The Heartland Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois.