A free-market energy blog
Random header image... Refresh for more!

Category — Environmental Movement

Greens Going Gas (emissions data, economics speak for themselves)

The safety and importance of hydraulic fracturing are not just industry talking points. They are conclusions embraced by virtually everyone, outside of a narrow subset of political activists who refuse to let science and facts get in the way of their extreme agenda.


For many years, environmental activists have pushed for bans, moratoria, or other restrictions on hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), alleging the process is a threat to public health and the environment. But in recent months, increasing numbers of environmentalists have distanced themselves from the “ban fracking” agenda.

Many have even embraced shale gas on environmental grounds, revealing how extreme and marginalized the campaign to restrict hydraulic fracturing has become.

“Environmentalists who oppose the development of shale gas and fracking are making a tragic mistake,” wrote Richard Muller last year. Muller, a physicist and climate expert at the University of California-Berkeley, was viciously attacked by activist groups like Greenpeace, but Muller’s position may actually be more in line with a growing public understanding of the environmental benefits of shale gas.

Going for Gas

In April, the Environmental Protection Agency released data showing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions had fallen 10 percent since 2005, attributable in large part to increased use of natural gas. Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have unlocked a 100-year supply of natural gas, making the fuel more affordable for power generation and household energy use. [Read more →]

May 16, 2014   No Comments

The Injustice of “Environmental Justice”

“Social justice is really simply injustice…. While true justice strives to conform to a universal, objective standard of right and wrong, according to which different behavior naturally leads to different outcomes, social justice strives for a changing, subjective, egalitarian outcome.”

“Last month, the EPA released for public comment an 81-pageDraft Technical Guidance for Assessing Environmental Justice in Regulatory Analysis,’” reports Cornwall Alliance Senior Fellow Dr. Steven F. Hayward:

The ‘technical guidance’ lays out a detailed framework for assessing the demographic and racial impact of regulations, such as how to identify minority populations at higher health risk. “Minority, low-income, and indigenous populations experience greater exposure and disease burdens that can increase their risk of adverse health effects from environmental stressors,” the guidance states.

Well, EPA got one part of that right. Low-income folks are at greater risk from “environmental stressors” (aka pollution) than others. And since (largely because social welfare programs undercut their incentive for self-sufficiency) some minorities are more highly represented among low-income folks than majorities, that means those minorities might be at greater risk—like “Laotian subsistence fishers,” one minority group EPA names.

But it’s not because they’re Laotian but because they’re “subsistence fishers,” and “subsistence fishers” (people who depend on their daily fish catch for survival) tend to be, well, low-income.

Let’s face it, when EPA thinks of minorities at greater risk from “environmental stressors,” it’s not thinking of Miami Heat star LeBron James (2013 salary, $19M), or even of Van Phabmixay, a Laotian American who owns his own computer company and aspires to be the next Bill Gates, or Panya Souvannaphouma, son of a former Laotian prime minister and a Harvard business school graduate. It’s not ethnicity but poverty that elevates risk.

No matter. EPA will continue to trumpet the racial version of “environmental justice.” Why? Hayward explains: [Read more →]

June 27, 2013   5 Comments

‘Deep Ecology’ versus Energy (McKibben’s virus understood)

The Sierra Club, as yesterday’s post described, has ditched its previous support for natural gas, the cleanest burning fossil fuel. And so goes the modern, Washington, DC-based environmental pressure group movement, rejecting not only oil, gas, and coal but also nuclear, hydro, and most biofuels. Translated into today’s energy usage, some 98 percent is bad and 2 percent good. [1]

Turning an industrial economy over to the two most costly, unreliable (intermittent) energy resources–solar and wind–is a lights out, engine stall strategy for a modern industrial economy.

Where does such anti-industrial, anti-human, coercionist thinking come from?  The answer is the deep ecology movement.

“Deep Ecology”

As mentioned yesterday, a radical wing of the modern environmental movement rejects a human-centered anthropocentric view of the world in favor of a nature-first ecocentric view. In constrast to shallow ecology, concerned with pollution and resource depletion in the developed world, deep ecology defends “the equal right” of lower animals and plants “to live and blossom.” Deep ecology rejects what is seen as a master-slave relationship between human and nonhuman life. [Read more →]

May 23, 2013   6 Comments

Are ‘Fractivists’ Promoting Global Warming? (unintended consequences of a futile crusade

“Privately, scientists and analysts within national environmental organizations are appalled that celebrity fractivism could get in the way of the coal-to-gas shift. They say the fractivists undermine green credibility, and are disturbed by the failure of their movement’s leadership.”

Mainstream environmental groups used to support natural gas, which offers significant public health and climate benefits over coal and is a “bridge fuel” to a clean energy future. But celebrity activists like Mark Ruffalo, who has a house in the Catskills, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. have led the movement astray with NIMBY opposition to fracing in areas such as upstate New York.

Over the last year, celebrities such as Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon, Robert Redford, Mark Ruffalo, Mario Batali, Scarlett Johansson, Alec Baldwin, and Matt Damon have spoken out against the expansion of natural gas drilling. “Fracing kills,” says Ono, who has a country home in New York. “It threatens the air we breathe,” says Redford.

In fact, “gas provides a very substantial health benefit in reducing air pollution,” according to Daniel Schrag, director of Harvard University’s Center for the Environment. There have been “tremendous health gains” from the coal-to-gas switch, MIT economist Michael Greenstone told The Associated Press. Indeed, air pollution in Pennsylvania has plummeted in recent years thanks to the coal-to-gas switch. “Honestly,” added Greenstone, “the environmentalists need to hear it.” [Read more →]

March 7, 2013   7 Comments

Understanding the Green Menace: Robert Zubrin’s Merchants of Despair

Tell me if this sounds familiar.

A consensus of the world’s leading scientific bodies and governments has proved that our current way of life, in which individuals can produce, consume, and procreate as they choose, is unsustainable and self-destructive. We must, therefore give the government the power it needs to end the threat that we pose to ourselves.

This is, of course, the central narrative of the Green movement’s call for a ban (partial or total) on the lifeblood of industrial civilization, hydrocarbons, in the name of preventing global warming.

To many Americans, this narrative seems airtight. The “consensus” of “science” is portrayed as a virtually unanimous collection of ruthlessly objective minds all independently arriving at the same inexorable conclusion from the same unambiguous data.

But if they read Merchants of Despair by Robert Zubrin, they will not only learn some of the fallacies of the global warming narrative in particular, they will see that this exact narrative of a “scientific” claim that freedom is unsustainable has been used in the past to promote coercive population control and eugenics policies, killing millions and bringing misery to millions more.

They will also see that the “scientific consensuses” of the past–that the earth can only hold so many people, or that freedom of procreation leads to a disastrous design in the gene pool–were utter pseudo-science. And, most importantly, they will understand how this was possible: the “scientists” in question were steeped in and corrupted by a deeply false philosophy–the same philosophy underlying the Green movement today. [Read more →]

May 11, 2012   11 Comments

Go Industrial, Not ‘Green’ (Part II)

[Editor note: Mr. Epstein, a new Principal at MasterResource, is Founder of the Center for Industrial Progress. Part I appeared yesterday.]

But what about the “environmental impact” of industrial development? Isn’t the “green” movement providing a salutary influence us by helping us combat that problem? Again, no.

The idea of “environmental impact” is what philosopher Ayn Rand called an “intellectual package-deal.” Such a concept dishonestly packages together two very different things—the impact of development on the human environment and the impact of development on the non-human environment.

Industrial development will certainly often harm various non-human environments—but it is a godsend to the human environment. By lumping together concern with the non-human environment (e.g., displacing some caribou to get billions of barrels of the lifeblood of civilization) and the human environment (e.g., air quality), anti-industrialists are able to dupe Americans into thinking that sacrificing to caribou somehow benefits them.

Historically, industrial progress brought with it a radical improvement of the human environment. Indeed, industrial progress essentially is the improvement of the human environment. The reason we develop is to make our surroundings better so that our lives are better, cleaner, healthier safer—in the face of a natural environment that is often hostile to human life.

Contrary to “green” mythology, man’s natural environment is neither clean nor safe. In a non-industrialized, “natural” state, men face all sorts of health dangers in the air and water, from the choking smoke of an open fire made using plant matter (a cause of over a million deaths a year to this day) to the feces-infested local brook that he must share with farm animals.

Industrial development gives men the technology and tools to make their environment healthier—from sanitation systems to sturdier buildings to less onerous job conditions to comfortable furniture to having healthy, fresh food at one’s disposal year round, to the wealth and ability to preserve and travel to the most beautiful parts of nature. And so long as we embrace policies that protect property rights, including air and water rights, we protect industrial development and protect individuals from pollution.

As for the “sustainability” of industrial progress, an accusation that dates back to Marx, this fails to recognize the fact (elaborated on by Julian Simon and Ayn Rand) that man has an unlimited capacity to rearrange nature’s endless stockpile of raw materials into useful resources—which is why the more resources we use, the more resources we have. [Read more →]

September 24, 2011   12 Comments

Go Industrial, Not ‘Green’ (Part I)

[Editor note: Mr. Epstein, a new Principal at MasterResource, is Founder of the Center for Industrial Progress. Part II of this post is here.]

In the wake of two recessions following two fleeting, largely service-sector bubbles—the dot-com bubble and the housing/financial bubble—America’s intellectual and political leaders are championing the need for industrial progress.

The ubiquitous Thomas L. Friedman takes on the subject of industrial progress in his latest book, That Used to Be Us, coauthored by political scientist Michael Mandelbaum. The book begins by describing a China full of fast trains, stupendous buildings, and an aura of dynamism—and contrasting it to an America in which repairing a subway is a multi-year project. Such images resonate with readers and voters, who wonder with frustration why so much industrial innovation, production, and job-creation is happening overseas rather than in America.

In President Obama’s recent address on jobs, he angrily complained about the state of American industry:

Our highways are clogged with traffic. Our skies are the most congested in the world. It’s an outrage.

Building a world-class transportation system is part of what made us an economic superpower. And now we’re going to sit back and watch China build newer airports and faster railroads?

Obama is right about this much; the state of American industry is an outrage. America has enormous, incalculable, untapped potential to make industrial progress—to radically increase our standard of living through far greater productivity in energy production, in manufacturing, in construction, in mining, in transportation. Unfortunately, the statist philosophy of Obama, Friedman, et al leads them to speciously attribute the problem to lack of government—despite the unprecedented expansion of government over the last 50 years. They propose still more increases in government spending and controls, as if some magic manipulation is going to spark the next industrial revolution.

At the same time, they ignore the most blatant impediment to industrial progress—an impediment caused by policies they support. This impediment is an open secret readily discoverable by asking American industrialists what is holding them back.

When I do this, I hear one theme repeated over and over: it is ruinously difficult to start new industrial projects because of our anti-industrial, “green” policies. [Read more →]

September 23, 2011   14 Comments

Windpower: Environmentalists vs. Environmentalists (NIMBYism, precautionary principle vs. industrial wind)

“The Municipality of Central Huron requests that the Province of Ontario declare a moratorium on all current and future projects for on-shore and off-shore development of wind-energy facilities until it has commissioned properly-designed independent third-party scientific research into the long-term effects, released the findings for public comment, and has incorporated those comments to enact science-based maximums for wind-facility emissions, and for electrical emission from all related electrical facilities, and can therefore guarantee to Council’s satisfaction that the health and well-being of the Municipality’s human and animal populations are protected from the direct and indirect negative effects of being in proximity to those IWT facilities.”

- Central Huron Council Resolution, adopted June 6, 2011

Two days ago, the Central Huron Council passed a resolution against wind-turbine business-as-usual, a victory for local advocacy groups such as Toronto Wind Action, Great Lakes Wind Truth (see their Facebook page), and Central Huron Against Wind Turbines.

As indicated by yesterday’s blog at MasterResource by Jen Gilbert, “Dear Sierra Club (Canada): I Resign Over Your Anti-Environmental Wind Support,” there is a growing civil war between the anti-fossil-fuel pro-windpower groups (including big business) and grassroot environmentalists who see a pound of environmental ill for an ounce of energy cure. Will the Sierra Club on both sides of the international border take note and get tough on industrial wind–and help taxpayers and federal fiscal order at the same time?

Central Huron Industrial Windpower Resolution


June 8, 2011   6 Comments