A federal judge has put the brakes on a Biden White House executive order that reinstated an Obama-era metric to measure the “social cost of carbon” as part of Biden’s broader policy to micromanage the American economy in the name of combating climate change

On Feb. 11, District Judge James D. Cain, Jr., a Trump appointee from the Western District of Louisiana, issued a temporary injunction against the “social cost of greenhouse gases.” In his ruling, Judge Cain blocked agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Interior from relying on the findings of a White House “Interagency Working Group on the Social Costs of Greenhouse Gases.”

Cain’s ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed by the attorneys general from 10 energy-producing states, which he said “have sufficiently identified the harms to support injunctive relief,” citing their arguments that the Biden administration had violated the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) and imposed costs on state governments involved in cooperative federal programs.

Harming States’ Ability to Purchase Affordable Energy

“As previously noted, the SC-GHG (Social Costs Greenhouse Gases) estimates will harm plaintiff states’ ability to purchase affordable energy to carry out their sovereign functions as the directive to use the SC-GHG estimates will significantly drive up costs while simultaneously significantly decrease states’ revenues,” he wrote.

“The court has the authority to enjoin federal agencies from implementing a rule – mandated by an executive order or not – that violates the APA or violates the separation of powers clause,” Clark added. “Importantly, the court is not opining as to the scientific issues regarding greenhouse gas emissions, their effects on the environment, or whether they contribute to global warming.”

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry applauded the judge’s ruling, saying it was a blow to “the left’s radical, self-defeating agenda.”

“Biden’s attempt to control the activities of the American people and the activities of every business from Main Street has been halted today,” he said in a statement. “Biden’s executive order was an attempt by the federal government to take over and tax the people based on winners and losers chosen by the government.”

As the Wall Street Journal noted, the Biden administration’s “opaque model includes agricultural productivity, human activity, property damage from natural disasters, disruptions to energy systems, risk of conflict over resources, environmental migration, and the value of ecosystem services.”

Opaque describes the entire game being played with the social cost of carbon. Shortly after taking office, the Biden White House decided to assign a value of $51 a metric ton to greenhouse gas emissions, a figure it adopted from the Obama administration. The latter pulled the figure out of thin air; it could just as easily have chosen another value. The purpose of the exercise was to come up with some figure, however arbitrary, that could justify regulations. Under Trump, the value was set at $10 per metric ton before Biden restored it to the Obama level.

Don’t look for the setback in court to discourage the administration from clamping down on economic activities its political appointees from the green movement deem harmful to the planet. The White House is expected to roll out a new estimate shortly based on “updated modeling.” Models can be easily manipulated to deliver the desired results, and the new ones will be no exception. And if the new round of hocus-pocus is as blatant as the last one, lawsuits, perhaps from the same state, will follow.

The Social Cost of Decarbonization

A far more intriguing, and useful, exercise would be determining the social cost of non-carbon. Decarbonization of energy, sometimes labeled “Net-Zero Emissions,” has become the battle cry for virtue-signaling politicians, eager to demonstrate their concern for the climate. The idea has taken hold in Europe, with disastrous results. Britain, Germany, Spain, Italy, and other EU countries have boosted their reliance on wind and solar power and seen energy prices skyrocket. Germany, which decided to phase out coal and nuclear power, now finds itself desperately needing natural gas to fuel its economy and heat its homes. That has made Germany increasingly dependent on Vladimir Putin’s Russia for natural gas it cannot do without and explains why Berlin still wants the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, regardless of what happens in Ukraine.

Unmoved by reality, the Biden administration forges ahead with energy policies that benefit Russia and China and penalize ordinary Americans who are the ones who will pick up the tab for Biden’s social cost of carbon folly.


  • Bonner Cohen, Ph. D.

    Bonner R. Cohen, Ph. D., is a senior policy analyst with CFACT, where he focuses on natural resources, energy, property rights, and geopolitical developments. Articles by Dr. Cohen have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Investor’s Busines Daily, The New York Post, The Washington Examiner, The Washington Times, The Hill, The Epoch Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Miami Herald, and dozens of other newspapers around the country. He has been interviewed on Fox News, Fox Business Network, CNN, NBC News, NPR, BBC, BBC Worldwide Television, N24 (German-language news network), and scores of radio stations in the U.S. and Canada. He has testified before the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, and the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee. Dr. Cohen has addressed conferences in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and Bangladesh. He has a B.A. from the University of Georgia and a Ph. D. – summa cum laude – from the University of Munich.