Jobs and Regulation
Green Ideology & Working People
By Charles Johnson
July 7th, 2012
Four years into a dangerously long recession, we must re-evaluate the green ideology’s stranglehold on environmental policy.
The command-and-control approach to protecting nature—regulation under the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act—has done some good in the last four decades. We have a healthier environment because of it. But unfortunately this approach, like government entitlements, seems to have no stopping point.
Paying the price most painfully are the American working class, who lose relatively high-paying jobs in the “dirty” manufacturing and energy sectors—and many of our rural communities, which depend on work in the environment, not just appreciation of it. Green zealotry’s essential subtext is massive intrusion into our lives plus economic austerity. Not surprisingly, therefore, it has become a callous, reactionary force in practice as well as theory.
Unchecked environmentalism’s impacts have ranged from wrecking farm production and related economic activity to endangering rather than preserving some of our forests. The massive federal water diversions for salmon and a fish called Delta smelt were brutal blows to California’s rural economy in 2008-2010. With 400,000 acres of otherwise-excellent farmland made idle by government water policy, unemployment in some towns ran as high as 40 percent. Greens have blocked aggressive action against the Western pine beetle, a pest that kills trees, leading to much worse forest fires in affected areas.
Environmentalists’ political and legal pressures have also kept any additional nuclear power plants from being built for a whole generation. They have prevented simple home and retail construction in areas with an endangered minor species. In rural America, they have forced ordinary residents and business operations to walk on eggshells to avoid accidentally harming rats or insects or plants that may exist on their property. The Endangered Species Act, all too often, really does prioritize bugs over people.
During the Obama administration, overregulation has worsened. New fuel-economy and auto emissions standards alone may cost $10.8 billion. But the most important regulatory issue of all may be how much of our domestic natural resources we can access. A new, heavily footnoted report by the Institute for Energy Research, “Hard Facts: An Energy Primer,” makes a case too few Americans hear.
Affordable energy, as the Institute points out, goes far beyond good macroeconomic numbers. By saving consumers money both directly and indirectly (through lower prices across the spectrum of goods), it means not just “less time merely working to survive,” but also—through cheaper transportation—“greater freedom to live, work, and play how and where we want.” And in terms of jobs, lower energy prices would keep more of them in the United States—by lowering our industries’ production costs for goods and services.
Lower energy prices, more good jobs, and greater economic security resulting from less dependence on the Middle East: all of these dreams are attainable, due to the huge natural gas supplies and oil deposits that lie beneath the American heartland, in Alaska and offshore. They are more accessible than ever, thanks to directional-drilling and hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) technology. In view of this country’s formidable problems both economic and social, the potential for more domestic energy production may be the brightest major trend we have seen in the past decade.
Natural gas, a clean fuel, now produces close to 25 percent of our electricity. The U.S. is the world’s largest natural gas producer, with 23 trillion cubic feet generated in 2011. And we have, according to the Institute for Energy Research, more than 2,700 trillion cubic feet of natural gas—more than 100 times as much as last year’s production—obtainable through current technology. At current usage rates and at natural gas’s current share of total energy generation, then, this mostly untapped resource is good for more than a century.
Federal policy keeps most of the gas inaccessible. Only 3 percent of government-owned land is currently leased for energy exploration and development. In addition, highly dubious claims that fracking contaminates groundwater, promoted and agitated by greens, now threaten the recent increases in natural gas production.
America also turns out to be rich in oil that’s trapped underground in shale rock. With the new technology, the recoverable oil in one massive formation alone, in North Dakota and Montana, is 25 times greater than the U.S. Geological Survey estimated in the 1990s.
It’s a good thing this vast supply isn’t in green-dominated California—although the state does have substantial underground, not just offshore, resources. In a detailed and chilling analysis of how overregulation has stifled its sick economy, public-planning expert Joel Kotkin quotes a former president of Shell Oil’s U.S. operations, who met not long ago with the environmentalist governor Jerry Brown. “I asked … why California cannot come to grips with its huge hydrocarbon reserves,” John Hofmeister recalls. “After all, this could turn around the state. He said this is not logic, it’s California. This is simply not going to happen here.”
On the other side of the country, the Obama administration has excluded the resource-rich waters off Virginia from its five-year offshore oil and gas drilling plans—despite support for such drilling from the state’s two Democratic senators. Because of environmental law and bureaucratic process, that means no drilling there until at least 2017.
It is easy for highly-educated “new economy” professionals to shrug off the enormous downside of enviro-zealotry. They can pay for expensive energy and products. They don’t grasp, in the immediate way the agricultural worker does, what it takes to produce their food; or, in the direct sense the oil worker does, what it takes to produce fuel. They may not even know people who do. In any case, they don’t seem to think about it. They don’t live with nature much. They’re far more likely to visit it, or to own a piece without working on it.
The difference in perspective is large, and we all pay the price.
Get The Facts
"Flood of food imported to U.S., but only 2 percent inspected"
"Theory, Evidence and Examples of FDA Harm"
"Don’t Forget about the FDA"
"Americans say no one has a good jobs plan"
"Obama's Spin on Jobs Bill"
"The Great African American Depression"
"Keeping Teachers Off Of The Unemployment Line"
"Cherry Picking On Regulation"
"Regulations cost up to $1Trillion "
ENGAGING WITH OTHERS
July 23, 2012
Bill, on Huffington Post
July 23, 2012
Bill, on Huffington Post
July 11, 2012
Bill, on Slate
June 26, 2012
Scott, on SF Gate
June 17, 2012
Florian, on Huffington Post