Keystone XL, Tom Steyer and the Power of a ‘Small Shepherd Boy’

That Small Shepherd Boy is the most powerful special interest in America. On Friday, President Obama explained his rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline project: he wants to remove “a campaign cudgel” issue that distorts U.S. energy politics. But Obama’s words are particularly ironic: his Keystone decision is the definition of calculating, campaign style politics. In burying Keystone XL, the president has sacrificed American national interests at the altar of liberal special interests.

Still, it’s a grand victory for liberal “good billionaire,” Tom Steyer, who rules supreme over liberal energy policy. He’s fanatically opposed to traditional energy sources and confident in his unique potential to shape a better future. But there’s something immediately problematic with Steyer’s proven power. After all, rich California liberals don’t have a great record of success: their domination of California politics has smashed Golden Staters with massive deficits and poor services.

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President Obama’s Keystone XL decision isn’t really about facts; it’s about supplication to Steyer’s liberal orthodoxy. Case in point, watch this video from Steyer’s “NextGen Climate” advocacy group. Released following the president’s announcement, it inadvertently tells us much about liberal special interests and Keystone. This is especially true at the 15-second mark, where the narrator praises solar and wind energy platforms as cheap and competitive. We then see a parade of young hipster actors smiling while taking selfies. I hope they were paid well, because the NextGen video and its maestro are both disingenuous and delusional.

Steyer is fanatically opposed to traditional energy sources. / Photo: C-Span

On the disingenuous count, their pretense of cheap renewable energy is fundamentally untrue. Take this recent piece by a writer for a German energy website. Debating why U.S. solar energy prices are higher than in Germany, the writer suggests the U.S. needs “a competitive market of suppliers.” He asserts that Germany proves solar energy can be the cheapest market option. And he buries the catch: “Tax incentives can indeed successfully reduce turnkey prices by developing a market of installers. But so do German-style feed-in tariffs, which are paid to solar investors. In turn, they go shopping among installers, thereby putting downward pressure on system prices on a market.”

Here we see the pretense of honesty — “downward pressure on system prices” — concealing the inconvenient truth — “Tax incentives…feed-in tariffs” — that green energy remains un-competitive. In reality, green energy economics require the government subsidy of inefficiency to conceal inefficiency from energy bills. Instead, government pays for the deception with taxpayer money. But the deception cannot conceal the facts: government green-energy subsidies create unsustainably expensive jobs, and, as the Los Angeles Times reports, beckon higher electricity prices.

Moreover, on the delusional count, Steyer clearly fails to realize that American society does not begin and end with smiling hipsters. Educated at the exclusive Phillips Exeter Academy boarding school and Yale, Steyer has a privileged conception of American society. And while he might have used this foundation of academic curiosity to expand his intellectual frontiers in the public interest, Steyer has done the opposite. Having never known the pressures born of bills to pay and finite resources to spend, it is easy — perhaps reflexive — for Steyer to pursue policies without regard to those Americans with whom he has no relative experience: the unnamed citizens in unnamed towns between the coasts.

In reality, green energy economics require the government subsidy of inefficiency to conceal inefficiency from energy bills. Instead, government pays for the deception with taxpayer money.

This is a tragedy. For American society is a constellation of over 321 million people: some of us rich, some of us poor, and most of us somewhere in the middle. And when it comes to the poor and those in the middle, Mr. Steyer’s war on private sector energy will pummel those who can least afford it: the skilled laborers, the unemployed and the families struggling to make ends meet. This speaks to a broader truth: government diktats come easy for Steyer, Obama and company, for whom arrogance and wealth offer insulation against the reality of their own policies.

But watch the NextGen video again. Specifically, consider its call on Americans to “stand up for the next generation.” The consequence of that line matters greatly. As a millennial, I’m convinced that if Steyer continues to get his way, our generation will face a hard future.

There is a better choice. The American energy revolution offers extraordinary foreign and domestic benefits for all Americans: rich, poor, or in the middle. But unless challenged for its flaws, the Steyer-Obama ponzi scheme will continue gathering strength.