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Coronavirus Aid Package Fails Because Liberal Democrats Want Green New Deal, Student Debt Forgiveness

This weekend, a $1.6 trillion spending planned aimed at reducing the economic strain Americans will feel due to the COVID-19 Coronavirus failed to pass out of the Senate because it wasn’t the Green New Deal, and because it did not include provisions for student loan forgiveness. These two aspects apparently made the package a deal breaker for House and Senate Democrats in Washington, D.C.

Green New Deal, or No Deal

One of the demands being made by House Democrats in a draft proposal are requirements for airline companies that receive financial assistance to offset 100 percent of their carbon dioxide emissions by 2025. It included other regulations, as well, such as price controls on baggage fees. Mike Palicz notes that this policy would deliberately raise airfare costs during a demand crunch.

More importantly, there is the inconvenient fact that according to an article in The Financial Times, the only way to reduce airplane emissions to net zero by 2050, let alone by 2025, is to stop flying.

The article argues electric planes will not be operating commercial flights at any significant scale by 2050, that alternative fuels such as hydrogen are only “net zero” if renewables or nuclear are used to generate the electricity used to produce them, and that growing global demand for electricity will likely leave little power left for creating fuel for airplanes. Lastly, there are no meaningful negative emissions technologies at this time, and only so many trees can be planted.

As a result:

“The commitment to net zero aviation by 2050 is really a commitment to zero aviation. Rather than hope new technology will magically rescue us, we should stop planning to increase fossil-fuel flights and commit to halving them within 10 years with an eye toward phasing them out entirely by 2050. Taxing aircraft fuel at the level of the UK’s current road fuel tax would be a useful first step: I estimate that it would make flights up to four times more expensive.”

Regulating greenhouse gas emissions from the airline industry should not be part of a relief package for Coronavirus, but I would assume the reason Democrats in Washington are pushing it now is because it would never pass under normal circumstances.

More Handouts for Wind and Solar

Another demand is the extension of subsidies for the wind and solar industries. It isn’t surprising that liberal lawmakers would want to funnel more federal cash to renewable special interest groups, but just because it isn’t surprising doesn’t mean it isn’t bad public policy.

Wind and solar power only exist because of government intervention in energy markets. Federal subsidies finance projects, state mandates guarantee a market for the product, at any price and regardless of whether the energy is needed or not, and government-approved monopoly utilities make a guaranteed profit on every dollar they spend building wind and solar projects.

Renewable energy groups know that the demand for their products would evaporate overnight if they were not subsidized and mandated by the federal and state governments, which is why they lobby so hard to keep their spot at the federal trough and push for ever stricter state renewable energy mandates. If the gravy train stops, they’re out of business.

The graph below shows the amount of wind, solar, and natural gas power plants that are expected to be built in the United States through 2050. As you can see, the Energy Information Administration expects virtually zero onshore wind to be built after 2023, which is also the year that the federal subsidies for the industry were originally set to expire before they were extended last year. Solar will likely continue into the future because it is more predictable than wind, and costs for the technology continue to decline.

It is also important to remember that building wind and solar has caused electricity rates to reach new all-time highs in Minnesota. In fact, before then-Governor Tim Pawlenty signed legislation mandating that Minnesota get 25 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025, Minnesota families enjoyed electricity rates that were nearly 20 percent below the national average, but now Minnesotans are forced to pay more to keep the lights on.

If liberal Democrats in Washington were truly concerned about the impact that Coronavirus is having on the budgets of low and middle income families, they wouldn’t be conditioning their support for a relief bill on the adoption of policies that will negatively impact the budgets of low and middle income families by making harder for them to pay their electricity bills.

Student Loan Forgiveness

As if procuring Green New Giveaways wasn’t enough, student loan forgiveness has also become part of the wish list for COVID-19 funding.

According to an article in The Hillthe Democrats in the Senate are attempting pass a bill that would:

“Require the Department of Education to make payments for federal student loans on behalf of borrowers during a public health emergency, effectively eliminating the need for borrowers to make the payments.

Once the health crisis is over, the department would make an additional payment to each student loan borrower to make sure that each had received at least $10,000 in federal help during the coronavirus epidemic.”

Even presumptive Democrat nominee Joe Biden has voiced his support for doling out a minimum of $10,000 per person of federal student loan forgiveness as part of the initiative that is meant to be a targeted effort to help businesses and individuals weather the economic storm caused by the virus.

Sending “at least” $10,000 for all student loan borrowers is a totally unnecessary increase in the special interest pandering that would disproportionately help people who are already affluent. It would also effectively punish borrowers who pinched pennies in order to repay their debts.

Conclusion

Many conservatives are rightfully skeptical of spending trillions of dollars virtually overnight to bail out businesses and send direct checks to consumers. If we must do it, my personal belief is that it should be as narrowly tailored as possible – not the Green New Deal.

 

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