WASHINGTON – President Obama is trying to transform the US energy industry via federal regulations. He just announced a new plan aimed at promoting renewable energy production while penalizing “dirty” carbon fuels: coal, of course, but also much cleaner and cheaper natural gas.
If implemented, this new policy means that at least for many years we shall have higher electricity prices, simply because more costly solar and wind energy still need subsidies in order to stay afloat. Without government-imposed mandates, they would not be adopted. “Dirty” natural gas instead is abundant and cheap. (Thanks to shale gas and fracking technologies that allow us to extract it, the US is now the largest natural gas producer in the world).
What is most extraordinary in all this is that, according to the same Obama administration keen on re-engineering the entire US power generation industry, there will be practically no change in global temperatures as a result of this major domestic energy revolution. Well, if this is so, what is the point?
Sadly, there is no point. This is all about taking actions that please the pious members of the “Church of the Environment”. While they claim that all their policy positions are based on “definitive science”, the Faithful think and behave just like other religious zealots. Their point is that anything that contributes to global warming is bad (in fact evil) and therefore it must be stopped. Cost-benefit analysis does not apply here. What they believe is the Truth and therefore it is rational. Period.
As most of them vote for the Democrats, Obama believes that his anti-carbon policies are an appropriate homage to his base.
Let’s protect our environment
Let me state the obvious. Every sane citizen should be in favor of environmental protection. We should all be in favor of preserving the fragile ecosystems that support all life on Earth. We should also regulate, or forbid all human activities that have or may have an adverse public health impact.
We all want clean soil, clean water, and clean air. And if this means curtailing or outright forbidding economic activities that do have harmful public health effects, so be it.
We do not want another China
Again, this is common sense. The alternative is what we had until the 1960s, before environmental issues awareness spurred land mark US legislation, (Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, the creation of the US Environmental Protection Agency, and so on), aimed at protecting the environment.
It is also clear that, If we stop protecting the environment, then we get something like China, a country that for 30 years promoted large-scale manufacturing without any concern whatsoever for the extraordinary pollution caused by unregulated industrial activities. And the result of this is an environmental disaster.
This is a religion
That said, it is now clear that environmental protection has morphed into an anti-industrial religion. One of the key elements of its dogma is humanity’s moral duty to stop “man-made global warming”, most of it caused by burning fossil fuels.
As all dogmas, this absolute environmental belief assumes that man-made global warming is a settled issue, and that it is also settled that we must reverse it or at least stop it by outlawing or regulating all activities that will lead to an increase of greenhouse emissions, CO2 first and foremost.
Carbon is bad
As I said above, it should be possible to forge a consensus about regulating harmful emissions. If an old coal-fired power plant fouls the air around it, causing respiratory diseases or worse, let’s close it down.
However, it would be wise not to stretch our definition of harmful effects beyond the obvious. But this is precisely the problem we have with the environmentalists. Their dogma assumes that burning fossil will raise Earth surface temperatures so much that we shall end up cooking the planet, with anything and anybody in it. Hence the necessity, indeed the moral duty, to stop the use the use of all fossil fuels.
That said, the believers themselves agree that even drastic and costly action aimed at reformulating America’s energy mix will have almost no impact on global temperatures.
Set a good example?
If so, then what is the point? Their point, I assume, is that America, as the leading per capita energy consumer, should set a good example. If other countries see that America is serious about “doing something” to stop global warming, then they may follow our example by cutting down their own fossil fuels consumption and emissions, this way allowing mankind to win this gigantic fight against global warming and climate change.
Irrational and crazy
So, here is the thing. For the believers, It appears to be totally rational to embark in a policy that will have high immediate and medium term costs in terms of higher energy prices, even though we have no reassurance that it will produce any impact on the issue they want to address.
This is irrational and wasteful. In fact, it is crazy.