Commentary: Fossil Fuels are the Solution, Not the Problem

The George C. Marshall Institute has recently released a study on fossil fuels and the economic well-being,  

It describes why energy is an essential input to economic activity. Because fossil fuels are such a large part of the world’s energy supply, they play a dominant role in enabling people everywhere to enjoy a higher standard of living and greater personal freedom.

Abundant and affordable energy enables an economy to produce more and grow. If fossil fuels were made more scarce and less affordable, trade and markets would shrink. That would have with adverse effects on income and consumption. The study explains why abundant, inexpensive energy provides great advantages and is highly desirable and by implication why efforts to make fossil fuels more expensive and less available are detrimental to our economic well being.

The study acknowledges that the environment is not a free good. Consumption of fossil fuels has an environmental impact. But, the solution to that impact are not policies that impose excessive costs on their use and which attempt to force through regulation a shift to more expensive and less abundant alternatives. The study’s author makes the point that “it is incorrect to think in terms of phasing out fossil fuels, and that rather their advantages and costs need to be weighed against those of other energy sources”.

The Obama Administration’s EPA has clearly adopted an agenda that is hostile to fossil fuels. The recent Clean Power Plant rule, proposed revisions to the ozone standard, a CAFÉ standard of 54.5 mpg by 2025, and the just announced methane standard are all intended to force a substitution to alternative forms of energy. These rules are predicated on alleged health effects and necessary action to mitigate adverse climate change.

A careful examination of science and environmental facts clearly show that these efforts by EPA are misguided and to the extent they are successful will damage our economic well being and be especially harmful to those with low and fixed incomes.

Air quality has been improving for decades and it is illogical to claim increases in adverse health effects from cleaner air. But EPA continues to do that through the magic of its models and assumptions. See the Wall Street Journal article, Confessions of a Computer Modeler, July 8, 2014.

The claims about CO2 and climate change also don’t square with observations or science. CO2 is a nutrient and there is no credible evidence that higher levels are harmful. Indeed, the planet is greening as shown by satellite photos. Global temperatures have not increased in 17 years and physics demonstrates that the warming effect of CO2 diminishes with increasing atmospheric levels.

There is a strong case for balance in pursuing economic growth and environmental improvement. To paraphrase Barry Goldwater, extremism in pursuit of environmental purity is an illusion and vice not a virtue.