The Sky Hasn't Fallen, But It Has Darkened. And What We Must Do About It.
July 1, 2022
In light of the Supreme Court’s ruling yesterday in West Virginia v. EPA, there are two fundamental truths to understand. The first is that the planet is warming, inexorably, coming evermore dangerously close to a point of no return that threatens our way of life and the habitability of the places we call home. The second is that combatting this warming trend requires a wholesale transformation of the market, away from fossil fuels and their associated emissions, on a timeline that meets science-based targets and not the bottom lines of short-term, polluting interests.
The Supreme Court has made the market transformation necessary to combat climate change more difficult. There will be punditry about the breadth or narrowness of the ruling, or the climate merits of the proposed Clean Power Plan that was the genesis of the case. But make no mistake: the opinion will take away tools that allow us to achieve our climate goals at precisely the moment when we need to be pulling every lever possible to meet the realities we face.
Market transformation (at least the good kind) means moving from producing one set of results to a future that delivers much better ones. Markets evolve over time, but they are hardwired to optimize for those benefiting the most from the existing rules. The status quo is not good at replacing itself, especially not when pitted against a timetable that is both unforgiving and existential. For that, we need systemic policy and political action. Today’s decision undermines those efforts.
It also reveals the Court to be out of touch and behind the times. Out of touch because the energy transition required to meet our climate targets must be thoughtfully and systemically executed, and not adjudicated case by case. This is not about managing the emissions from specific sources. It is about creating a near-term future where a supply of clean electricity powers clean machines on the other end: a future where we have plugs and not pipes.
The Court is behind the times because the effect of its ruling will be an energy tax on American families that undermines our energy security here at home. Families today are rightly concerned about the effects of inflation: nine out of ten Americans raise it as an issue they discuss at their kitchen tables. Those conversations are largely about spiking energy bills, which are driven almost entirely by the global volatility of fossil fuels. Shifting to an energy system powered by renewables will lock in decades of abundant, cheap power that will save American families thousands of dollars per year. It comes with the added bonus of unlocking millions of family-sustaining jobs that cannot be automated or offshored, and protecting Americans from the sociopathic vicissitudes of petrostate dictators a world away.
Though this ruling is disheartening, it only further reinforces the need for Congress to pass the climate provisions necessary to help bring about a swift energy transformation.
The EPA is doing exactly what it should do: leveraging its authority to drive the market transformation required to meet our climate imperative. The Court has done exactly what it should not do: impede our progress by doubling down on interests threatening our life, liberty and happiness.