Did You Burn Any Fossil Fuels Today?

Doug Domenech | Director, Fueling Freedom Project, TPPF

I remember the first time I met Sally Jewell. She had come into the office to meet then Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne. At the time she was the CEO of the outdoor equipment co-op REI. I was the Deputy Chief of Staff for the Secretary and was excited about the prospect of meeting Jewell. I had been an REI member for many years. When she arrived, I reached out my hand and, just for fun, introduced myself by my REI member number. Her immediate response was, “Oh you have been a member for a long time.”

At the time, neither of us would have guessed that she would serve as the 51st Secretary of the Interior, and as only the second woman to lead the Department. (Gale Norton was the first.)

Jewell showed a glimmer of the practicality I’d hoped for when a few weeks ago she called activists in the “keep it in the ground” movement as “naïve.” The “it” is fossil fuels. She went on to tell the Desert Sun news, “It’s going to take a very long time before we can wean ourselves from fossil fuels, so I think that to keep it in the ground is naïve, to say we could shift to 100 percent renewables is naïve. We really have to have a blend over time, and a transition over time, that recognizes the real complexity of what we’re dealing with.”

There is no doubt that Jewell is a complete apologist for climate change theory, one based more on models than observations. As a climate scientist recently said, models are to science as polling is to election results. Models are guesses. But when confronted by activists, Jewell asked, “Did you burn any fossil fuels today?”

This week, in a concession to Presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders, the Democratic National Committee announced that one of his five appointees to the party’s platform committee would be “leading environmentalist” and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben, a noted climate change theory evangelist and leader in the “keep it in the ground” movement. Alex Epstein of the Center for Industrial Progress said the movement should be called, “put people in the ground,” as these policies will directly lead to incalculable premature deaths.

According to the non-partisan Energy Information Agency, world energy consumption in 2040 will be 30 percent petroleum and other liquid fuels, 26 percent natural gas, and 22 percent coal. Secretary Jewell is right, this stuff is not going away anytime soon. The EIA predicts 16 percent of energy consumption will be renewables and nuclear will account for about 6 percent in 2040.

By the way, the EIA also recently announced that energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions fell in 2015 and are now 12 percent below the 2005 levels, mostly because of changes in the electric power sector.

Sadly that did not stop President Obama, on his recent trip to Vietnam, from blaming Western civilization for its enormous contribution to climate change, saying that it is unfair that rapidly developing countries in the East may have to suffer the consequences of the industrial revolution. “It’s not entirely fair to say to countries that are developing now, you have to stop because of climate change,” he said. “The problem is that if a country like Vietnam or China or India took the same development path that the west did, we’re all going to be under water.”

The problem is that the facts do not support the President in this regard. In a recent hearing House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith said that the president attempts to justify his actions with “scare tactics, worst-case scenarios and biased data.” Specifically, statements that attempt to link extreme weather events to climate change are unfounded.

Smith said, “The lack of evidence is clear: no increased tornadoes, no increased hurricanes, no increased droughts or floods. The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found that there is “low confidence” that drought has increased in intensity or duration. The same lack of evidence can be found in the IPCC reports for almost every type of extreme weather. The administration’s alarmism is not good science and intentionally misleads the American people.”

According to Smith, “Even if all 196 countries fulfill their promised reductions for each year after 2031, it will only reduce temperatures by one-sixth of a degree Celsius. The president’s pledge compels our country to pay billions of dollars to developing nations to reduce their carbon emissions.”

The policies of the United States should not doom third world countries to a lifetime of poverty. Allowing everyone to unleash the potential prosperity and health generated by fossil fuels is how we transform society. Everyone deserves to have the same benefits we enjoy.

Did you burn any fossil fuels today?

The Honorable Doug Domenech is the Director of the Fueling Freedom Project at The Texas Public Policy Foundation.

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