This piece originally appeared in American Affairs.
In recent years, pandemic-related supply chain failures, oil shocks, and China’s growing dominance over critical materials has forced policymakers to reckon with the limits of free market orthodoxy. In 2018, President Trump bucked the Republican party line on trade by imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum. The Biden administration has made “Build Back Better” the centerpiece of its economic agenda, pouring massive investments into American industry with the chips and Inflation Reduction Acts.
As the focus on domestic industry has grown, so too has awareness of America’s prohibitive regulatory environment—and in particular its environmental laws. As Robinson Meyer writes in Heatmap, “For the first time in decades, both parties want something to change about the country’s permitting process.” Democrats, on the one hand, have realized that environmental review stands in the way of their climate agenda, creating years of regulatory drag for new energy infrastructure. Republicans, meanwhile, have long regarded America’s environmental laws as duplicative, easily politicized, and unreasonably stringent. With growing bipartisan interest in regulatory reform, this last year has seen a number of permitting bills introduced by both parties, from House Republicans’ Lower Energy Costs Act to Democratic senator Tom Carper’s PEER Act.