Roy Innis

We want to know that the environmental values we cherish really are threatened the way environmental activists say they are. That the solutions they advocate really will safeguard those values, at reasonable cost, without creating enormous new problems, like global grain shortages.

Today, unfortunately, these common-sense requests are under assault by activists who want to eliminate fossil fuels, base public policies on unfounded ecological scare stories, and stifle debate by attacking anyone who challenges their assertions.

Energy Reality must no longer be denied. Fully 85% of all the energy Americans use comes from fossil fuels. Add in nuclear and hydroelectric power, and we’ve reached 96%. Biomass (3%) is mostly waste from paper mills and sawmills.

A mere 0.8% is wind and solar power. These renewable sources are not alternatives to fossil fuel use. They are supplements. Just to provide electricity to meet New York City’s needs would require blanketing Connecticut with 300-foot-tall wind turbines that generate power just eight hours a day, on average. That is neither economically nor ecologically sustainable.

If we attempt to force a massive switch away from fossil fuels, we will create a Grand-Canyon-sized Energy Gap between what we need, and energy we actually have if its production is delayed, outlawed, restricted or priced out of reach.

Geologists say America’s onshore and offshore public lands could contain enough oil to run 60 million cars and heat 25 million homes for 60 years; enough natural gas to heat 60 million homes for 160 years; enough coal, uranium and shale oil for centuries of power.

These energy resources belong to all Americans. They are not the private property of activists who insist they never be touched, or citizens who’ve been bamboozled into thinking they cannot be developed without destroying ecological values.

These energy takings force Americans to pay more for energy that is artificially scarce. Their economic progress is held back. They lose the jobs that energy development would create. They lose billions of dollars in royalties and taxes. Energy saved through painstaking conservation and alternative energy efforts is offset by declining US production, and America ends up importing still more foreign oil and sending more jobs overseas.

We could produce almost twenty billion gallons of gasoline annually by drilling safely and carefully in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge – from an area one-twentieth the size of Washington, DC. We could get vast quantities of oil and natural gas from the Outer Continental Shelf.

But instead, politicians have locked this energy up and told us to rely on 7 billion gallons of ethanol, from corn grown on an area the size of Indiana. Food prices soar, and millions starve.

Climate change is real, and has been throughout Earth’s history. But there is a huge difference between acknowledging this – and claiming: our use of fossil fuels is the primary cause of climate change; future changes will be catastrophic; slashing carbon dioxide emissions will stabilize our fickle climate; and we can slash emissions without impairing energy use, living standards, jobs and civil rights.

Over a dozen climate bills are pending in Congress. Hundreds more are pending at the state, county and city level. Unaccountable activists and judges say we must protect polar bears that unreliable computer models say might someday be endangered.

Every proposal requires major reductions in greenhouse gases – many of them by 80% below 2005 emissions, a level not seen in these United States since 1909! Every one would give activists, courts and bureaucrats control over virtually any activity that produces greenhouse gases, and every aspect of our lives. Every one would curtail energy use and economic opportunity.

Not one would make a serious dent in global CO2 levels or temperatures.

Whether the blunt instrument is a carbon tax, a carbon offsets tax, a cap-and-trade tax, a carbon sequestration mandate tax, or a bloated bureaucracy tax, the effect on prices would be the same – and already stressed families would get another dose of economic arsenic. We cannot let that happen.

In this election season, every thoughtful, caring citizen in our great nation must join me in challenging the modern-day Jim Crow laws that prevent poor people from having the energy they need to achieve Dr. King’s dream of civil rights, equal opportunity and true environmental justice.

Together, we can make that dream come true.

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.