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Coming Soon: Lockdowns to Save the Environment?


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Many Americans are only now beginning to realize the devastating impacts that COVID lockdowns had on our society, as many businesses struggle still to recover and children try to catch up with missed learning opportunities. But what if the pandemic was just a trial run for more drastic restrictions and lockdowns related to climate change?

After decades of arguing that the world is at a climate tipping point, Democrats may try to enact restrictions to stop perceived global warming at an order of magnitude larger than the COVID-19 measures imposed during the height of the pandemic. And considering the pandemic’s ability to bring out authoritarian streaks in our leaders, this should be worrying for most Americans. Some claim that climate change is the “greatest health crisis of our time,” and Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates agrees it could be worse than the pandemic. 

Some bureaucrats are already laying the foundation for climate-related restrictions. For example, states such as New York and California have moved to ban the use of fossil fuel-powered vehicles, lawnmowers, and stoves.

A combination of efforts could build, perhaps coercing mass support for draconian regulations and soft environmental lockdowns over the next decade. Do you really need a gasoline lawn mower, anyway? For many young people and city dwellers who don’t drive regularly, cut grass, or individually heat their homes, such actions to curb energy use may seem like no-brainers. Whether it’s a liberal U.S. president or some party apparatchik abroad, the restrictions will be packaged in some panacea like a scaled-down Green New Deal. There likely would be sweeteners — for example, perhaps your student loan could be eligible for dismissal if you voluntarily give up going to the office or owning a car.   

What, exactly, might environmental restrictions mean for ordinary Americans? Short flights could be banned, as France has done to “fight climate change,” or a carbon tax could be levied on travel. Some measures may be imposed through involuntary changes, such as a four-day school week. Such a change likely would be difficult for families working traditional schedules, but this hurdle will be framed as being for “the greater good” of the climate. A four-day mandatory workweek could do the same for families whose kids attend schools with traditional schedules.

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The Key Idea for Thinking About Energy

Steven Haward

Jan. 24 2024

When I teach energy policy, one of the assignments I make to students to to bring to class each week a story about energy in the media and critique it for its incompetence, because about 90 percent of all news articles on energy are incompetent and ignorant. A typical story, irresistible to journalists, is a breathless, gung-ho report on some new energy breakthrough in a lab, like energy from banana peels or unicorn flop sweat. The stories seldom report on how much the energy source costs, whether it can be scaled up, and its total resource requirements—that is, the three key elements of any energy system: cost, scale, and density.


Jan. 23 2024

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