It goes without saying that the global economy depends on the availability of affordable energy. Many place their hopes for abundant energy supplies in yet-to-be-imagined technologies.
But while researchers tinker with far-off possibilities, there’s something we should do right now to keep the energy flowing: break the radical environmentalists’ chokehold on national energy policy.
Regardless of form — whether oil, gas, coal or nuclear — the Green movement is blocking efforts to harness our accustomed energy sources while leading us down the primrose path of so-called “renewable energy.”
First, we’re not running out of oil.
“Notwithstanding the recent paucity of discoveries of new major oil fields, innovation has proved adequate to meet ever-rising demands for oil,“ wrote Alan Greenspan last October in "Middle East Economic Survey."
“Gross additions to reserves have significantly exceeded the extraction of oil the reserves replaced,” added Greenspan. These new reserves don’t include unconventional oil sources, including the vast Canadian tar sands and Venezuelan heavy oil.
Nevertheless environmentalists are hindering efforts to obtain that oil — witness, for example, their fight against drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Environmentalists currently are whipping up Floridians against the offshore drilling provisions in the current energy bill in Congress, forcing Republican Sen. Mel Martinez to defy Senate leadership and kowtow to the activists.
“Any weakening of protections currently in place off Florida's coasts is unacceptable,” says Martinez, echoing the anti-drilling position of environmental groups.
Green opposition to increased oil production is international in scope. Acting through such diverse groups as Amnesty International and Christian Brothers Investment Services, activists are harassing oil company BP about its $3.2 billion Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean Sea.
The recent increase in gasoline prices is only partially due to higher demand from developing countries like China and India. Price spikes have also been fueled by the failure of U.S. refining capability to keep pace with demand. No new gasoline refinery has opened since 1976 — thanks to unnecessarily strict government regulations and community opposition, both of which have been tirelessly orchestrated by the environmental movement.
There’s also plenty of natural gas to be had — if the Greens would let us have it.
As spotlighted recently by the Wall Street Journal editorial page, environmentalists “have successfully pushed moratoriums for most new offshore drilling of the fuel, have fought to keep the most gas-rich federal lands off-limits to exploration, and have used lawsuits to tie up those pieces that are accessible.”
The Greens are also obstructing the importation of liquefied natural gas by blocking the construction of new port facilities based on fears that they would be terrorist targets.
Coal is a cheap and abundant source of energy, but environmentalists are making its use more difficult with hysterical claims that coal burning releases “poisons” like mercury into the air. Environmentalists also oppose so-called “clean coal” technology on the grounds that, although less nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide are emitted, mercury emissions remain.
The reality of the matter is that the vast majority of mercury in the environment comes from natural sources; mercury emitted from coal burning power plants is not linked with detectable harm to human health or the environment.
As to nuclear power, environmentalist fear-mongering has ensured there’s been no new nuclear power plant construction since the 1970s. They’re trying to shut down nuke plants in operation by blocking the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage facility in the Nevada desert, forcing nuclear plants to temporarily store waste in limited, politically unpopular on-site facilities.
General Electric, producer of nuclear power technology, is hoping fears about global warming and energy supplies will interest the public and environmentalists in nuclear energy. No doubt GE hoped it was getting a Green ally in jointly announcing its recent “Ecomagination” initiative with the eco-activist World Resources Institute (WRI). Such hope is pretty naïve, however.
WRI has worked more closely and a lot longer with the likes of anti-nuke groups like Environmental Defense and Greenpeace, which, by the way, is currently trying to block the construction of a new nuclear power plant in Southern Maryland.
The energy crisis has arisen not because there’s a lack of sufficiently clean and affordable energy supplies — our problem is that we’ve allowed the Greens to have too much power.
Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and CSRwatch.com, is adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and is the author of Junk Science Judo: Self-defense Against Health Scares and Scams (Cato Institute, 2001).