ICYMI - Wall Street Journal: For a Clean-Energy Future, We Need Deregulation

Ted Nordaus writes how environmental protections from decades past are blocking the infrastructure urgently needed to combat climate change

Berkeley, Calif. — Last week, in the Wall Street Journal, Breakthrough Institute founder and executive director Ted Nordhaus published an OpEd highlighting an enormous barrier facing the buildout of a low-carbon U.S. economy: the antiquated regulatory processes and systems once essential to environmental conservation. In a cruel twist, these landmark protections now stand in the way of our best opportunities to decarbonize and build a clean-energy future.

Pointing to examples like local environmentalists in Nevada using NEPA to block a proposed geothermal plant, the Sierra Club joining with off road vehicle enthusiasts to stop a solar farm in the desert, and environmentalists using a California state law intended to protect fish eggs to shut down the state’s last remaining nuclear power plant, Nordhaus exposes the glaring contradiction within the environmental movement — that in order to save the environment we all cherish, we must deregulate.

Click here to read the full piece in the Wall Street Journal.

Nordhaus writes, “Across the country, foundational laws established in the 1960s and 70s to protect the environment are today a major obstacle to efforts to build the infrastructure and energy systems that we need to safeguard public health and save the climate. Though the Biden administration and Democrats currently propose to spend close to a trillion dollars on low-carbon infrastructure and technology, there is little reason to believe the U.S. is capable of building any of it in a timely or cost-effective way.”

He continues, “The implications are daunting for efforts to make progress against climate change. To reach “net-zero” greenhouse gas emissions over the next several decades, the best current modeling suggests that the U.S. will need to triple its existing transmission infrastructure for electricity in order to carry power from wind and solar farms and other renewable sources. Yet, over the last decade, the U.S. hasn’t constructed a single major new transmission line.”

With Republicans in a good position to take over one or both houses of Congress, they have a clear opportunity to tackle these challenges and reform the nation’s broken approach to building critical infrastructure. He writes, “They should start with an overhaul of the NEPA, the ESA, the Jones Act and a range of other regulations in order to make them more compatible with the need to dramatically cut emissions. Another priority should be to change the NRC’s mandate so that it balances public safety with the public’s interest in building nuclear power plants to produce clean and affordable energy.”

Nordhaus acknowledges there may be environmental costs to all this infrastructure, “Some ill-conceived projects will get the green light, and those projects may have a negative impact on local environments. But we have a range of other legal tools to protect our most valuable environmental resources, from federal authority to protect public lands to the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act.”

The challenge is enormous, but the United States can't just ignore it, hoping it will go away. He concludes, “The U.S. can no longer continue to neglect its compounding infrastructure and clean-energy needs. We aren’t going to regulate our way to a thriving low-carbon economy and a more stable climate. America needs to get back to building again.”

Click here to read the full piece in the Wall Street Journal.