- - Monday, February 27, 2023

President Joe Biden has declared war on the American fossil fuel industry, and by extension, the people of West Virginia who rely on the industry for good-paying jobs to support their families.

When the Obama-Biden war on fossil fuels was first launched in 2009, coal mining gainfully employed nearly 28,000 West Virginians. Today, that number has shrunk to under 14,000—a 50% decrease. Recently, President Biden declared “We’re going to be shutting these plants down all across America,” referring to coal-fired plants.

An American president so brazenly bragging about putting Americans out of work is disgraceful. President Biden‘s war on fossil fuels is directly harming America’s economy. And don’t forget, while President Biden tries to shut down domestic energy production, he begs Middle Eastern countries to increase their oil production to combat the energy inflation crisis of his own making. High gas prices affect all Americans, but they disproportionately hurt rural communities that have no choice but to drive.

Almost every action taken by President Biden and his administration has a result of worsening American energy independence. Last year, the President and Congressional Democrats muscled through the so-called Inflation Reduction Act, which amounted to taxpayer subsidies for electric vehicles and imposed crippling taxes on coal production. Despite its name, the legislation did nothing to reduce runaway inflation that is hitting Americans hard at the grocery store and the gas pump.

It is a shame to see West Virginia’s own Senator Joe Manchin support a plan so devastating to the people he is supposed to represent. He is aligning himself with the most radical socialist members of the Democrat Party and West Virginians are suffering the consequences.

Fortunately, President Biden and his allies have been unsuccessful in passing many of their more radical climate priorities in Congress through the democratic process. Instead, the President has turned to financial regulators to abuse their authority and bypass Congress to implement these policies. This includes nominating radicals such as Sarah Bloom Raskin to the Federal Reserve and Saule Omarova to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency who both openly called for choking off capital to fossil fuel companies. However, the most damaging regulatory agency has been the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) chaired by Gary Gensler.

SPECIAL COVERAGE: ESG Investments: Prudent or Perilously Political?

When people think of the SEC, they generally don’t associate it with climate change. The SEC’s mission is to protect investors, facilitate capital formation, and foster fair, orderly and efficient markets. To achieve these objectives, the SEC has the power to compel the disclosure of information that is material to investors.

However, some activist investors have tried to distort the SEC’s investor-oriented disclosure rules to force companies to make behavior changes, regardless of whether they are in the interest of investors. For example, they have called on the SEC to address many societal issues that are far outside the SEC’s jurisdiction and expertise, such as climate change.

As a result, the SEC has entered uncharted territory as it proposed sweeping new rules that would require publicly traded companies, and perhaps even private companies, to disclose climate-related data without the requisite congressional authority. These rules would have a significant impact not only on how companies operate but how energy companies are valued and their access to capital. Make no mistake, the SEC has put forward a plan to name and shame fossil fuel companies—just as the radicals demanded. The U.S. capital markets, and all West Virginians, stand to lose.

As a member of the House Committee on Financial Services, I can assure you that the SEC is completely ill-equipped to carry out President Biden‘s implausible green energy aspirations. At a time when the number of American companies going public is on the decline and the risk of a recession is on the rise, the SEC must stay within its jurisdiction and expertise. That means focusing on the needs of real investors rather than activists. Setting climate policy is the job of lawmakers, not financial regulators. America’s ability to lead on the global stage depends on our economic strength, not advancing an extreme agenda through regulatory fiat.

• Alex Mooney is a United States Representative from West Virginia’s Second Congressional District. He serves on the House Financial Services Committee, which oversees some of the most important economic issues facing West Virginians such as banking, insurance, housing and investment policies. Prior to the U.S. House, he served as a state senator.

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