Faith, Science, and Public Policy

Harry R. Jackson, Jr.
|
Posted: Aug 18, 2008 9:56 AM
Faith, Science, and Public Policy

Is climate change a greater threat than freezing the jobless in the dark? This is a real question for both today’s priests and politicians. Energy policies that protect the poor should be the highest priority for both the clergy and lawmakers.

As our culture awakens to the changing dynamics of our environment, we cannot forget our history. In 1900, there were no airplanes or computers, and virtually no cars, telephones or electricity. Wood and coal heated drafty homes. Tuberculosis and other diseases killed millions. The average American life expectancy was only 47 years old.

Thanks to affordable energy and the indomitable American spirit, the average American now lives to age 78. He or she travels our nation and world at will, and lives better than royalty did a century ago. We’ve eradicated killer diseases and developed technologies even Jules Verne couldn’t imagine.

Abundant, reliable, affordable energy also transforms constitutionally protected rights into opportunities and rights we actually enjoy – including jobs, homes, food, transportation, healthcare and the pursuit of happiness. When access to energy is restricted, job creation and civil rights are hobbled.

Nearly 85% of US energy comes from fossil fuels – and we’re producing and using that energy more efficiently and with less pollution every year. Unfortunately, energy is no longer affordable.

Experts tell us that the United States has native supplies of oil, gas, coal, oil shale and uranium that would last us for centuries to come. But environmentalists and politicians have made most of these resources off-limits. Instead, we send foreign dictators trillions of dollars driving up food and energy prices and eliminating the jobs, lower prices, royalties and taxes that producing US energy would bring to our economy.

That’s not just insane. It’s an immoral war on the poor.

It will take years to find and develop deposits, especially if environmentalists keep filing lawsuits. But if we end leasing and drilling bans, speculators would instantly start selling oil contracts and prices would drop. If we don’t end the bans, we won’t have still won’t have sufficient energy in yet another decade, prices will be even higher, and more families will suffer.

“Alternatives” like wind and solar energy will also take decades to grow from their current status (1% of our energy sources) to meeting a greater portion of our needs. The same is true of flex-fuel vehicles.

To some radical environmentalists, these facts are “irrelevant.” These extremists simply want to end fossil fuel use immediately. They do not care who this action may hurt.

“We’re trying to save the planet,” says House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who blocked votes on drilling, before flying off on a book tour, presumably in a solar-powered jet. “Our very health and economic well-being are at stake,” insists a misguided black, political studies group who purport to be guardians of minority interests.

The real dangers to poor and minority families will come from policies implemented in the name of environmental protection. Those policies would send energy prices soaring, destroy jobs and economic growth, and force people to choose between food, fuel and pharmaceuticals.

The poorest families are already spending half of their incomes on energy. For families earning $50,000, energy expense amounts to a quarter of their income. This cannot continue.

Environmental activists want higher prices to force Americans to stop using oil. If prices are used to force energy conservation, the net effect will be greater economic pressure on the domestic poor. The Congressional Budget Office says cap-and-trade measures to slash emissions by 70% would raise average household annual energy costs by $1,300 and cost America trillions of dollars in lost economic output.

These increased costs would make it harder for families to afford a home or college education. The costs would also send airline, tourism, agriculture, manufacturing and other industries into tailspins, costing millions of jobs that will not be replaced by so-called “green-collar” jobs.

In recent years, opinion pioneers have challenged evangelical Christians to take a stand on the environment. They rightfully argue that God commanded us to be stewards of his entire creation. Unfortunately, some radical environmentalists forget that this stewardship is both of animal and human life; wildlife habitats and poor families all need to have faith-based advocates. We can’t save polar bears, yet stand idly by while elderly people die because they can’t afford heat for their homes. By emphasizing production, conservation, efficiency, new fuels, and technologies we can assure that human needs are met.

I believe the faith community will be instrumental in breaking the ideological environmental deadlock. Several groups are emerging that see the environment as one of the important moral issues of our day. These groups are attempting to base public policies on a common sense mix of biblical principles and factual evidence. Groups like the We Get It campaign, The Cornwall Initiative, and The Stop The War on The Poor campaign address real environmental challenges. They understand God’s commandments to be responsible stewards in His wise design.

Become part of the solution. Combine your faith and your understanding of environmental issues to make a difference. Join one of the campaigns above and help us break the deadlock on environmental policy. For more information on how to do this visit www.stopwaronpoor.org.