Commentary

Poverty--Not Affluence--Is Greatest Threat to Environment

E. Calvin Beisner
By E. Calvin Beisner | March 29, 2017 | 2:08 PM EDT

President Donald Trump signs an Energy Independence Executive Order on Tuesday at EPA headquarters in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

President Trump’s “Executive Order on Energy Independence” will save the American people hundreds of billions of dollars every year that would have been wasted on purely symbolic efforts under former President Obama’s “Clean Power Plan” and other regulations.

Former President Barack Obama justified those regulations by claiming they would reduce global warming. But in reality, even according to his Environmental Protection Agency’s calculations, they would achieve no measurable reduction in global warming.

President Trump’s executive order will open the door to more development of America’s abundant resources of hydrocarbon fuels—coal, oil, and natural gas—leading to lower energy prices, benefiting producers and consumers alike, and more jobs in those and related industries, while reducing our imports from unfriendly nations, and consequently their ability to finance ISIS, Al Qaeda, and other jihadist terror organizations.

The order will also set a precedent that other countries will follow, sparing their citizens, too, from the crushing costs of pointless policies to mitigate global warming.

I told the 12th International Conference on Climate Change, meeting in Washington, D.C., last week, the greatest threat to the environment is not affluence; it’s poverty. And the second greatest threat is tight government controls over what people do. Trump’s order promotes both greater prosperity and greater freedom, and so also a cleaner, more healthful, more beautiful environment.

Many people think government regulation is the chief protector of our environment. In reality, governments have much worse environmental records than private businesses and individuals. Property owners have incentive to take care of what they own so it serves them and their heirs for generations to come. Politicians’ top incentive is to get re-elected.

The executive order not only paves the way for the EPA to undo most or all of the “Clean Power Plan” but also

  • lifts a short-term ban on new leases for coal mining on public lands;
  • effectively blocks fulfillment of U.S. intentions under the Paris climate agreement;
  • requires recalculation of the “social cost of carbon,” probably resulting in low levels that would make it difficult to justify regulations restricting carbon dioxide emissions on a cost/benefit basis; and
  • eliminates a requirement that all federal agencies include climate-change effects in calculating costs and benefits of future environmental permits.

The order is both pro-energy and pro-environment, stops the EPA from picking winners and losers in the energy sector, and requires the EPA to pass rules that are within the framework that Congress has established—violation of which was a major reason that, as Oklahoma Attorney General, Pruitt was party to lawsuits against the EPA.

E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D., is Founder and National Spokesman of The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation and a scholar on the application of Biblical worldview, theology, and ethics to economics, government, and public policy. He has studied the science and economics of climate change and climate policy for over twenty years and has spoken on it for the Vatican, committees of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, and several of the International Conferences on Climate Change.

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