Joe Biden’s Internet-Zero Agenda Spells Hassle Down on the Farm and on the Grocery store – Watts Up With That?

By Bonner Russell Cohen

Feeling the heat from farmers dumping manure in front of government buildings across the Continent, European Commission President Ursela von der Leyen is pumping the brakes on a pillar of the European Union’s Net-Zero climate policy and withdrawing an EU-wide bill that would force farmers to reduce the use of chemical pesticides by 50% by 2030.

With elections to the European Parliament in Brussels set for later this year, backing away from one of Net-Zero’s most radical measures is an act of political realism. Europe is being rocked by soaring energy and food prices, much of it brought on by the political class’s obsession with lowering greenhouse gas emissions from all sources, including agriculture. With peasants running amok, the “climate crisis” will just have to wait.

Blissfully oblivious to what’s happening across the pond, the Biden administration is doubling down on its own version of Net-Zero emissions, and the American public may be in for some nasty surprises. And a new report by the Columbus, Ohio-based Buckeye Institute shows just how nasty those surprises will be. The report, “Net-Zero Climate-Control Policies Will Fail the Farm,” was authored by Trevor W. Lewis and M. Ankith Reddy. 

The problems start with provisions in the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act and Biden administration regulations favoring EVs over traditionally-powered vehicles in the agricultural sector, the report says.

Forced Transition to EVs

“First, EVs are significantly less reliable and more expensive to purchase, repair, power, and maintain than combustion engine vehicles, making them impractical and ill-suited to working farms. Farm equipment must be durable and capable of operating in all weather conditions,” the Buckeye report points out. “Tractors and farm equipment must operate in offroad environments on poorly paved roads under constant risk of collisions that can permanently damage an electric vehicle’s sensitive parts, rendering it useless.”

“EV batteries drain faster in extreme cold and heat, and EVs lose range in the rain due to lower resistance between the car and the road and power diversion to the windshield wipers and headlights…Replacing an electric vehicle battery typically costs from $5,000 – $15,000, and general EV repairs require more labor and cost 25% more than standard vehicles,” the report adds.

“These reliability and financial concerns make EVs unattractive as farm equipment and make running a successful farm more expensive, but Biden administration rules will all but force farmers to buy or subsidize them anyway,” Lewis and Reddy note.

Reliance on Intermittent Energy

“Second, a nationwide transition to electric energy depends entirely on intermittent, unreliable zero-emission sources of electric power, namely wind and solar. Wind and solar do not produce power consistently throughout the day, and the variation in renewable power makes it harder for operators to schedule power demand, which makes energy prices volatile and ultimately more expensive,” the report says. 

Easing the strains intermittent power puts on an already shaky electric grid requires bringing more natural gas power plants online, lest the country face more blackouts and brownouts. But in July 2023, the report notes, the White House Council on Environmental Quality increased the bureaucratic red tape on the approval of new natural gas projects.

“The Biden administration’s efforts to force farmers to adopt electric equipment ill-suited to farming and to replace natural gas generators with unreliable renewable energy sources is a recipe for unsustainable farming. Unfortunately, Washington’s central planners seem oblivious to that stubborn fact and remain committed to making Europe’s mistakes,” Buckeye points out.

Tracking Emissions from Farm to Table

American farmers also find themselves in the bull’s eye of ESG (environmental social, and governance) reporting requirements proposed by the Biden White House.  In March 2022, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) proposed a mandatory ESG disclosure rule that would apply to every publicly traded company. “The rule would mandate costly ESG emissions reporting for a firm’s entire supply chain, requiring large publicly traded food processing companies, grocery stores, and restaurant groups to track and report emissions from farm to table,” the report explains.  “Large companies looking to reduce their overall emissions would stop purchasing food from farms with high emission rates, once again applying financial costs and pressures to the American farmer.”

“With its heavy use of artificial fertilizers and fossil fuels, livestock methane emissions, weed and bug sprays, and genetically modified crops, agriculture has been targeted by ESG fiduciaries,” Lewis and Reddy note. And now farmer Brown is being targeted by the Biden SEC.

The EU calls one of its Net-Zero agriculture programs “Farm to Fork.” But Europe’s farmers are in open revolt, and the powers that be in Brussels have taken notice.  And the SEC’s power grab may also be in for some rough sledding.  The Biden plan faces a stiff court challenge, with plaintiffs arguing that the SEC – under the “major questions doctrine” adopted by the current Supreme Court – lacks congressional authority to regulate an industry’s, including agriculture, entire supply chain.   

Bonner Russell Cohen, Ph. D., is a senior policy analyst with CFACT.

This article was originally published by RealClearEnergy and made available via RealClearWire.

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