The Vulture Club

Steve Milloy Contributor
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I have know for a long time that green activists will say and do anything to advance their twisted cause, but the Sierra Club hit yet another new low this week.

Executive director Michael Brune tried to rescue the sinking Kerry-Graham-Lieberman climate bill by blaming the recent coal mining and oil drilling tragedies on our “dirty, dangerous and deadly energy resources.” If only we had a “clean energy economy”—whatever that is—we wouldn’t now be “mourning workers lost in a coal mine in West Virginia and an oil rig off the coast of Louisiana,” Brune said in an April 26 statement.

Yes, the deaths (like all deaths) are tragic and coal and oil producers should do everything reasonable to promote safety and to prevent such tragedies from occurring. That said, the deaths are not reasons to abandon or curtail fossil fuel use—in fact, we need to accelerate their production and use to increase global prosperity and freedom.

Let’s keep in mind, that no occupation is without risk to life and limb and that coal mining and oil drilling are not even close to the most dangerous occupations.

Based on Labor Department statistics, there are more than 40 times more deaths in the construction industry than either coal mining or oil drilling. There are more than 10 times more deaths among government workers than among either coal miners or oil drillers. On a fatality rate basis, logging, fishing, flying, farming many other occupations are much more dangerous than coal mining and oil drilling.

So-called “clean energy” is not risk free. Twenty America wind workers have died since the late-1970s in an industry that is still in its infancy. That toll will increase as wind production ramps up. Solar power often involves roof installations and roofing is one of the most dangerous occupations. Biofuels involve farming, which is another hazardous occupation. There is no such thing as a safe job—particularly for those individuals who can’t do their job from behind the safety of a computer screen.

Now let’s consider the benefit side of the equation. The societal benefits to coal and oil production are incalculable. Seventy percent of our electricity and nearly 100 percent of our transportation needs are fueled by coal, oil and natural gas. Fossil fuels have provided us with the wealth that has made our country the most prosperous and freest in the history of mankind. They have made us so rich that we can afford crazily expensive environmental regulation, much of which produces no tangible benefits to anyone or anything.

Cheap energy has made us so wealthy that we’ve been able (so far) to entertain the often childish and whimsical fantasies of environmental groups. Ironically, much of the private wealth that backs green groups has been made off fossil fuel production—the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Rockefeller Foundation easily come to mind.

Still don’t think wealth is important? Look around the world to China, India, Mexico and other developing nations. Their environments suck because they can’t afford the luxury of environmental protection.

Tragedy often breeds overreaction and exploitation—and some seem sadly willing to surf the deaths of the miners and drillers in order to advance its socialist cause. The Sierra Club has gone from protecting vultures to becoming one.

Steve Milloy publishes and is the author of “Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them” (Regnery 2009).