Environmental policies and practitioners often hurt people and values they supposedly protect
Policy integrity. Ethical culture. Ethical investing. Environmental protection. Environmental defense. Friends of earth. Defenders of wildlife. Not just their names, but their charter, culture and policies – their very being – represent a commitment to these profound values. Or so we are supposed to believe.
The activist groups and government agencies certainly talk a good game. They’ve certainly got the “mainstream” media and a lot of legislators and regulators on their side, while many who question their claims and agendas lack the greens’ money, influence, connections and firepower – or the courage.
All that notwithstanding, these supposed “white hats” are often all hat and no cattle – or worse.
In truth, the very foundation for many of their policies is built on sand, worthless computer models or outright deception. A movement begun to curtail serious environmental abuses won most of those battles, but then evolved (regressed?) into organizations fixated on eradicating hydrocarbon and nuclear power, acquiring more money and power, and using environmental rules to control people’s lives, restrict or roll back modern technology and living standards, and perpetuate poverty, misery and disease in poor countries – in the name of precaution, biodiversity, sustainable development and climate stabilization.
Organizations and agencies ill-funded and on the periphery 40 years ago now share tens of billions of dollars annually – courtesy of taxpayer payments and tax code largesse – and dictate decision-making. Companies are created, establish divisions and hire $50,000-a-month lobbyists to turn environmental policies and programs into billion-dollar cash cows that have more lives than Freddy Krueger.
Climategate, doctored data, new theories about solar forces – and the stubborn refusal of climate reality to cooperate with computer models, carbon dioxide theorizing and climate cataclysm headlines – have turned the Kyoto Protocol into a toothless laughingstock that stands for little more than wealth redistribution. By unlocking another century of oil and gas, 3-D seismic and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) have eviscerated Club of Rome and Sierra Club assertions that we are rapidly running out of petroleum.
One would think these paradigm shifts would alter environmentalist thinking and government programs designed to replace “disappearing” oil and gas with wind, solar and biofuel energy. But hell hath no fury like an environmentalist scorned. Any attempt to revise laws, regulations or subsidies is met with derision, outrage, expanded rules and funding, and new allegations, grievances and justifications.
Petroleum depletion and dangerous manmade climate change continue to drive public policy. This is so even when outdated programs that supposedly advance health and ecological goals are found to do just the opposite. A few energy sector examples illustrate the harsh reality that common citizens face.
* Congress enacted automobile mileage standards as an energy conservation mandate. The Environmental Protection Agency unilaterally raised the requirement to 54.5 mpg, based mainly on global warming concerns. The result has been more cars that are smaller, lighter and less crashworthy – and thus thousands of additional fatalities, and tens of thousands of serious extra injuries, every year.
EPA routinely justifies onerous, job-killing regulations by claiming they will save thousands of lives, which the agency values at $8.9 million each. But it obstinately ignores the injuries, deaths and billions of dollars in healthcare and mortality costs that its mileage standards are exacting on America every year.
* In their determination to make more oil and gas prospects off limits, promote renewable energy, and slash emissions of carbon dioxide and air pollution, EPA and the Interior Department promote highly exaggerated health and welfare benefits, and statistical lives theoretically saved. They routinely ignore the adverse health and welfare impacts caused by regulations and other actions that increase heating, food and transportation costs, cause numerous layoffs, and hurt poor and minority families most of all. EPA even employs illegal human experiments to advance its anti-hydrocarbon agenda.
Study after study has shown that unemployment results in reduced nutrition, increased stress, and higher rates of heart attacks and strokes, spousal and child abuse, alcohol and drug abuse, suicide and premature death. This is especially true for older Americans who have been laid off, are scraping by on welfare and unemployment, have limited prospects for finding new full-time work, or may be forced to hold several jobs below their skill level and at sharply reduced wages. But the agencies refuse to consider these facts.
* Corn ethanol and myriad other heavily subsidized biofuel programs are supposedly clean, green, better for planetary climate and biodiversity, and vital for replacing oil imports and rapidly depleting petroleum reserves. In reality, US and global oil and gas reserves are increasing, thanks to modern technology and despite the Obama Administration’s best efforts to further shackle leasing and drilling.
Millions of acres of farmland and algae ponds are needed to produce the same Btu output that could come from oil and gas fields that impact far less land temporarily with drilling rigs and minimally with wellheads and pipelines. With 40% of US corn production dedicated to meeting ethanol mandates, an area larger than subsidy-hungry Iowa must be planted in corn just to meet those quotas.
Especially in drought years, this takes a lot of water – several hundred to over a thousand gallons of water to grow corn and process it into one gallon of ethanol, depending on where the corn is grown and who does the calculations – plus fertilizer, insecticides and fuel for tractors, distilling and truck transport. This water cannot be the brackish variety that is often used in fracking, which increasingly recycles its water.
Demand for ethanol has driven corn prices from $2.80 a bushel in 2005 to $8.50 per bushel this year. That’s great for corn growers, but devastating for poultry, egg, beef, pork and catfish producers, whose feed costs have gone through the roof. Skyrocketing corn prices have raised family food prices, made it harder for aid agencies to buy enough corn to feed starving people, increased malnutrition, misery, disease and premature death for millions of children, and contributed to agricultural land shortages.
Now the United States is actually importing corn from Brazil, to produce a fuel that gets 35% fewer miles per gallon than gasoline, and achieves virtually no overall reduction in CO2 emissions.
* To generate expensive, subsidized, unreliable electricity from “eco-friendly,” “sustainable” wind, we must build and operate wind turbines and fossil-fuel-powered “backup” power plants that actually generate over 75% of the electricity often attributed to wind power. That means we must more than double raw materials requirements for power generation and transmission, fossil energy input (to mine, manufacture, transport, build and operate wind and fossil power plants), and impacts on habitats and wildlife.
Essential rare earth metals and turbine components come mostly from China which, along with India and other developing countries, is emitting far more CO2 than all 39,000 US wind turbines combined can possibly remove from the United States’ emission streams.
Worst of all, those turbines are killing an estimated 13,000,000 to 39,000,000 ecologically vital birds and bats every year – including thousands of bald and golden eagles, falcons, hawks and whooping cranes. The EPA, Defenders of Wildlife and US Fish and Wildlife Service go ballistic over any bird deaths caused by oil and gas operations. But they are AWOL when it comes to wind turbines’ destructive power, and complicit in helping Big Wind bury the gruesome statistics, both literally and figuratively.
As energy analyst and author Indur Goklany has noted, fossil fuels have saved and enhanced lives for countless millions. They have saved humanity from nature’s recurring wrath – and nature from humanity’s need to turn forests and grasslands into fuel.
Real policy integrity, ethical culture, sustainability and environmental protection acknowledge these realities – and change opinions and policies to reflect reality. That today’s environmentalist industry refuses to do so underscores how abysmal its ethics and policies actually are.
Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death.