Recently, The Standard-Times has published two editorials applauding the goals of the Paris climate talks and praising our federal government for controlling greenhouse gas emissions so effectively. The assumptions behind both these editorials are, in my view, deeply flawed.
We can all agree with the editors that it would be immoral to demand that Third World countries remain mired in poverty in order to curtail greenhouse gas emissions. But the proposed solution, to bribe them with American taxpayer money to keep their emissions under control, is unrealistic and, in some cases, counterproductive.
It is unrealistic because the United States, even with the financial help of the remainder of the developed world, cannot supply clean energy to the roughly 3 billion people in Asia and Africa who currently do not have it. At best, the governments getting the climate change compensation could only force their people to continue to live in energy-free destitution.
At worst, such a solution will often be counterproductive because we are handing the money over to typically unelected, corrupt, and/or authoritarian governments who will often simply use our money to keep themselves in power and further repress their own people and the promise of their own economies.
Consider that we would be giving money to the outrageously corrupt Nigerian government where 76 percent of the country’s oil revenues are stolen by government officials, the socialist Indian government that prohibits efficient supermarkets from operating in order to win votes from the caste of wasteful tiny store owners, the Maldivian government controlled by a military elite which illegally ousted its democratically elected president, the Bangladeshi government which actually kills people for blasphemy, the Indonesian government which already condones the third highest greenhouse gas emissions in the world, etc., etc.
In the second editorial, The Standard-Times accurately cites American reductions in greenhouse gas emissions but inexplicably gives the credit for this welcome change to government policies. In reality, the change has occurred in spite of government policies.
The reduction in emissions, as generally agreed, has been due to the substitution of less expensive lower-emission natural gas for high-emission coal and oil. But our federal government has done everything politically possible to curtail production of natural gas – slow-walking pipeline approvals, regulating a decades old (safe and largely environmentally harmless) fracking industry causing unnecessary cost increases, curtailing production on federal lands from 7,000 trillion btu in 2003 to about half that amount in 2014, and more.
Meanwhile, the federal government has squandered billions of taxpayer dollars on expensive solar and wind projects, often owned and operated by their donors and favored friends, which have frequently declared bankruptcy or, at best, produced marginal amounts of very expensive energy – the federal government reports that last year about 2 percent of our energy needs were met with solar and wind power.
I expect that both President Obama’s administration and the Editorial Board of the New Bedford Standard-Times have sincerely good intentions but, as we all have heard, the road to hell is paved with them.
Lee Nason lives in New Bedford.
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