Barack Obama wants to shrink the federal government’s “carbon footprint.” This is a wonderful idea that all limited government conservatives, constitutionalists, and above all, libertarians, should wholeheartedly support. Too bad Obama’s plan will hardly make a dent in the volume or the severity of the federal government’s noxious emissions.
The federal government is the nation’s largest consumer of energy. It owns or leases space in thousands of office buildings not only in Washington, D.C., but in every state of the union and many foreign countries. That is a lot of bulbs to light, computers to power, and cubic feet of air to heat and cool. The government doesn’t actually know exactly how many buildings it owns. It even estimates that it may own as many as 77,000 empty or underutilized buildings across the country. The buildings are expensive to maintain, even when vacant, and cost taxpayers about $1.7 billion a year. Then there are the more than 250,000 government vehicles in operation. And that figure doesn’t even include postal service trucks or military vehicles of all sizes.
To put his plan in operation, Obama issued Executive Order 13693, “Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade.” It revokes Executive Order 13514, “Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance,” which was signed by the president in 2009, and Executive Order 13423, “Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management,” which was signed by George W. Bush in 2007. Obama has issued 205 executive orders.
“Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade” is a long and complex executive order that basically directs federal agencies to get more of their power from clean or renewable energy sources. According to an analysis by the Washington Post,
This will include reducing energy use in federal buildings by 2.5 percent per year between 2015 and 2025, instructing agencies to obtain 25 percent of their energy from carbon-free sources by 2025; and increasing the carbon-per-mile efficiency of federal fleets 30 percent from 2014 levels over the next decade while increasing the percentage of zero emission and plug-in hybrid vehicles in federal fleets.
The executive order also addresses water use. It aims to reduce “agency potable water consumption” by 36 percent “by fiscal year 2025 through reductions of 2 percent annually through fiscal year 2025 relative to a baseline of the agency’s water consumption in fiscal year 2007.”
After signing the executive order, the president visited rooftop solar panels at the Department of Energy and announced, “We’re going to cut the federal government’s greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent from 2008 levels within the next ten years.” A White House advisor estimated that the new measures will save $18 billion.
Libertarians have a better idea on how to shrink the federal government’s carbon footprint, an idea that will save American taxpayers even more money and have far greater and more permanent results.
Instead of instructing the various departments, agencies, corporations, boards, programs, administrations, foundations, bureaus, authorities, and commissions of the federal government to reduce energy use, get their energy from “clean” sources, use more electric vehicles, or reduce water consumption, every one of them not authorized by the Constitution should simply be closed down.
The money saved by American taxpayers will actually be far greater than it appears because a number of interrelated actions could be undertaken at the same time. All affected federal employees should be laid off. All federal leases on office space no longer needed should not be renewed. All federal buildings no longer needed should be sold. All federal contracts to clean, supply, and maintain affected buildings should be canceled. All federal vehicles no longer needed should be sold.
Just consider the following things that could be done to shrink the federal government’s “carbon footprint”:
The war on drugs costs taxpayers more than $40 billion a year. But not only has it failed to reduce drug use, it has destroyed financial privacy, eroded civil liberties, swelled prison populations, and ruined more lives than drugs themselves. Because the Constitution nowhere grants to the federal government the authority to have anything to do with regulating, restricting, or controlling any drug, the drug war should be ended and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) closed down.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, known as the ATF, has almost 5,000 employees engaged in regulating, restricting, or banning alcohol, tobacco, firearms, and explosives — without any constitutional authority. The bureau should therefore be shuttered.
The U.S. space program funnels billions of taxpayer dollars to privileged scientists, researchers, and contractors. But since space exploration is not authorized by the Constitution as a function of government any more than land exploration is, flights to the International Space Station should be suspended, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) should be shut down, and all space exploration should be done by private companies with their own funds.
Since it is neither constitutional nor the business of government to provide anyone with electric power, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), and all other relics of the New Deal, should be shut down and all of its assets sold to private concerns.
Unemployment benefits take money from those who work and give it to those who don’t. It is also not authorized by the Constitution. All unemployment benefits should therefore be ended and the Department of Labor should be eliminated.
Although the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Head Start, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), job training programs, Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and Section 8 rent subsidies all have different names and perform different functions, they all have one thing in common: they are all welfare programs not authorized by the Constitution. They are also income-transfer programs and social-engineering schemes that shift responsibility from the individual to society, crowd out genuine charity, and contribute to class warfare.
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Endowment for the Arts, and National Endowment for the Humanities are upper-class welfare programs. They should all be shut down and their activities privately funded.
Although not generally thought of as such, Social Security is an intergenerational wealth-redistribution scheme. It is welfare for the aged just as food stamps are welfare for the poor. The taking of money from someone in order to give it to someone else, whether the government takes it or a thief takes it, is immoral. And since Social Security is also unconstitutional, it should be ended and the doors to the Social Security Administration headquarters and all of its field offices should be padlocked until they can be sold.
The federal government provides some form of foreign aid to more than 150 countries. Foreign aid loots about $40 billion a year from American taxpayers and gives it to corrupt foreign regimes. But not only is foreign aid not authorized by the Constitution, it doesn’t make any sense to fight disease, feed the hungry, build infrastructure, drill wells, increase literacy, eradicate poverty, undertake job training, or provide humanitarian aid in other countries when sickness, poverty, unemployment, and crumbling infrastructure abound in the United States. If it is not a proper function of the U.S. government to dispense welfare to its own citizens, then it is certainly inappropriate to bestow welfare on foreigners. Spending on foreign aid should be ended and all personnel in the State Department involved in dishing it out should be laid off — not reassigned.
Since the Constitution nowhere authorizes the federal government to have anything to do with agriculture, beef, pork, poultry, eggs, or milk, all farm subsidies should be ended and the Department of Agriculture dissolved.
Perhaps the biggest bloated bureaucracy in the federal government is found in the Department of Education. But since every state has its own education department, and there is no constitutional authority for the federal government to spend a dime of taxpayer money on Pell Grants, student loans, school lunches, research grants to colleges, or the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, all federal spending on education should be ended and the Department of Education should be abolished.
The federal government heavily regulates and subsidizes health care in the United States. Yet the Constitution authorizes not a dime to be spent to do either. That means that there should be no Medicare, Medicaid, or State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), and no Department of Health and Human Services to administer them.
The federal government is also heavily involved in the housing sector. But since it too is not authorized by the Constitution, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae), Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac), and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) should be closed down and all their employees sent on permanent, unpaid vacations.
Since the United States already has a Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security is redundant and should be closed down. That would include the most contemptible agency under its umbrella, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The airlines, like any other business, should be in charge of their own security.
The alphabet soup of federal agencies such as the EPA, SBA, FTC, FCC, SEC, FDA, Amtrak, OSHA, and hundreds of others that no one has ever heard of, such as the African Development Foundation, Joint Fire Science Program, and the Research and Innovative Technology Administration, are alike not authorized by the Constitution and should be closed down, their assets sold, and their employees laid off.
Even the Department of Energy, where Obama toured a rooftop array of solar panels after signing his executive order, is completely unauthorized by the Constitution. It too should be closed down.
Shrinking the federal government’s “carbon footprint” is not complicated. The Constitution delegates specific powers to the federal government. Every other legitimate purpose of government is the left up to the states. It is that simple.