Balancing economic development with environmental stewardship is a defining element of American conservation practices. Yet aligning billions in federal spending to the dangerous Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) philosophy is not a way to achieve harmony here. In fact, the contrary is true.
President Joe Biden’s newly-unveiled Fiscal Year 2024 budget, stacked with costly and problematic climate-centric provisions, comes with a steep price tag of $6.9 trillion dollars. Contained in this hefty sum is $52.2 billion in discretionary spending to go to causes such as “tackling the climate crisis” and seeking environmental justice.
Of its many troubling components, three provisions particularly deserve scrutiny.
Since being sworn into office in January 2021, the Biden administration has pursued a destructive net-zero energy path prioritizing the fight against climate change above energy independence and grid stability. The 2024 budget, for instance, would allocate $181 million to “accelerate the deployment of clean energy on public lands and waters, spurring economic development and creating thousands of good-paying jobs” primarily in rural areas in red states home to vast federal public lands open to multiple uses. It also pledges $11.9 billion to the Department of Energy for “climate and clean energy research, development, demonstration, and deployment” under the guise of cutting energy costs.
It’s widely known, however, that clean energy sources like solar and wind come with massive trade-offs. They can’t reliably power our electric grid and have a questionable base load. And it’s paradoxical to call them environmentally friendly, given the amount of energy required to power them and the required tracts of land destroyed in the process to accommodate these structures. More troubling is these projects, including the controversial proposed Lava Ridge Wind Project in southern Idaho, are expected to be subsidized by renewable energy tax credits ascribed to the Bipartisan Infrastructure and Jobs Act—not the private sector.
Equally concerning is the budget’s push to fund so-called environmental justice and equity initiatives—or the S in ESG—to the tune of $1.8 billion to the Environmental Protection Agency and $150 million to the Department of Energy. Race shouldn’t be considered when allocating resources for environmental programs and initiatives; it should be needs-based and equally applied to all Americans regardless of demographics or zip code.
Initiatives purportedly advancing justice and equity, including proposals to ban per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water, ultimately hurt disadvantaged communities. For instance, the EPA has deemed Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) as hazardous substances per the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). The agency claims this rule change will shield vulnerable populations from exposure to toxic Superfund sites. But such PFAS and PFOS remediation efforts, as presented, would ultimately create a “community pays”—not “polluter pays”—model that passes down clean-up costs to minority, low-income areas. This isn’t justice; it’s virtue signaling that stands to cause more harm to the very communities these programs were purportedly created to protect.
Additionally, the budget’s proposal to protect biodiversity deserves more criticism. While promoting wild spaces and nature is a noble goal, Biden’s budget would give the federal government an outsized role in dictating true conservation practices—which are better suited for individuals, localities, and private enterprise. The proposed $100 million to be allocated for boosting flora and fauna, including $80 million billed as supporting voluntary conservation practices on private lands in line with the Biden administration’s America the Beautiful initiative, or 30-by-30, wouldn't be voluntary nor true conservationist.
The 30-by-30 initiative fails to define conservation and excludes input from key conservation stakeholders. Additionally, the Biden administration is expected to align itself with the UN’s Convention on Biodiversity’s (COP15) 30-by-30 plan. The agreement stipulates wealthy nations, including the U.S., to pay upwards of $30 billion annually by 2030 to poorer nations and mandate companies to disclose biodiversity impact reporting—arguably harder to track than emissions.
Biden’s past spending sprees—from the American Rescue Plan to the so-called Inflation Reduction Act and deceptively-named Bipartisan Infrastructure Act—have exacerbated inflation, particularly the “E” prong in ESG, leading to higher energy bills and costs for most Americans.
Despite going full-throttle with net zero, President Biden recently conceded in his State of the Union address: “We’re still going to need oil and gas for a while.” He also suggested that continued reliance on these sources would extend for at least 10 more years.
His 2024 budget, much like these spending bills, would perpetuate the energy crisis wrought by his net-zero policies, increase dependency on foreign nations, and move us away from a true conservationist model.