Roy Innis

These are critical issues. African America cries out for thoughtful leadership. Our country hungers to embrace a strong black candidate for national public office. Instead, our Black Caucus mouths platitudes and marches in lockstep with activists and legislators whose policies are disastrous for low income and minority families.

Energy is the “master resource,” on which everything else depends. Abundant, reliable, affordable electricity, natural gas and transportation fuels make our jobs, health and living standards possible. They are the great equalizer, the creator of economic opportunities and true environmental justice.

Lock those resources up, or cripple our energy sector with taxes, over-regulation, and ill-advised laws that make heating, driving and manufacturing more costly – and the poor suffer most. Destroy jobs, or make poor families pay an ever larger portion of their meager incomes for energy, food and clothing – and the hard-won victories in our struggle for civil rights will quickly be reversed.

Keep businesses out of neighborhoods blighted by slum dwellings and brownfields, and you take away jobs, health insurance, a stronger tax base for better schools, environmental cleanups and a chance for the American dream. Lock up oil, gas and coal prospects, and there will be fewer job opportunities even in companies that are committed to diversity.

The Kyoto Protocol would reduce average global temperatures by 0.2 degrees by 2050. Pending congressional bills might achieve a 0.05 degree reduction – assuming CO2 drives climate change, which numerous scientists doubt. The bills are symbolic gestures that raise energy prices for no environmental benefit.

America could get 20 billion gallons of gasoline a year from an area 1/20 the size of Washington, DC, in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Instead, lawmakers exult over getting 5 billion gallons of ethanol from an area the size of Indiana, and using some 4 billion gallons of fossil fuel to grow, harvest, process and transport the corn.

Legislators, regulators, judges and pressure groups have made billions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic feet of gas off limits. They’ve helped drive up energy costs more than $1000 per family since 2000, and caused every barrel saved through efficiency and conservation to be offset by oil locked up on questionable ecological grounds.

These energy deniers want to shackle the fossil fuel system we have, and replace it with a utopian system that isn’t even on the drawing boards.

This isn’t energy policy or environmental justice. It’s feel-good grandstanding. It would replace our efficient free enterprise system with one based on government dictates, mandates, subsidies, and decisions about which companies, technologies and lobbyists win … and how much more consumers must pay.

These issues demand serious, robust debate. But the CBC isn’t even asking the right questions – much less providing leadership and challenging dominant liberal dogmas. The path it is taking betrays the gains that generations of civil rights champions fought so hard to achieve.

Let us hope this election season generates the healthy debate we so sorely need.

Roy Innis

Roy Innis is national chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), one of America’s oldest and most respected civil rights groups, and a life-long advocate of economic development rights for poor families and communities around the world.