This holiday season is a good time to express our gratitude for the jobs, living standards and life spans we enjoy today – largely because of abundant, reliable, affordable energy, 83 percent of it still because of fossil fuels. As my CFACT colleague Craig Rucker suggests, we should also be grateful that we live in a country that can provide hundreds of millions of turkey dinners, at a price anyone can afford, all on the same day, thanks to our free market economy (and fossil fuels).
The holiday season is also an opportunity to ponder why billions in our human family still do not enjoy those blessings, have electricity only sporadically or not at all, and try to survive on a few dollars a day or less. It’s a time to reflect on what we can do to help change policies that perpetuate that situation.
For thousands of years, humanity was mired in poverty, disease, malnutrition, misery, and average life expectancies of 40 years or less. Even nobility in their fancy homes had few of the luxuries we take for granted today. Then, in the late nineteenth century, a sudden surge in life expectancy, health and wealth transformed much of the world, as the growing use of coal and petroleum powered incredible advances in construction, sanitation, transportation, communication, medicine, agriculture and other technologies.
In 1882, Wisconsin’s Hearthstone House became the world’s first home lit by hydroelectricity. No one then could have foreseen how electricity would dominate, enhance and safeguard our lives in the myriad ways it does today – or envisioned the many ways we generate electricity today.
Today, Asian countries are roaring far beyond where they were just two decades ago, as they adopt freer economies and use coal to generate electricity, create jobs, and bring hope, health, technology and prosperity to billions. Africa still lags behind, but here too coal and natural gas are providing electricity to a continent where more people than live in the North and Central America’s still do not have access to it.
Pollution from coal-fired power plants remains a problem in countries where bringing electricity to billions has been deemed more important than eliminating unhealthy emissions. But that is changing, as electricity brings jobs, modernity and prosperity – and people demand cleaner air. Once scrubbers are installed, the only emissions will be what now comes out of U.S. and E.U. “smoke” stacks: water vapor and plant-fertilizing carbon dioxide, which alarmists still claim is causing weather and climate chaos.
A real irony in all this is that China is financing and building many of these power plants – instead of the United States and Europe, which pioneered electricity generation and pollution control technologies. This is largely the result of U.S. and E.U. policies, driven by global warming ideology and politics.
Too many still-impoverished nations have been ruled by corrupt, self-centered leaders who care little about their people. But all too often in recent years, when countries wanted to build coal or gas-fueled power plants, a cabal of climate activists in every position of power and privilege told them to drop dead.
Literally. Certainly that has been the result of their policies. It is as though we have returned to the days when Mayans drowned children in cenotes to appease the gods and prevent droughts – and then saw a century-long drought end their civilization.
This 100-year anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution memorializes how Communist regimes starved and murdered over 100 million helpless, innocent Russians, Chinese, Cambodians, North Koreans and others unlucky enough to have been born in those places and times – to serve that savage ideology. Even now, Castro protégé Nicolas Maduro is sending countless Venezuelans to early graves.
Today, countless millions are sacrificed on the altar of Gaia, because callous environmentalists continue to tell the world’s most destitute, energy-deprived families they must be content with whatever living standards they can derive from wind and solar – and must never employ fossil fuels. Even in Britain, deaths have risen 40 percent in the past year among elderly people who cannot heat their homes properly, because renewable energy policies have made energy costs unaffordable for too many pensioners.
Those “fuels of the past” are not sustainable, green ideologues say. They’re running out. They cause dangerous climate change. We will tell you what living standards you may aspire to. Better that you die today from diseases of preventable poverty, than perish tomorrow from manmade climate cataclysms.
One source of these attitudes is Obama science adviser John Holdren. He wrote in 1974 that it was essential to “de-develop the United States,” bringing its economic system and consumption “into line with the realities of ecology and the global resource situation.” Once that is underway, he continued, the U.S. should focus on de-developing other industrialized nations and on the “ecologically feasible development” of under-developed countries. These views strongly influenced President Obama.
In 2009, Mr. Obama told Ghanaians they should refrain from using “dirty” fossil fuels and utilize their “bountiful” renewable energy. In 2013, he told South Africans, if “everybody has got a car and … air conditioning and … a big house, the planet will boil over – unless we find new ways of producing energy.”
His Overseas Private Investment Corporation refused to support construction of a power plant that would provide clean, affordable electricity from natural gas that companies were just burning in Ghana’s oil fields. President Obama refused to support South Africa’s request for a World Bank loan to continue building, a state-of-the-art, coal-fired power plant. In 2013 his Power Africa initiative for a “sustainable Africa” energy strategy emphasized wind, solar, biofuel and geothermal power – but not fossil fuels.
It’s all part of the “wrenching transformation of society” that Al Gore has said is absolutely necessary.
Today, climate claims increasingly reflect a desperate determination to remain relevant and keep the research gravy train on its shaky tracks. “Global warming might be especially dangerous for pregnant women,” says one new study. “Climate change may be making bearded dragons less intelligent,” wails another. (It’s a good thing deep fat fryers are cooling the planet down a bit.) Climate Crisis, Inc. doesn’t seem to care that its depraved ethics have lethal consequences.
Thankfully, developing countries are no longer listening. They have built hundreds of coal-fired generating units and have 1,600 more under construction or in planning. Most now realize industrialized nations will not contribute billions (much less trillions) of dollars to the Green Climate Fund. They are beginning to understand that, if they want health, wealth and jobs, they should not do what many rich nations are saying or doing now that they are rich; they should do what those nations did to become rich.
After 50 years of Nazi and Communist domination, Poland is charting its own destiny, catching up to Western Europe, thumbing its nose at the EU, using more coal to generate electricity, and importing coal from the U.S.A. (The UN’s 2018 climate meeting in Katowice, Poland will be very interesting.)
The U.K. government says there will be no new renewable energy subsidies until 2025. Even Germany’s “utopian dream of transforming itself into the world’s green powerhouse is collapsing as its political and media establishment is mugged by reality,” says Euro climate and energy observer Benny Peiser.
Al Gore, Barack Obama, Tom Steyer, Nat Simons, George Soros and their elitist ultra-green comrades will never give up their jet travel, limos, mansions, wealth, perks and privileges – to “save the Earth” or for any other reason. How dare they lecture us “common folk” – and tell families in impoverished countries what kinds and amounts of energy, homes, cars and consumer goods they will be “permitted” to have.
As we enjoy our turkey dinner leftovers, let us give thanks in the best, most humanitarian way possible: by promoting free market principles and selling, financing and building large-scale modern coal, gas, nuclear and hydroelectric power generation equipment, pollution control systems, and other technologies that will improve and save lives all over this wondrous planet.
Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and author of books and articles on energy and environmental policy.