High energy prices and no air conditioning, welcome to the progressive future

A columnist for Bloomberg urges President Biden to ensure gas prices never fall below $5 per gallon again while a writer for CNN claims we should ditch our air conditioners in favor of “passive cooling.”  The progressive movement has never been more regressive, calling for you to suffer with less mobility, comfort, choice, and freedom. 

The Biden Administration is busy trying to convince Americans that they care about the massive increase in energy prices over the past year, but astute observers of progressives know a rapid increase in these prices has long been their goal.  Whether you call the scheme carbon pricing, a carbon tax, cap and trade, or anything else, the idea is to force people to use less by making energy cost a whole lot more.  Needless to say, this approach is far from popular when inflation has spiked to the highest levels in over 40 years, and a trip to the gas station can cost almost double what it did barely a year ago, forcing some to choose whether to fill up their tanks or buy a London broil for dinner.  This turn of events has prompted most progressives to remain quiet about their real goals.  Most, but not all.  Eduardo Porter, writing for Bloomberg, had the (misguided) courage to say what the movement as a whole is thinking:  “The Earth Wants Biden to Keep Gas Prices High.”  In his view, President Biden should actively ensure prices never fall below $5 per gallon, ever again.  He urged the President to stop “the fall in gasoline prices,” saying, “As any economist will tell him, the most efficient way to reduce fossil fuel consumption is to raise its price relative to alternatives, encouraging people and businesses to switch to cleaner sources and use less energy altogether.”  Mr. Porter is so beholden to this idea, he finds a “beauty” in this moment of American suffering, giving new meaning to the phrase never let a crisis go to waste.  “The beauty of this moment for the president is that he wouldn’t have to deploy any political capital for this to happen. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine already did the trick — sending the average retail price of gasoline above $5 a gallon in early June. All Biden must do is keep it from falling back.”

Apparently, all Americans need to do to get on board with this plan is to cut back a little on driving.  Mr. Porter sets a preliminary target of about 16%, meaning he believes you should sit in your house with the air conditioning turned off, more on that in a moment, for about a full day per week.  Presumably, he’d recommend this cut back be confined to your leisure and vacation time when he notes, “Cutting back on driving is not easy. People must get to work and school. Not everybody can switch to public transit or buy a Tesla,” but surely everyone can take a pass on a road trip, right?  That’s not all the pain Mr. Porter is promising, either.  He also wants higher taxes, as in “imposing a tax to boost the retail price at the pump would eat into consumer demand without incentivizing further supply,” and additional economic suffering.  This is because “Higher energy prices will eat into consumers’ pocketbooks and slow the economy,” but what’s “important for the president to understand is we have no choice.”  We might rephrase this in a better way:  What’s important for you, the consumer and average American, to understand is that you will have no choice.  You will be made to sacrifice on the off chance we can influence the weather decades from now because, regardless of what progressives insist, no one knows if any of these suggestions will have any impact in our lifetimes, especially considering that the two largest polluters in the world, China and India, have no plans to make similar sacrifices.  It’s also worth noting that cars and trucks account for about 22% of our carbon emissions, meaning Mr. Porter wants to force us to pay around 66% more than the cost of gas before Joe Biden took office and risk a prolonged economic downturn to reduce total emissions by barely 3%.  The overall return on investment amounts to little more than virtue signaling on your dime.  No one truly believes this measure will actually prevent a climate catastrophe:  The goal is to put you in your place and restrict your freedom of motion.

Alas, progressives are not content to stop there and allow you some peace and comfort even in your own home.  They also believe you are using far too much energy keeping your house cool in the summer and have recently started taking aim at your air conditioner.  Paul Hockenos, writing for CNN, described how “American friends visiting my downtown Berlin apartment at the height of summer always guffaw at my rinky-dink plastic fan, propped up on a bookshelf above my desk.  Inevitably, they go on to moan about the stuffy, sweaty restaurants and night clubs that go without air conditioning as if it had never been invented.”  He believes global warming has caused a “vicious circle of air conditioning,” “AC is an extremely energy-intensive means of cooling space. According to a World Bank report from 2019, cooling tech such as refrigerators, air conditioners, and other devices chalk up as much as 10% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. This is more than double the footprint of aviation and maritime together! At this rate, cooling emissions could double by 2030 and triple by 2100, added the report.”  “The higher carbon emissions — and temperatures — rise, the more cooling we will need. This is the vicious circle, presumably an iron logic that condemns us all to ever more unbearable summers,” he continued.  Of course, the only way out involves “changing habits,” as in suffering in the heat.  To be sure, he does mention a switch to renewable energy that would “will take years, and in some cases decades,” meaning they will have no impact on your thermostat today.  He also notes that we can use more energy efficient air conditioning units, but then Mr. Hockenos moves onto his real subject, something he refers to as “passive cooling.”

If you are unfamiliar with the term, it might sound like some breakthrough technology that will ultimately replace air conditioning units.  Perhaps some innovative company like Dyson will radically upend the market by finding a way to cool our homes for free.  Consumers and the planet would both love it, happy in our icy abodes while saving money on our electric bill and reducing emissions at the same time.  You would be wrong:  Passive cooling, in fact, refers to no actual cooling at all.  It’s a call to return to the world before air conditioning even existed, using “natural ventilation and shading: opening windows at night and lowering the blinds in mid-morning.”  Apparently, it never occurs to Mr. Hockenos that humanity did precisely that for centuries, but it completely sucked.  People, especially seniors, died in droves in the heat, and that’s why we invented air conditioning in the first place.  Putting this another way, if “passive cooling” was sufficient to survive a summer in Houston, TX, Las Vegas, NV, or even my home state of New Jersey, there would never have been any need for air conditioning at all.  People, however, were suffering and dying, sometimes in extremely large numbers.  For example, a heat wave in France in 1911 is believed to have caused the deaths of 41,072 people.  Air conditioning changed all that, but now, according to Mr. Hockenos and other progressives, it “is self-indulgent to insist on chilly temperatures in the middle of summer and rooms at t-shirt warmth in winter. The donning of sweaters indoors when it’s cold outside, not because the AC is cranked up so high, is surely a habit one can adapt to.  Right now, conservation is the order of the day: to save our planet and deny Russian President Vladimir Putin his energy stranglehold of Europe.”

To conservation, I would add personal sacrifice and suffering for “order” of the day.  It is a rich irony that the progressive movement has become so regressive.  In their view, the conveniences and comforts of the modern world, from personal transportation to control over the temperature, are too much for the planet itself to bear and must be curtailed or rolled back entirely.  They wish for a world where you have less mobility and hence less freedom, where you are less comfortable in your own home with less of an ability to control your environment.  They would also urge you to eat less, and choose from less of a variety, replacing meats with lab grown vegetarian options and insects.  Of course, this is the opposite of progress, which has been generally assumed for thousands of years to be humanity adapting a hostile natural environment to better suit our needs.  We overcame food scarcity with farming.  We overcame the elements with heating and cooling.  We made the world smaller and more accessible with cars and other methods of transportation.  Progressives, however, would roll all of this back to a far more primitive state, consigning you to a sedentary existence in an uncomfortable home, and insisting that it’s necessary to save the planet itself.  Most people dream of a future where there is more of everything, where it is easier and less expensive (relatively speaking) to go the places you most want to travel, where your home is more comfortable and offers more conveniences, where you have even more choices at your local stores or online.  In short, where you have more freedom to do the things you want and to live your life as you see fit, for you personally, your family, and your loved ones.  Sadly, this is not the future progressives have in mind and sometimes they have the courage to say it out loud.

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