The key to U.S. global leadership in environmental stewardship has been balancing high but achievable standards while bolstering economic growth. Unfortunately, this proven approach stands to be undermined by the Biden administration’s unrealistic policies and the pervasive environmental, social and governance, or ESG, movement.
ESG preaches a great deal about bettering the planet and attuning business goals to environmental ones. But at what cost? As our environmental achievements to date have made clear, Americans need not lean on this flawed framework to promote conservation.
A clean, vibrant environment can be maintained without restructuring the entire economy — namely, our gross domestic product — with net-zero decarbonization policies manifested through the “E” prong.
Clean energy projects such as solar, wind, and electric vehicles are touted as environmentally sound alternatives to current power sources and technologies. Nevertheless, they come with massive trade-offs.
Solar and wind are propped up by government subsidies and require vast tracts of land. Solar projects on productive agricultural land, for instance, have ruinous impacts on the environment on account of deforestation. Wind farms pose great threats to wildlife — onshore and offshore — and would be constructed, in the case of the proposed Lava Wind Project in southern Idaho, on land that will be severely altered by explosives containing toxic chemicals.
In addition, there are major questions with regard to the end-of-life treatment of solar panels. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, by 2050, the United States is projected to have “the second largest number of end-of-life panels in the world.”
For now, the U.S. lacks a comprehensive recycling policy that has proved very expensive and complex and stands to create major environmental problems like contaminated soils or water systems.
The Biden administration has similarly announced new electric vehicle standards to speed up the adoption of electric-only driving options in line with these clean energy goals. But scaling EVs in this manner is impossible due to lack of interest in permitting reform here at home and continued reliance on adversaries like China for rare earth minerals.
A Massachusetts Institute of Technology Energy Initiative study determined “the battery and fuel production for an EV generates higher emissions than the manufacturing of an automobile.”
To support meaningful sustainability goals, companies and individuals need not adopt impossible sociopolitical (“S” prong) goals that alienate the wider American public. Advancing cleaner environmental goals shouldn’t be rooted in social engineering designed to generate “equity.”
For example, policies that discriminate against utility ratepayers in the name of justice — as California is attempting to do by charging those making over $185,000 an additional $85 each month — won’t lead to better energy consumption habits. And as more Americans continue to reel from historic levels of inflation, support for companies engaging in tracking climate risk continues to waver.
A recent AP-NORC poll found fewer Americans — 38% — are willing to pay an additional dollar each month for a carbon fee. Simply put, consumers aren’t inclined to gamble their hard-earned money on risky sociopolitical causes.
Corporate leaders engrossed in ESG demand their shareholders and, in turn, the wider public adhere to their environmental and social priorities. Yet jet-setting, C-suite executives and prominent political leaders on the left who demand high standards for others aren’t consistent in living by the agenda themselves. How can Americans trust corporate governance if leaders are hypocritical and demand the public sacrifice First World comforts such as a balanced diet, reliable transportation, and affordable energy from fossil fuels, for instance?
ESG reporting, which is subjective and susceptible to problems, calls into question how trustworthy the governance plank really is. A new poll revealed corporate executives often shell out nearly $500,000 to garner “good” scores. Companies, in essence, aren’t honest and transparent about their performance. If corporations preach ethics yet don’t adhere to them in-house, people will call their sincerity into question. And rightly so.
Environmentalists would be wise to ditch ESG. The movement undoubtedly faces a tough road ahead. BlackRock, the world’s largest financial asset manager, saw a $4 billion outflow. Companies that pledged to prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, are being sued for not going bold enough. Internationally, countries like Sri Lanka that fully embraced ESG experienced a catastrophic collapse.
A new Harris-Google Cloud poll warns “greenwashing” could be the downfall of sustainable investing. Corporate executives are unable to prioritize ESG, they concede, due to inflation and economic woes.
Americans can proactively support worthy environmental causes within their communities through voluntary, private means without the force of government or repeating the “woke” mantras of ESG. They can have a meaningful impact by subscribing to true conservation and planting trees, conserving species, and promoting clean surroundings without engaging in virtue signaling and hypocrisy.