The energy debate in America is at a crossroads. The Obama administration is beginning to partner with Australia to build a “global carbon capture and storage institute.” In April, President Obama spoke at a Student Roundtable in Istanbul, Turkey, saying that he wants the United States to take a leadership role in regards to “climate change” and encourage countries “like China to join us.”
Ever since global warming made the leap from scientific theory to purported scientific law, there has been a shortage of discussion on the effects of the policies aimed to combat it. It is presupposed that if we want to solve this “climate crisis,” we must ratify treaties such as Kyoto, shut down coal plants and not invest in any more oil refineries. The ramifications of doing so could be disastrous for America. “Energy is the lifeblood of our economy,” says Marlo Lewis of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). CEI’s new documentary, “Policy Peril: Why Global Warming Policies are more dangerous than Global Warming Itself,” deconstructs some of the most common myths about global warming and advocates for real solutions in America’s energy policy.
First, the documentary “reviews the science behind global warming to examine whether it is the menace that Al Gore and others claim that it is.” Though the allegations surrounding global warming are numerous and varied, the film’s critique of the scientific arguments are direct and insightful. Policy Peril dismantles the assertion that global warming increases the severe effects of heat waves. “Summer air temperatures in US cities have been rising over the past three decades,” notes Lewis. “Yet heat-related mortality has gone down.” What would be a more accurate assessment of what causes more heat-related deaths? “As long as politicians don’t make electricity so costly that low-income households can’t afford to run their air conditioners, heat-related death rates should continue to decline, even in a warming world.”
The film exposes the flaws in a report issued by the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) which claims that increased heat creates more air pollution. Technological advantages have actually played an important role in the reduction of emission levels. “NRDC uses emissions from 1996 to predict ozone levels [smog levels] in the 2050’s.” says Joel Schwartz, a visiting scholar with the American Enterprise Institute. “So we’re already about 30% or more below the emissions of 1996, and emissions continue to drop because of … [the] turn over to cleaner vehicles, because power plants are getting cleaner, and most of those emissions are going to be gone even in about twenty years. By the 2050’s there’s going to be hardly any air pollution in the air. But NRDC assumes that we are going to have 1996 emissions levels in 2050.”
Many problematic assertions from Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” are also discussed. Malaria is shown to be a disease of poverty rather than extreme heat, based on a study by the World Health Organization (WHO). With respect to natural disasters, one cannot definitively show that global warming is making hurricanes stronger (more things being built on coastal cities can increase the chance of extensive damage). The “evidence” that our planet entering a new ice age is subject to many interpretations.
The second part of the film analyzes the economical risks of policies advocated in proposed congressional bills such as Lieberman-Warner, which would require the United States to cut emissions by seventy percent. “Lieberman-Warner would reduce cumulative GDP by 5 trillion dollars from 2012-2030,” says Lewis. Other plans to cut emissions include banning the construction of new coal-fired power plants. “Activists say they will allow new coal generation if the power plants deploy something called CCS [Carbon Capture and Storage Technology],” Lewis notes. The only problem is, currently, no commercial coal plants have CCS technology. How long will it take before this technology can be implemented? “[This] probably requires an immense amount of research and development,” says Mary Hutzler, the former Head of Analysis for the Energy Information Administration. “People have told me ten to fifteen years alone.” Hutzler also believes that building a national CCS pipework system would take an additional decade. “The proposed moratorium is really a ban on new coal plants for twenty years or more,” says Lewis. “[A]n energy crisis would not be an unlikely consequence. At a minimum, our electric bills would go way up.”
Finally, the film explores new solutions that are more likely to help humanity to flourish in the 21st century. Globally, 1.6 billion people have no access to electricity. “When we look at developing countries, the thing they need most of all is commercial energy and electricity,” says Tom Tanton, a Senior Fellow of Environmental Studies at the Pacific Research Institute. “People in developing countries spend most of their day collecting fuel. They don’t have time to go to school and get an education. [E]lectricity is the essential commodity for any kind of growth and improvement in lifestyle.”
“The world is not energy rich. It’s energy poor,” says Myron Ebell, the Director of Energy and Global Warming Policy at CEI. “[I]f we are going to put energy-rationing policies on the backs of the world’s poorest people, they will have very little hope of ever achieving even a fraction of the well-being … that we have.”
Another area that is rarely explored is the windfall profits many companies are making from energy-rationing schemes. “The Lieberman-Warner bill also enacts a huge transfer from the consumers of energy to groups that are picked out, special interest groups that Congress would designate, so after America has lost five trillion dollars in income, there will be another five trillion dollars taken and transferred from energy consumers,” says David Kreutzer, a Senior Policy Analyst with the Heritage Foundation.
The film argues that a more effective approach is to invest in solutions that have been proven to work. For example, malaria vaccines and mosquito nets can be used to combat malaria, regardless of whether global warming is happening or not. “We could protect many more people [from hurricanes] with less expense by improving building codes, evacuation routes and emergency response systems,” says Lewis. Trading with more underdeveloped countries would provide them a way to elevate themselves out of poverty. “What passes for climate policy today would fleece consumers, perpetuate poverty, and shackle our economy,” says Lewis. It is best that our politicians in Washington remember this before they claim the sky is falling.