Commentary: Environmentalists are hurting the US economy

Environmentalists are Hurting the US EconomyBy Michael Economides and Marita Noon

Last month, Earth Day came and went. Perhaps you missed hearing about it. For 2013, the theme was “The Face of Climate Change.” Other than a change in the Post Office cancellation mark on your letters from the usual wavy lines, to the four stick-like wind turbines and a sun symbol, there was little note of what was once an event celebrated by 20 million Americans. Tim Wagner, Utah representative for the Sierra Club’s Our Wild America Campaign, groused: “Media coverage of global warming has virtually disappeared.”

According to EarthDayCentral.com, one of the goals of Earth Day is to help you “Discover what you can do to save the environment.”

Perhaps, people no longer see the need for planetary salvation.

The Christian Science Monitor offered an Earth Day 2013 report card on global warming. The author starts with: “When Earth Day observances first began in 1970, Cleveland had recently doused a pollutant-fueled fire on a section of the Cuyahoga River. Cities were often shrouded in thick blankets of smog. And large portions of Lake Erie were so fouled by industrial, farm, and sewage runoff that sections of the 241-mile-long lake were pronounced dead.” And later, he reports: “Since that first Earth Day, the air over major cities is cleaner. Lake Erie is healthier. So is the Cuyahoga River, which groups in Cleveland would like to turn into a centerpiece of urban life. The improvements have come with ‘yes, but…’ as other environmental challenges have elbowed their way to the fore. But for the most part, tools are in place to deal with them.”

As Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace, explains, the ‘80s ushered in the age of environmental extremism. The basic issues, for which he and Greenpeace fought, had largely been accomplished, and the general public was in agreement with the primary message. In order for the environmentalists to remain employed, they had to adopt ever more extreme positions. Moore says: “What happened is environmental extremism. They’ve abandoned science and logic altogether.” Their message today is “anti:” anti-human, anti-science, anti-technology, anti-trade and globalization, anti-business and capitalism, and ultimately, anti-civilization.

Moore’s view helps understand how the environmental movement has gone from trying to save the planet to mortally hurting the US economy.

The American economy has some basic and obvious problems. We need more well-paid jobs, increased revenue, and our trade balance is out of whack. Each of these issues could be addressed, but environmentalists are doing everything they can to kill potential solutions. Three such examples are coal mining and exporting; natural gas extraction and conversion to liquefied natural gas (LNG) that can then be exported; and the Keystone pipeline—all of which face extreme opposition from environmentalists.

Coal

The US has the world’s largest economically recoverable coal resources—with more than one-fourth of the world’s reserves.

Last month, environmental groups sent a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell calling for a moratorium on the leasing of federal lands for coal mining in the Powder River Basin (PRB) of Montana and Wyoming. Here’s why leasing these federal lands for coal mining is important: Peabody Coal recently paid nearly $800 million to the US Government for the rights to expand an existing coal mine and maintain their current workforce—13 active coal mines in the Wyoming portion of the PRB alone, employ more than 6800 workers.

While, coal use in the US has decreased, its low cost and abundance make it the preferred fuel for power generation in countries like China and India. Even Europe is increasing its use of coal for electricity generation.

Currently, US coal is easily shipped to Europe from ports on the east coast, but, due to opposition from environmental groups, the US is missing out on the important Asian market—now being met by more expensive Australian competitors. In the Los Angeles Times, climate activist Bill McKibben wrote: “Those exports can’t really take off, however, unless West Coast ports dramatically expand their deepwater loading capacity. … Environmentalists are trying desperately to block the port expansion.” PRB coal is being shipped to China and India through Vancouver, Canada. Additionally, the countries’ needs are being filled by Australian and Indonesian coal. The coal is being shipped and used—but the US is losing out on the jobs, the revenue, and the benefit to the trade deficit.

The LAT/McKibben piece cites KC Golden, policy director of Seattle’s Climate Solutions group: “Can you imagine standing at the mouth of the Columbia River, watching ships sail in from Asia carrying solar panels and electric car batteries and plasma TVs, passing ships from America carrying coal?” Worse, can you imagine all those goods coming in—manufactured using Australian coal-fueled electricity, and nothing going out? That’s what we have now.

A report from the Energy Policy Research Foundation states: “US production will merely replace higher cost production. … Neither net world coal combustion nor GHG emissions will change as a result of an expansion of US coal exports.” The report concludes: “The higher net value received is in effect a wealth transfer from foreign consumers to US producers and the national economy. This net gain to the national economy shows up in higher returns to invested capital, greater employment opportunities from expanded investment, higher revenues to state, local and federal governments, and higher lease values on coal reserves from federal and state lands.”

But environmental groups don’t want this “net gain to the national economy.” Apparently, they’d prefer that we continue to borrow from China’s Australian coal-fueled economy.

LNG

LNG faces a similar problem. Natural gas was once the favored choice of environmentalists—until hydraulic fracturing advancements made it plentiful and, consequently cheap. The low-cost fuel snatched away the fossil fuel-free dream that seemed to be almost within reach. Now environmentalists oppose natural gas as well. The Sierra Club’s Beyond Natural Gas site claims: “Increasing reliance on natural gas displaces the market for clean energy.”

Many countries want US natural gas. Unlike coal, natural gas in its natural state cannot just be put on a ship and sent to the awaiting customer. For long distances it must first be liquefied—hence the term liquefied, natural gas, LNG. The liquefaction process requires costly facilities, which, for economic reasons, need a large customer base—many with which the US does not have free trade. The Department of Energy has 20 LNG export projects awaiting approval.

A recent IHS global insight report concluded that LNG exports would “result in the creation of over 100,000 direct, indirect, and economy wide jobs and have an immediate economic impact resulting in $3.6 to $5.2 billion in potential annual revenues.”

And, LNG exporting would not only create jobs and increase revenue, it would also reduce trade deficits. A just-released report from the Rio Grande Foundation states: “The United States currently runs a $6 billion trade deficit with Japan. That nation is particularly eager to import LNG from the US.”

Once again, environmentalists oppose jobs, revenue, and trade-deficit reduction. Earlier this year, more than 40 groups and individuals took out a half page ad in the New York Times that said: “Exporting Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) to overseas markets will mean more drilling and fracking on US land, which are dirty and dangerous practices.”

Keystone

Like coal mining and export, natural gas extraction, liquefaction, and export, the Keystone pipeline would create thousands of union jobs and increased service employment in supporting communities; benefit local and state economies, and provide additional revenues to the federal coffers; and help balance the trade deficit, as some of the refined product would be exported. But once again, environmental opposition has targeted the pipeline—causing delay after delay that has now postponed the economic benefit of the pipeline.

Russ Girling, TransCanada, CEO, said: “I believe that those that are fundamentally opposed to our pipeline are getting louder and more shrill as we move towards a decision.” He announced that the potential start date must be moved from the previously planned late 2014 or early 2015 to late 2015.

The Keystone pipeline saga is the same song, another verse.

These are just three current examples of how the influence of environmental organizations is driving policy in the name of planetary salvation that is, in reality, resulting in economic devastation that could lead to humanity’s ultimate starvation. Environmental motivations are less about saving the planet and more about killing the global economy.

Michael Economides is Editor-in-Chief of the Energy Tribune