Thursday, September 21, 2023

The Biden Admin Just Declared 'War on Consumers'

In the Biden administration's whole-of-government attempt to force a transition to supposedly "green" and ethical energy that's anything but — just ask the whales off the coast of New England or forced/child laborers in EV battery supply chains in Africa — another department is jumping into the crusade.

On Tuesday morning, the U.S. Department of the Treasury released its "Principles for Net-Zero Financing & Investment" to press ahead with "best practices for private sector financial institutions that have made net-zero commitments and promote consistency and credibility in approaches to implementing them."

These principles, the Treasury Department and Secretary Janet Yellen say, are key to "supporting the mobilization of more private sector capital to address the physical and economic impacts of climate change and to seize on the historic economic opportunity presented by the green transition."

To that end, Yellen and her department heralded "a number of announcements from civil society including a $340 million commitment" from the likes of the Bezos Earth Fund, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Climate Arc, ClimateWorks, Hewlett Foundation, and Sequoia Climate Foundation over the next three years "to support the continued development of research, data availability, and technical resources intended to help financial institutions develop and execute robust, voluntary net-zero commitments" and "facilitate the transition planning efforts of non-financial sectors of the economy."

According to the Treasury Department, the "climate crisis is propelling a massive economic shift and is hitting the most vulnerable countries and communities first and hardest" and there's an "increasing demand for technologies, products, and services that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, support a clean energy future, and help adapt to a changing climate across all sectors." Notably, however, that demand is not high enough to see the market move truly voluntarily to meet it. As such, "[i]n the United States, government support is playing a role in accelerating this transition," the Treasury Department admitted as it pushes for more net-zero agreements and investment, as seen in the principles released on Tuesday.

"This announcement from the Department of the Treasury forcing financial institutions to adopt net-zero principles should come as no surprise to American consumers as the Biden Administration openly declares war on consumers," reacted Will Hild, the executive director of Consumers' Research.

"Treasury Secretary Yellen, with her announcement of these new net-zero principals at the Bloom Transition Finance Action Forum, has made it abundantly clear that the Treasury Department is working with and for ESG activists like Michael Bloomberg to make the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) goals for financial institutions into U.S. government policy, leaving consumers with nothing," Hild added. "The Biden Administration is littered with former BlackRock employees such as Brian Deese and Eric Van Nostrand who are pushing these liberal, progressive, net-zero, and ESG policies on Americans, rather than focusing on reducing costs at the grocery store and gas pump and tamping down inflation."

"Make no mistake, the Biden administration is running cover for the financial industry's net zero cartel, protecting megalomaniac CEOs like Larry Fink and leaving consumers with nothing," said Hild.

As summarized by the Treasury Department, the principles established to reinforce the woke, economically damaging priorities of the left are:

PRINCIPLE 1: A financial institution’s net-zero commitment (commitment) is a declaration of intent to work toward the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Treasury recommends that commitments be in line with limiting the increase in the global average temperature to 1.5°C. To be credible, this declaration should be accompanied or followed by the development and execution of a net-zero transition plan.

PRINCIPLE 2: Financial institutions should consider transition finance, managed phaseout, and climate solutions practices when deciding how to realize their commitments.

PRINCIPLE 3: Financial institutions should establish credible metrics and targets and endeavor, over time, for all relevant financing, investment, and advisory services to have associated metrics and targets.

PRINCIPLE 4: Financial institutions should assess client and portfolio company alignment to their (i.e., financial institutions’) targets and to limiting the increase in the global average temperature to 1.5°C.

PRINCIPLE 5: Financial institutions should align engagement practices — with clients, portfolio companies, and other stakeholders — to their commitments.

PRINCIPLE 6: Financial institutions should develop and execute an implementation strategy that integrates the goals of their commitments into relevant aspects of their businesses and operating procedures.

PRINCIPLE 7: Financial institutions should establish robust governance processes to provide oversight of the implementation of their commitments.

PRINCIPLE 8: Financial institutions should, in the context of activities associated with their net-zero transition plans, account for environmental justice and environmental impacts, where applicable.

PRINCIPLE 9: Financial institutions should be transparent about their commitments and progress towards them.

The voluntary net-zero commitments the Biden administration is seeking to foist on the private sector, however, may put companies which join them in legal jeopardy.

As Townhall has reported previously, state attorneys general from across the U.S. have put insurance and financial service companies on notice that their net-zero commitments may constitute a violation of antitrust and consumer protection laws. One recent letter to signatories of a net-zero commitment led by Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti noted how such net-zero alliances see companies "colluding to limit consumer choices and manipulate market outcomes in support of international climate activists," moves that "could violate [his state's] antitrust and consumer protection laws." As AG Skrmetti rightfully noted, "[d]ecisions about energy policy should be made by our elected representatives, not by transnational corporate alliances."

Already, an earlier warning to insurance signatories to a net-zero pact saw several companies back out of the agreement rather than face additional scrutiny from state attorneys general for their activities that may have constituted antitrust violations.

Despite such warnings about net-zero priorities being potentially in violation of state law, the Biden administration and its climate alarmist allies in the private and nonprofit sector are plunging ahead with more agreements — an unsurprising development from the administration that has not allowed federal law or the U.S. Constitution curb its ambitions, leading to a series of high-profile losses before the Supreme Court for its attempts to force an energy transition.


‘Unacceptable costs’: Britain delays petrol car ban, weakens net-zero targets

Britain will delay its ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and relax a transition away from gas and oil heaters in homes amid cost of living fears and a looming electoral wipe-out for the ruling Conservatives next year.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a series of U-turns on key targets to tackle climate change on Wednesday, claiming his “pragmatic, proportionate and realistic” approach to reaching Britain’s 2050 target for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions would protect vulnerable households.

In a press conference at Downing Street he said that the country’s present approach would “impose unacceptable costs” on the poorest families and lead to the collapse of the national consensus on tackling climate change.

Polling from YouGov released after the announcement found 50 per cent of Britons supported the government’s proposal to push back the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars, 34 per cent opposed, and 16 per cent didn’t know.

About 44 per cent supported delaying or dropping some commitments, while 38 per cent said the government should stick to its plans and its 2050 commitment.

But the move was greeted with anger by a coalition of environmental groups, business lobbyists, trade unions and politicians who say it would damage the UK’s chances of reaching its climate goals.

The announcement also coincided with United Nations secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, telling world leaders in New York that they were still “decades behind” in moving away from fossil fuels, launching a scathing critique at the UN’s inaugural climate ambition day.

Sunak, who said governments “of all stripes” had not been “honest with the public” about the costs of net-zero, said a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars would be delayed from 2030 to 2035, a move strongly opposed by some carmakers.

He said still expected that by 2030 “the vast majority” of cars will be electric, because of improving technology and the move would bring Britain into line with several European countries.

The government also relaxed the 2035 phaseout target for the installation of new gas boilers by introducing a new exemption for the most hard-pressed households, so they will “never have to switch at all”.

Other retreats Sunak announced included abandoning tougher energy efficiency rules for landlords and delaying a ban on oil boilers off the gas grid, with £7500 grants for boiler upgrades. The government will also “fast track” through the planning system projects to improve connections to the grid.

Sunak was forced to rush forward his speech after his plan to dilute Britain’s green policies was leaked. He said he was aligning himself with ordinary households who want Britain to meet its 2050 net-zero commitments, but on a reasonable timetable.

He said the debate around climate change had been charged with “too much emotion and not enough clarity” and that the approach should shift to “consent, not imposition, honesty not obfuscation, pragmatism not ideology.”

“If we continue down this path, we risk losing the consent of the British people and the resulting backlash would not just be against specific policies, but against the wider mission itself,” he said.

Sunak also ruled out several other climate policies - none of which had been promised — such as taxing meat, requiring people to share cars, fly less or use seven bins to aid recycling.

Leading car brands such as Ford, Vauxhall and Volvo have pledged to go fully electric this decade and had made manufacturing decisions with the 2030 ban in mind, with Ford accusing the government of lacking ambition, commitment and consistency to net-zero.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman backed Sunak’s decision, saying the government was “not going to save the planet by bankrupting the British people”.


Transmission lines rage in Australia: power struggle and a ‘shocked minister’

Infrastructure Minister Catherine King joined farmers, councils and environmentalists in attacking consultation on the Victorian-NSW Interconnector transmission project, which will plug renewables into the grid and help achieve Labor’s 2030 emissions ­reduction target.

Amid growing concerns in ­regional Australia about transmission line upgrades and offshore wind turbines, Ms King told the Australian Energy Market Operator to “engage thoroughly and honestly with impacted communities … from project conception, to construction and beyond”.

Ms King’s extraordinary intervention heaps pressure on Energy Minister Chris Bowen to urgently address rising community anger over government consultation on renewable projects and massive transmission lines integrating solar and wind farms into the electricity system.

In her submission to AEMO, which is overseeing a project plagued by delays and cost blowouts, Ms King said parts of her electorate would be significantly impacted if a Western Renewables Link transmission station was built by VNI West north of ­Ballarat.

“Throughout this process, I have been shocked and disappointed by the lack of respect that has been shown to local communities and the lack of consideration of their land uses, local government views and landscape,” Ms King, writing in her capacity as Ballarat MP, told AEMO.

“In my view, a significant amount of the anger felt by the community could have been avoided if their views and interests were considered from the very start of the project, rather than four years down the fact.”

AEMO has established TCV, a wholly owned subsidiary, to progress early works on Victoria’s centrepiece $3.3bn electricity transmission project, finalise the route and consult with landholders, community groups and traditional owners. It will not physically construct or own the high-capacity 500Kv double-circuit overhead Victoria-NSW transmission lines.

Mr Bowen, who is working to “improve” renewable energy project engagement with stakeholders, received a hostile reception on Tuesday when he ­arrived at a closed-door meeting in Nelson Bay to discuss the NSW Hunter Offshore Wind Zone with hand-picked community representatives.

Community leaders who ­attended the meeting in Labor MP Meryl Swanson’s battleground seat of Paterson, where the Liberals secured a 4.2 per cent swing at the 2022 federal election, claimed Mr Bowen rejected their request to reopen consultation.

The government’s rapid push to meet its 82 per cent renewables and 43 per cent emissions ­reduction targets by 2030 has sparked anxiety in coastal and regional communities earmarked for transmission line projects and offshore wind zones.

Confirmed and proposed projects in NSW, Victoria and South Australia have united seafood producers, fishermen, boaties, farmers, environmentalists, tourism operators, local governments and community groups who are demanding better consultation and independent analysis.

Major concerns raised by stakeholders about offshore wind turbines and transmission projects include negative impacts on endangered and at-risk wildlife, tourism and whale-watching, the seafood industry, sacred ­traditional Indigenous sites, visual amenity and farmland.

In her submission published by AEMO on May 27, Ms King welcomed an “increased focus … on social license” but warned VNI West proponents to “engage fully with the communities around ­Bulgana who will be impacted by this proposal and to mitigate any negative impacts it may have on their lives or livelihoods”.

“More broadly, I welcome the focus on cultural heritage, land use and the environmental impacts of the proposed route. The region north of Ballarat is not only home to the finest potato-growing country in Australia, but is a region of notable heritage and natural beauty,” she wrote.

“It has always been an inappropriate location for a development of this type as I, and many in the community, have been saying from the start. As Australia continues its transition to net zero, there will be increasing need for new projects just like this one in order to maintain a stable electricity grid.

“In rolling out these projects, it will be important to engage thoroughly and honestly with impacted communities all throughout the process – from project conception, to construction and beyond.”

Ms King’s intervention preceded a review ordered by Mr Bowen in July to “bolster reforms in community engagement around renewable energy infrastructure upgrades and new developments”.

A spokeswoman for Mr Bowen said Ms King “is a strong advocate for the energy transition, and for listening carefully to local communities about its opportunities and impacts – and the minister agrees”.

“Our traditional energy assets are ageing – with over 4GW of dispatchable power leaving the grid over the past decade and only 1GW to replace it because of chaos on climate and energy,” she said.

“Australia has needed much better consultation around energy infrastructure for years – so with the states we are making the overdue changes to electricity rules to ensure proponents of all energy projects must engage properly with communities – and landholders and communities have better guidance about their rights and entitlements.”

Regional Victorian councils, environmental groups and farmers have lodged concerns with AEMO about the route of VNI West’s overhead transmission lines. The project will connect the Western Renewables Link, north of Ballarat, with Project EnergyConnect at Dinawan.

Concerns about the VNI West and Western Renewables Link projects focus on vegetation loss, land clearing, threats to woodland bird species, impacts on cultural sites and economic damage to agricultural production and tourism.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said Mr Bowen must explain the true cost and impacts of Labor’s renewables plan. “If Chris Bowen pretends that his policy is going to cost less than $1.2 trillion, he needs to provide the detail because the experts … are saying that the Labor plan will cost between $1.2 trillion and $1.5 trillion – and Australians will pay for that through increased electricity bills. People are going to end up with 28,000km of new poles and wires, which is a considerable eyesore through many communities.

“People in metropolitan areas, or outer metropolitan areas like mine in my electorate … don’t want those wind turbines. So why should people in regional areas be forced to take them when they’re not reliable, and you need to firm them up?”

After the Bureau of Meteorology on Tuesday confirmed that Australia had entered an El Nino phase, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the government was taking the long-term climate change threat seriously. “Part of that is a shift in the energy mix to 82 per cent renewables by 2030,” Mr Albanese said. Mr Bowen this week said transmission projects like VNI West and Hume Link were “absolutely essential for the country, for our plans for emissions reduction, but also communities deserve proper engagement”.

Mr Bowen, who released departmental modelling this week claiming the Coalition would need to spend $387bn to replace coal-fired generation with nuclear small modular reactors, on Tuesday said it “never hurts to do a bit of engagement”.

“I understand people’s concerns. But I also understand the jobs that will be created,” he said. “I understand people in the Hunter want to see action on climate change. They want to see local jobs created as well. These are things to be balanced.”


Qld. Deputy Premier slams ‘rich inner-city elites’ for trying to stop flights

He is referring to the Greens -- accurately

Deputy Premier Steven Miles has let fly at “wealthy inner-city elites”, accusing them of trying to clip Brisbane Airport’s wings by restricting flights and driving up airfares.

In an extraordinary attack, Mr Miles said the “elites” don’t want planes flying over their own homes or “working people” to be able to afford to fly.

His comments follow a bid by the Greens to impose a curfew and flight caps at Brisbane Airport “to bring peace and a good night’s sleep to thousands of Brisbane residents impacted by flight noise”.

Brisbane-based Greens federal MPs Elizabeth Watson-Brown, Max Chandler-Mather and Stephen Bates have championed a bill to introduce hourly flight caps and a late night curfew at the airport for non-emergency flights.

Ms Watson-Brown has proposed a radical plan to divert planes to Toowoomba’s Wellcamp Airport and put passengers on high-speed trains to Brisbane.

The bill – set to be debated in federal parliament next month – has been estimated to come at a cost of $3b a year to the state economy if enacted.

Sharing the stage with Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner at a major aviation industry conference in Brisbane last week, Mr Miles joined forces with his political foe to slam the plan.

“Our airport is just so critical to our region’s economic prosperity, and I can’t think of anything more hypocritical than the Greens political party’s campaign against the airport,” he told a panel discussion at the CAPA (Centre for Aviation) Australia Pacific Aviation Summit.

“The blokes running this campaign are just about the most frequent travellers from Brisbane Airport to their engagements on (ABC show) Q+A and down to Canberra for the parliament.

“I’m an environmentalist, former environment minister and former conservation activist but the Greens are not a party of the environment – they’re a party of wealthy inner-city elites.

“And what they’re saying is that planes shouldn’t fly over the homes of wealthy inner-city elites, they should only fly over the homes of working people.

“And that only wealthy inner-city elites should be able to afford to fly but working people shouldn’t be able to afford to fly.

“That’s despite the fact that it’s those wealthy inner city elites who benefit disproportionately from the economic opportunity and prosperity that the airport delivers.”

Cr Schrinner said the Greens’ proposal was simplistic and would drive up travel costs and concentrate aircraft noise.

He said Brisbane City Council received far more complaints about barking dogs, loud parties and noisy air-conditioners than it did about airport noise.

“Offering simplistic solutions to this is not going to cut it,” he said.

“It’s a reminder that living in a large city is about managing impacts and noise. There are other ways to achieve that other than what’s being proposed.”

Meanwhile, the Senate inquiry into the federal government’s controversial decision to block extra Qatar Airways flights into Australia is due to sit in Brisbane next Tuesday.

The decision has also been blamed for helping keep international airfares sky-high, particularly out of Brisbane.

Brisbane Airport Corporation is understood to have made a submission to the inquiry.




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