Let’s reduce use of fossil fuels, declared Philippa Solomon Edison in a letter published in the New Jersey Star-Ledger. Why?
New data have shown scientists that they need to revise their projections of sea-level rise from the melting of polar ice due to increased concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide.
These new projections point to the wisdom of reducing carbon emissions as much as possible. With the introduction of electric cars and solar electric, we can hope to see some reduction in carbon emissions, particularly with President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan to decrease emissions from electric power plants.
Even greater reductions in carbon emissions, coupled with job creation and better air quality, could be obtained by introducing carbon fee and dividend pricing on fossil fuels — that is, a steadily rising fee paid on all fossil fuels at their source, with the total revenue returned to all American households equally.
One of the biggest frauds and most ridiculous, economically ignorant ideas peddled by the enemies of reliable fossil fuels is that alternative energy equals “job creation.” As one of the fossil enemies claims in a New Jersey Star-Ledger letter (4/11/16), a steadily rising tax on carbon fuels, “returned to all American households equally” in the form of “dividend” checks, would force a transition to “alternative fuels”—i.e., solar and wind—resulting in “job creation.”
But job creation in and of itself is a hollow catch phrase. Jobs can be created by taxing and then paying people to dig and refill holes. But they wouldn’t be remunerative—by which I mean value-creating—jobs. No prosperity or economic progress would result from mindlessly and repeatedly digging and refilling holes. We’d have more “jobs,” but we’d all be poorer for the waste of monetary and human resources.
Solomon’s alternative energy jobs would have the same, progress-destroying result—and all based on speculation by some unnamed “scientists,” who we’re supposed to assume are final authorities on this.
First, it’s obvious solar and wind are economically and practically inferior to fossil fuels. Otherwise, why the need to tax carbon? Why was no such tax needed to encourage the transition from film photography to digital photography? Because film photography was inferior to digital. Likewise, alternatives are inferior to fossil fuels. While alternatives are not completely lacking in value, alternative energy jobs resulting from forced conversion policies are similar to hole-digging in that they replace higher value jobs with lower value jobs.
Second, Solomon and his ilk ignore the job losses that would result from their carbon tax schemes. You’d have massive job losses in the fossil fuel industry, as demand for fossils is progressively crushed. But that’s only the start. Reliable energy is the industry that powers all other industry. So the rising cost of energy would harm industry throughout the economy, resulting in massive job losses. And carried to its logical end—a complete transition to unreliable solar and wind, which is the purpose of carbon taxes rising on auto-pilot—the resulting blackouts and brownouts when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine would further expand the job losses. Even subsidized alternative energy jobs would be hard hit eventually as carbon “dividends” fall as the result of a collapsing fossil fuel sales. Consumers, too, would be hard hit by rising energy prices, both in home energy needs and rising consumer prices across the board. The economy would be hard hit virtually across the board, probably in ways we cannot calculate, but we’d all be massively poorer. Energy is the industry that powers all other industries—the industry of industries—so making energy more expensive and more unreliable would harm everything else.
And don’t forget that the massive mining, processing, transportation, manufacturing, and construction operations, not to mention pollution cleanup, that solar and wind energy requires depends on fossil fuels. As the cost of fossil fuels rises, already expensive unreliable wind and solar will become even more expensive to produce. Despite the terminology, nothing that uses raw materials is really renewable. So much for the idea that solar and wind are “renewable.”
And for what purpose are we to be forced to embrace this massive economic regression? For the false narrative of alleged “sea-level rise from the melting of polar ice?” The inconvenient truth that Solomon is apparently unaware of is that Antarctic ice, which is mostly land ice, is expanding, not melting. And Arctic ice loss is mostly sea ice, which, since water contracts when it melts, takes up less space. The inconvenient truth is that what’s happening at the poles is contributing to a reduction in sea level rise, which in any event is an unstoppable natural process that has been going on for 20,000 years. Even if, overall, fossil fuel use is slightly accelerating sea level rise, the best we can hope for from our energy poverty is to delay the inevitable.
Solomon’s carbon tax scheme is not only impractical. Worst of all, given the importance of reliable energy to human safety and well-being, it would be grossly cruel and thus immoral to force us to replace our reliables with unreliable energy. Better, instead of accepting energy poverty, to just build seawalls and other infrastructure to adapt to sea level rise, and continue to enjoy the life-giving benefits of cheap, reliable, convenient, and increasingly clean fossil fuels.