Meet the Biden Climate Official Who Wants To Force You To Live a ‘Simpler Life’

'We need to be saved from ourselves,' Ann Carlson said before joining Biden admin

An electric charging parking spot / Getty Images
August 2, 2023

The climate official who spearheaded a Biden administration rule boosting electric vehicles at the expense of gas-powered cars wants you to live a "simpler life" to combat climate change, behavior she acknowledges "most people" will not engage in "unless forced."

President Joe Biden's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Friday unveiled new fuel efficiency standards, which acting administrator Ann Carlson said will "reduce harmful emissions." Carlson has long stressed the need to force Americans to live climate-friendly lives. As an environmental academic at UCLA, for example, Carlson published a 2007 piece titled, "Only by Requiring Lifestyle Changes," which argued that people would not reduce their energy consumption "voluntarily." As a result, Carlson wrote, the U.S. government must "induce behavioral change" by implementing policies that "make the bad behavior more expensive."

In a similar 2009 blog post titled, "Save Us From Ourselves," Carlson called on Americans to "use less electricity, take more public transportation, consume less, live more simply and so on" to fight climate change. Carlson argued that most people "could benefit from a simpler life" but will not "engage in dramatic behavioral change unless forced," highlighting the need for government intervention. "Governments and markets need to take steps to make us pay for the full costs of the behaviors in which we engage … they need to limit our infrastructure choices to energy efficient ones," the Biden administration official wrote. "In other words, we need to be saved from ourselves."

Biden's decision to tap Carlson to lead its highway administration reflects the administration's alignment with the environmental left's most militant actors. While Carlson's agency is traditionally concerned with traffic safety, Carlson privately told her UCLA colleagues that she would use her post to push climate policies. "I view my appointment (and a number of others) as evidence that the Biden administration is truly committed to a 'whole of government' approach to addressing climate change," Carlson wrote.

Carlson subsequently faced criticism from Republican lawmakers, who derided her as "an environmentalist without traffic safety experience." That criticism forced the White House in May to withdraw Carlson's nomination to lead the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, though Carlson still heads the agency as acting administrator, a role she started in September 2022.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration did not answer questions on Carlson's past writings and said the agency's fuel efficiency standards will "save American taxpayers thousands of dollars on gas."

Beyond her writings calling on the U.S. government to force Americans to lower their energy consumption, Carlson in 2014 said it's a "huge problem" to rely on air conditioning during heat waves, given that cranking up the A.C. pumps "more greenhouse gasses … into the atmosphere." In 2011, meanwhile, Carlson bizarrely linked a rise in temperature to more hit batters in Major League Baseball, arguing that climate change could therefore wreak "chaos" on the league.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's proposed fuel efficiency standards aim to compel automakers to ensure two-thirds of the vehicles they sell are electric by 2032. The agency is not the only federal entity working to achieve that goal—Biden's Environmental Protection Agency in April unveiled proposed limits on tailpipe emissions that are also aimed at forcing automakers to sell more electric cars.

The United Auto Workers, a historically liberal labor union that endorsed Biden in 2020, has trashed those proposals, arguing that they will kill jobs and prompt price hikes. The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, a trade group that represents the world's top automakers, agrees.

"As proposed, the NPRM standards … are neither reasonable nor achievable in the timeframe covered in this proposal," the alliance said in comments it sent to the Biden administration in June. "Auto Innovators does not believe they can be met without substantially increasing the cost of vehicles, reducing consumer choice, and disadvantaging major portions of the United States population and territory."

Biden's electric vehicle push has not convinced Americans to purchase the vehicles. Less than one-fifth of Americans say they're very likely to make their next vehicle an electric one, an Associated Press poll published in April found.