Friday, March 13, 2015

Natural Resources Defense Council Hails NY's Ban on CO2-Reducing NatGas Fracking

Late last year, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo banned hydraulic fracturing (aka “fracking”) in his state. The New Jersey Star-Ledger’s Tom Moran ran a column challenging that decision, saying Cuomo’s ban on fracking handicaps the fight against climate change (See my 12/28/14 post). In his column, Moran criticized environmentalists’ celebration of Cuomo’s ban, saying:

I hate to be a Green Grinch, but this is one of the environmental movement’s blind spots. Cuomo’s decision is a disaster for the environment where it counts most – on climate change.

Fracking has created a boom in natural gas production, driving its price below that of coal. And when a power plant switches from coal to gas, its carbon emissions are cut in half. That is the key reason America’s carbon emissions have been dropping since 2006, despite the political stalemate.

Shortly after, director of Programs for the Natural Resources Defense Council Daly Bryk—who was quoted in Moran’s column—took Moran to task in a New Jersey Star-Ledger letter.

I left these comments, drawing on quotes from Bryk’s letter:

“For too long, the fossil fuel industry has sold us the idea that we must choose between one dirty fuel or another. That is no longer reality.”

Sure it is. Every fuel source is “dirty” in some respect. Wind energy, for instance, requires massive mining, transportation, manufacturing, infrastructure, construction, and maintenance operations, and has horrific pollution consequences. Regardless of the energy technology, pollution should be minimized as much as technologically possible, consistent with the energy needs of human life. The question is: What energy source meets our needs fully and reliably? Which energy source is worth the risk of some pollution or climate change? Fossil fuels come in first. Nuclear and hydro a distant second and third. So-called “clean energy” doesn’t even make the reliability scale.

“Natural gas may burner cleaner than coal, but from the ground to the smoke stack, it still contributes to climate change.”

So what? Human beings survive and thrive by altering and improving the environment. So what if a bit more greenhouse gases reach the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases make life possible by keeping the Earth warm. If a slightly warmer Earth is the “price” of a better human life across the board, it is the moral and practical choice. And far more than any other energy source, fossil fuels have massively improved the environment from the standpoint of human life as the standard of value.

“Now is the time to break our reliance on all fossil fuels, and go all-in on the clean energy sources at our fingertips.”

Now is not the time to force people into life-destroying energy privation. There should never come such a time. Fossil fuels provide reliable, economical, scalable, abundant energy on demand. “Clean energy” cannot. At least Moran seems to understand, at least implicitly, that we shouldn’t destroy the economy, and millions of lives along with it, unless and until “clean energy” alternatives prove that they can.

Let “clean energy” demonstrate its ability to replace fossil fuels in the free market—i.e., by convincing people to voluntarily embrace solar or wind without government “incentives,” subsidies, or legal restrictions on fossil fuel alternatives. Go ahead, Daly Bryk: You’re free to “go all-in on the clean energy sources” and prove that they really are “at our fingertips”—at your own expense, in voluntary contract with others, without government “help.” It is not fossil fuel interests who are trying to thwart “clean” alternatives. It is “clean energy” special interests who are trying to stop fossil fuels. If and when energy consumers voluntarily choose solar, wind, et al because it is demonstrably better in all respects, you and your “green” energy win. Until then, leave fossil fuel companies free to continue to develop and sell their products in free competition. It’s the only humane course of action. Our lives depend on it. To stop fossil fuel development before a demonstrably viable replacement is available, and consumers are rationally persuaded by new energy producers to switch, would be cruel beyond words. We shouldn’t gamble the lives of billions of human beings on a “clean energy” pipe dream.

Despite its name, the Natural Resources Defense Council does not defend natural resources. It defends natural raw materials.

A “resource” is a material that can be used to create something useful. A “natural resource” is a naturally occurring raw material transformed into a useful material. Natural gas was not a resource until human ingenuity turned it into one. The same goes for oil, coal, aluminum, iron ore, uranium, sand (for computer chips), etc., etc., etc. Human beings survive and thrive by turning natural raw materials into man-made resources and resources into human life-enhancing products and services. The NRDC doesn’t defend natural resources. If it did, it would defend man’s freedom and ability to create resources out of raw materials. Instead, it seeks to stop the creative process that human life depends on. It “defends” raw materials from transformation into the resources of human life. The NRDC is anti-human life.

Daly Bryk is an uncompromising environmentalist and full-fledged statist. As Moran noted in his column, Bryk advocates using government force

to redouble efforts to conserve energy, by far the cheapest way to reduce emissions. She wants a crash program to build wind and solar power. She wants a national program to cut emissions in all sectors.

Related Reading:

Environmentalists, Luddites, and Collectivism

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