Harry R. Jackson, Jr.

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.

Harry R. Jackson, Jr.

Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.