Is the Trump Administration Brave Enough to Move Beyond “Energy Dominance”?

In Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Politics by E. Calvin Beisner0 Comments

For half a century, Middle Eastern countries, many with Islamic fundamentalist regimes that have financed radical jihadi terrorists while oppressing women and persecuting non-Muslims, have dominated the world’s energy markets.

More recently, Europe has been hostage to Russia for natural gas, crucial to its energy needs.

In the last decade, revolutionary oil and gas drilling technologies have enabled the United States to change things.

The Trump Administration is putting that historic development front and center during what it calls “Energy Week.”

The theme? “Energy dominance.”

The Administration hopes that phrase will replace both “energy dependence,” which the country has lived with since the 1960s, and “energy independence,” the seemingly hopeless quest of the last seven presidents.

It also hopes “energy dominance” will become more than a new talking point. It wants it to be the new reality, relegating Obama-era, climate-change alarm-driven, energy-strangling policies to history’s ash heap.

The key is unleashing vast resources of coal, oil, and natural gas, reducing obstacles to nuclear energy, and keeping other energy sources—conventional and renewable—in play.

The goal? At home, lower energy prices, robust economic growth, and more jobs. Abroad, greater American influence and reduced conflict. 

There is much to celebrate in this basketful of policies. The more they’re implemented, the lower energy prices will be for Americans.

That means lower cost of living for everyone, especially the poor, who spend a higher percentage of their income on energy than others. It also means lower operating costs for business, especially energy-intensive heavy manufacturing, which means higher employment and higher production.

Together these should cause more robust economic growth, which means higher tax revenues despite lower tax rates, making it possible to whittle down the national debt, a burden unjustly placed on coming generations.

The Administration’s turn away from letting fears of dangerous manmade global warming dictate energy policy is particularly welcome. The fears rest solely on computer climate models that predict two to three times observed warming. While human contribution to climate change is surely real, it is just as surely much smaller than previously thought, with correspondingly smaller risks. Meanwhile, the benefits of fossil fuel-based energy are enormous.

There are also benefits to other nations.

The new policies would open the way for coal, liquefied natural gas (LNG), and soon oil exports to Europe, India, and elsewhere. These would make the United States a net LNG exporter by next year and a net energy exporter in four years—a first since 1953. They would also reduce those regions’ dependence on Russia and the Middle East for energy, shifting geopolitical allegiances and reducing funding to terrorists.

But there are also reasons for complaint.

First, while the Administration talks of reducing subsidies to various energy industries, it doesn’t envision eliminating them. That means government, driven by all kinds of perverse political rather than wise economic incentives, will continue picking winners and losers rather than letting the market determine the best allocation of resources.

Second, it persists in assuming that “clean energy” means energy with low or no carbon dioxide emissions. So it boasts of promoting extremely expensive, technologically doubtful “carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration” as the key to “clean coal.”

But CO2 isn’t “dirty.” It’s odorless, colorless, and non-toxic at over twelve times its present atmospheric concentration. We couldn’t push it to one-fourth that level even if we burned all the world’s fossil fuels tomorrow.

CO2 is indispensable to plant growth, and plants grow better—and crop yields rise—as we add it to the atmosphere.

Its warming effect is probably real but so slight as to be undetectable. The benefits of the energy we get while using the fuels that emit it, and of the enhanced crop yields, outweigh any risks from that minuscule warming effect.

The Administration that was brave enough to pull us out of the Paris accord and embrace “energy dominance” should be brave enough, too, to pronounce a not-guilty verdict on carbon dioxide.

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Dr. Beisner is Founder and National Spokesman of The Cornwall Alliance; former Associate Professor of Historical Theology & Social Ethics, at Knox Theological Seminary, and of Interdisciplinary Studies, at Covenant College; and author of “Where Garden Meets Wilderness: Evangelical Entry into the Environmental Debate” and “Prospects for Growth: A Biblical View of Population, Resources, and the Future.”

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