They get little credit for their efforts, but most resource extraction, manufacturing and power generation companies strive to be “socially responsible” – by emphasizing energy efficiency, resource conservation, pollution control and worker safety in producing the raw materials, consumer products and electricity that improve, safeguard and enrich our lives.
It’s not easy, due to the nature of their business, public intolerance for any ecological impacts – and the fact that “corporate social responsibility” is often defined and used by activist groups to promote ideological agendas. Above all, activists want to engineer a “wholesale transformation” of our energy and economic system, away from hydrocarbon fuels and into “eco-friendly” renewable resources; reduce our living standards to “sustainable” levels (their definition again); and give them power over the power that sustains our modern society.
This “hard green” version of CSR largely ignores socio-economic considerations, the many benefits of fossil fuel and nuclear power, the significant land and environmental impacts of wind, solar and ethanol – and the oppressive effects of soaring energy prices on poor families.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi closed down the House of Representatives on August 1, to avoid an energy vote that Democrats would have lost, and later displayed her acumen on the subject when she opined: “natural gas is a clean, cheap alternative to fossil fuels.” News flash: Natural gas is a fossil fuel.
An Energy Economics 101 course is clearly needed, so that members of both parties can legislate more astutely – and understand why mining and burning coal is a socially responsible component of sound energy policy.
Energy is the master resource, the foundation for everything we eat, use and do. Sound policies ensure that energy is abundant, reliable and affordable. Restricting supplies in the face of rising global demand drives up prices and sends shockwaves through families, industries, communities and nations.
America has centuries’ worth of coal. Our reliance on this resource has tripled since 1970 – but sulfur dioxide and particulate emissions are down 40% and 90% below 1970 levels, respectively, notes air pollution expert Joel Schwartz. New technologies and regulations will reduce coal power plant emissions even further by 2020, but even current emissions (including mercury) pose no significant risks to human health, he emphasizes.
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