Finding Energy Policies That Work

I’m glad to see that my recent post got the attention of my fellow writers and has shaken things up a bit on this site, as the reason the ‘greens’ and environmentalists of our generation lack any credibility is that they have unrealistic expectations, propose unrealistic policies, and refuse to deviate at all from their traditional dogma. 

First of all, to respond to Hyman’s recent post: Something that he and all those in the so called environmental protection movement should do is to take a careful look and make the distinction between preventing pollution and preventing carbon emissions. Though it may seem that these are one in the same, and can be in some cases, there are important differences. Preventing pollution is something everyone can sign onto; even developing nations are in favor of this as pollution and its effects are a prime concern of their peoples. But, carbon emissions are another story. I am not going to delve into the whole global warming debate (that’s for a future posting) but to say the least, it’s far from a settled matter for many people and especially for developing nations. In essence, environmentalists are shooting themselves in the foot by muddling the easy-win pollution argument with efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

Hyman then goes on to discuss green jobs, something that is touted by many politicians these days, and then endorses the stimulus money put forth for green projects. But where are these green jobs? You may recall a scandal several months back when some Senators attempted to stop this green subsidy program (these were even Democratic Senators), as most of the money and jobs were going to foreign companies, primarily Chinese wind turbine manufacturers. So if the aim was to create green jobs in China, then mission accomplished. If the cap and trade ‘wealth redistribution system’ that Hyman champions is created, then it will surely be successful in transferring wealth to other nations.

Now onto Christine Harbin’s post: It’s good to see she has taken a healthy dose of realism, but she still does not understand how harmful well-intentioned subsides can be. I am not saying that it is only renewable energy sources that are uneconomical without government assistance. If you follow the debate over new nuclear power plants, you will see that the only ones being built are with federal loan guarantees. The perfect case and point that demonstrates the potential damage of overzealous government good intention is ethanol. Several years ago this was going to be the miracle fuel that cut our dependence on foreign oil, decreased carbon emissions, and created thousands of American jobs. In reality, it drove up food prices (leading to riots in the Third World), increased carbon emissions (people forgot to factor in the total supply chain footprint in the production of the fuel, not just the burning of it), and cost jobs by increasing energy prices for many industries.

So, the real debate should not be over naiveté, realism, or pessimism but stripping all of the ideology, personal agendas, and philosophies out of the energy debate and finding good and pragmatic polices that will actually work.

Photo Credit: Storm Crypt

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Jonathan Gillman

Gillman has been working in the traditional energy sector in Washington D.C. for the past several years after completing his degree in Political Science from the Johns Hopkins University, where he also completed his Masters degree recently in Government/Security Studies.

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