Destroying jobs and hurting families, in the name of preventing climate change.
God does not judge us by our intentions, but by what we actually do. The consequences of our actions matter, both intended and unintended.
We need to keep that in mind, as our nation ponders whether to enact new rules that some say are needed to “break our addiction to oil,” prevent “dangerous global warming,” and replace hydrocarbon energy with “renewable” power.” These rules include climate and energy bills that some Senators want to enact after the November elections, and new regulations that the Environmental Protection Agency is already imposing on America’s transportation, construction and manufacturing industries.
The extent and importance of natural and human influences on the climate are hardly settled. Whether alternate energy sources, like wind and solar power, can actually provide sufficient energy for our dynamic, energy-dependent economy is equally subject to debate.
Meanwhile, other, more pressing questions are not being sufficiently addressed.
Few are more important than the impacts these rules are likely to have on poor and minority families. Proponents of climate change and renewable energy policies insist that the effects will be positive. However, Europe’s experience strongly suggests that the exact opposite would occur.
As Greece, Hungary and other countries teeter on the brink of bankruptcy, a new report notes that families in Eastern Europe are increasingly being forced to heat with wood and lignite coal, because they cannot afford electricity. This is leading to deforestation around cities, high levels of indoor air pollution and chronic lung diseases, in addition to rising carbon dioxide and soot emissions.
In England, high energy taxes, the closure of coal-fired power plants, and a legally mandated transition to “green” energy have sent prices soaring and put 5.5 million households in “fuel poverty” – meaning they can no longer afford to heat their homes properly. Soaring energy prices have forced companies to lay off workers, especially in energy-intensive industries.
Average annual energy bills climbed from $1,620 in 2005 to $2,250 by the end of 2009, the National Housing Federation says. Analysts for an energy switching company project that household bills could skyrocket to $8,000 by 2020. People have been shocked and angered, and pensioners are burning books to stay warm, because they are cheaper than “carbon-priced” coal otherwise used in small home heaters.
According to the NHF, some 25,000 more people died during the winter than during the summer – mostly poor pensioners with circulatory, respiratory and other health problems. That underlines the reality that cold weather is always more deadly than heat waves or a couple degrees increase in average global temperatures. It also underscores the importance of affordable energy.
American politicians claim none of this will happen here, because some of the hundreds of billions in new energy taxes raised under a cap-and-trade regime would be rebated to poor families.
But how will a $500 or so rebate to the poorest families help them and middle class households pay for $2,000-4,000 in higher annual energy, food, transportation, clothing, healthcare and other living expenses, caused by climate and renewable energy legislation? What about families whose breadwinners are laid off, because their employers had to reduce their work forces to pay soaring energy bills?
Energy cost rebates to poor families do nothing to help businesses and factories pay for electricity, heating, cooling, transportation and raw materials expenses that will likely add thousands or even millions to annual operating costs. They don’t help offices, shops, schools, hospitals, churches and other organizations pay energy costs that are rocketing upward.
School districts, for example, will have to pay far more to operate buses and heat buildings. That will mean increased debt, higher local taxes, teacher salary cuts and workforce reductions, or reduced music, athletic and special education programs.
Climate policies that are supposed to help reduce carbon emissions will, ironically, drive jobs overseas to countries that have less restrictive environmental protections than we do – and global carbon dioxide levels will continue to increase.
To impose costs like these – based on computer models, politicized science and bald assertions that fossil fuel use is causing a climate disaster – is morally wrong. It violates the trust we have placed (or misplaced) in our elected officials and our regulators.
Before taking any final action on climate and energy laws, politicians and regulators must demonstrate clearly and convincingly that we face an imminent manmade crisis, that their proposals will in fact prevent the crisis, and that they will safeguard families, businesses and workers from these devastating economic impacts. Thus far, they have failed to make that case.
It may be expedient politics to insist that “We have to do something,” for the sake of demonstrating concern or activity. But that is not leadership – and it isn’t moral to make workers and poor families pay for this folly.
Pastor David Rosales
David Rosales is the Senior Pastor of Calvary Chapel Chino Valley, a Southern California church with more than 9,000 attendees, the national radio host of A Sure Foundation, and an Advisor for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.