Environmental Elitists

Today’s ecological movement is profoundly elitist. It’s not about conservation anymore, or clean air; it’s about power over you and me.

Let’s start by considering the opposition to fracking:

The hydraulic fracturing revolution has been hugely beneficial to our country (well, apart from the fact that it arguably, and if so ironically, provided the economic boost that enabled our anti-fossil-fuels – and otherwise feckless – President to be reelected), but environmentalists, crony capitalists and some of our nation’s most determined enemies are fighting it tooth and claw. Even Andy Cuomo won’t allow it; he wants to run for President someday, and he knows who gives to Democrats.

Over the last five or six years, as fracking technology has allowed lots of old wells to come back on line, US oil production has risen from about 5,000,000 barrels per day in 2008 to about 7,500,000 today (http://www.indexmundi.com/energy.aspx?country=us&graph=production).  Meanwhile, in the same period and for the same reason, US natural gas production has risen from about 1.6bn cubic feet per month to about 2.2bn (http://www.eia.gov/dnav/ng/hist/n9070us2m.htm).

These increases in US energy production, coupled with similar gains in Canada, are having profound effects on the job markets/economies of oil-producing regions, the financial circumstances of middle class and poorer people nationwide, global trade and even the military balance of power. As to all of these factors, the effects of increased domestic energy production are strikingly beneficial.

The current oil price war, which has driven the price of oil down to about $50 per barrel from about $100, is a direct outgrowth of increased North American energy production. Who is hurt by lower oil and gas prices? Countries that are intent on hurting the West in general and our country in particular: Russia, Iran and Venezuela are all experiencing severe budget shortfalls as a result of the price declines. Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch. Even putative-ally-but-cultural-foe Saudi Arabia now has fewer petrodollars to use in spreading its highly intolerant version of Islam.

Seriously, think about it: no fracking would mean much more money for the worst-of-the-worst.

Meanwhile, our dramatically decreased reliance on imported oil has lessened our balance of trade deficit from the $700bn+ totals of 2007 and 2008 to about $500bn today (http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/statistics/historical/gands.pdf). That means less money that we have to borrow from the Chinese, which doesn’t strike me as all bad, either.

Domestically, the fracking boom has increased employment in energy-producing states and lowered the price of energy for all. Texas, alone, has had more growth in jobs since 2008 than all other US states combined (http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/texas-job-growth-outpaces-rest-of-u.s.-combined/article/2557660); especially when the employment increases in other energy-producing states are factored in, it becomes pretty clear that without fracking, nationwide unemployment would be stunningly higher. Maybe Obama would’ve lost in 2012…

Lower energy prices also help the poor and the middle class nationwide. US consumers spent $370 billion on gas alone (i.e., ignoring heating oil and natural gas) in 2013; in 2015 that number is expected to be under $250 billion (http://www.nationmultimedia.com/webmobile/opinion/Plummeting-oil-prices-upend-global-economy-30251580.html). The difference of about $1,000 per US household may not mean much to Tom Steyer, but it means an awful lot to those who don’t have much.

So who opposes the Keystone Pipeline, oil and gas production generally and hydraulic fracturing in particular? People who love the petro-states? Crony capitalists? Government bureaucrats? Anti-development environmentalists? All of the above.

Gazprom has been caught funding anti-fracking movements (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/01/world/russian-money-suspected-behind-fracking-protests.html), which makes sense if you think about it. Russia has expensively-priced natural gas contracts with Western Europe and has used winter cutoffs of gas to gain political leverage over its former satellites. Further, its budget has been devastated by lower oil and gas prices. If today’s lower prices persist, Putin may not be able to afford his campaign to re-annex Eastern Europe; what a shame that would be.

In the billionaires/crony capitalists department, we have Elon Musk, Warren Buffett and Tom Steyer. Musk and Steyer have big investments in “green” technologies that utterly depend on politically-driven price subsidies – even at the old oil prices. Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway owns the trains that will transport most Canadian shale oil if Keystone isn’t built – less efficiently and less safely than transporting the oil by pipeline, natch (http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2011/10/warren_buffett_the_keystone_pipeline_and_crony_capitalism.html).

It is frankly amazing to me that our political class takes the arguments against the Keystone Pipeline seriously. Even if you zealously/religiously believe in AGW, as Steyer presumably does, there is no serious anti-AGW argument here: if the pipeline isn’t built, the Canadian oil will simply be shipped elsewhere through other means, so a pipeline would have zero net effect on how much oil is produced or used.  Building it would create tens of thousands of US jobs.

I don’t get it: it’s like President Obama hates construction workers, or red states. Or maybe he just wants to reward Buffett and Steyer for being major sources of cash for Democrats. Or all three.

And as far as the opposition of simple environmentalists to all of these things (oil and gas production/Keystone/fracking), where are they going with that? Are they prepared to admit that their immediate goal is to raise the prices of fossil fuels to the point where “green” technologies are viable? Because if they were to admit that, they would need to explain to the American public that they want to impose the equivalent of a tax of many thousands of dollars a year on every American family*, all because of their fear of global warming, which seems not to be happening.

Over the last sixteen years, contrary to the predictions of all the impressively complex and allegedly precise models, Earth has not continued the twentieth century’s warming trend. Scientists on government-funded grants keep coming up with ever-more creative explanations as to why temperatures haven’t been rising, but the fact remains that they have been stable when the models said that they would rise sharply. In my world, when the facts are different from the models, you don’t continue to believe in the models.

I am not asserting that AGW concerns are entirely fraudulent; it is quite possible that in ways that we don’t yet understand, mankind had something to do with the twentieth century’s warming trend.  But in this matter, as elsewhere, governments nearly always seek to increase their own power; if the public believed, as President Obama claims to, that Climate Change is the biggest challenge we face, government would be given the power to reorganize most aspects of our lives – so government, and our crony capitalist elites, self-interestedly want to believe in AGW. Environmental zealots want to believe in AGW as a way of forcing the return of Man to Eden.

The UN provides a particularly dramatic illustration of the usual governmental bias: the UN bureaucrats would love to be given the power to tell the whole world what to do, and to have trillions of dollars in payments between richer and poorer countries flow through their hands, so they have issued some of the most panicky – and wrong – reports and forecasts. The only forecasts that have been more risible have been those of Mr. Gore – who has profited handsomely from his hand-in-hand “green” activism and investing. (As Glenn Reynolds has pointed out: in the 1970s we were told with all the authority of Science that we were facing a new ice age; now we are told that soon the Earth will be burning up. On both occasions the “solution” presented involved the UN and local governments raising immense new taxes and controlling almost everything about our lives. Heads they win, tails we lose, apparently.)

Most Americans are agnostic on the topic of AGW. Might be a problem; might not. Is almost certainly not as big a problem as the government would have us believe. Would prefer to wait for much more data, and less hyperbole, before agreeing to increased energy costs. So for now: no on cap-and-trade, no on green boondoggles like Solyndra and Cape Wind, and no on higher energy prices generally. I’m pretty sure that voters would say no on the Tesla subsidies, too, if they understood that they’re paying for upper-middle-class fashion statements.

And finally, there is the (astonishingly substantial) fringe of the environmentalist movement that is against oil and gas, and all the rest, because they are flatly anti-development and quietly anti (other) human(s). These are the folks who think that poor villagers in Africa should remain poor villagers in Africa, and that the world has entirely too many people: to Hell with them.

*Oh, wait: perhaps this Administration would feel no such obligation to provide the sad facts. As the august Mr. Gruber so helpfully explained, stupid voters need to be bamboozled sometimes.


M.H. Johnston 2/15/15

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