[Editor note: Earlier this week, Alex Epstein and Tyler White gave three minute talks to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in San Francisco on the Obama-era Clean Power Plan. Epstein’s comments are videotaped here. The two’s comments are transcribed below (h/t to Don Watkins).]
“But most of what I’m hearing today, most what I’m seeing outside, certainly most of what I’m seeing from our public officials–particularly our most famous representative, Nancy Pelosi–is complete carelessness and complete obliviousness to the consequences of radically restricting fossil fuels, as well as completely bizarre and self-contradictory exaggerations about the negatives.” – Alex Epstein to EPA (below)
“Many people today have said that it’s not government policies that are killing coal, but that coal is getting outcompeted. Fine. Let us compete–let us compete on an even playing field with every other energy producer. No subsidies, no special favors–but no unfair burdens either. Repeal the CPP so we can keep improving the lives of our friends and neighbors.” – Tyler White to EPA (below)
Alex Epstein (Center for Industrial Progress)
Hi, my name is Alex Epstein. I live in San Francisco and I’m probably going to express a different opinion from just about everyone else from San Francisco.
I’m an energy expert. And in particular I’m an energy philosopher, which means that my job is to teach people how to think as carefully as possible about vital energy issues. And there’s no more vital energy issue than what we do about fossil fuels.
The reason I’m here today is because I think that although San Francisco is one of the most amazing places in the world, with some of the greatest thinkers in the world, the way we’re thinking about this issue is incredibly biased and incredibly sloppy–and it’s going to hurt a lot of people around the world to the extent people listen to us.
When we’re thinking about any decision in life we have to carefully consider both the benefits and the risks. And when we’re talking about fossil fuels, the energy source that is used 80 percent of the time any energy is used anywhere, we really have to take it seriously if people are talking about radical restrictions. And when we’re looking at potential downsides we have to look at those carefully so we can make the right overall decision.
But most of what I’m hearing today, most what I’m seeing outside, certainly most of what I’m seeing from our public officials–particularly our most famous representative, Nancy Pelosi–is complete carelessness and complete obliviousness to the consequences of radically restricting fossil fuels, as well as completely bizarre and self-contradictory exaggerations about the negatives.
So for example I got an email from Nancy Pelosi that says “Dirty Air Kills.” In that entire email, this person who is in favor of policies that will in the next several decades ban 80 percent of global fossil fuel use does not once discuss the harms to people like the people Tyler White talked about–not just the coal workers but the billions of people around the world who need cheap, plentiful, reliable energy and who choose coal because it’s their best option.
And at the same time she says completely bizarre things like we need to reduce fossil fuel emissions because asthma is on the rise. But fossil fuel emissions have gone way down. So if asthma is on the rise and fossil fuel emissions have gone way down then how is lowering fossil fuel use more going to help things?
So nobody is thinking carefully about this. We’re just mindlessly following a popular green trend of being anti-fossil fuels.
In my work starting eleven years ago I was really disturbed by the quality of thinking on energy issues. I studied those issues on my own, which led to my book The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels. The book was not funded by the industry. It came from me and my best effort as an ambitious citizen to try to come to the right conclusion about the right energy policy.
I believe if you study it (you can see my case at moralcaseforfossilfuels.com), you’ll see that the “Clean Power Plan” is a really bad plan and that by supporting it, we–one of the wealthiest cities in the world–are harming a lot of people who are a lot worse off than we are.
I suggest we rethink our position.
Tyler White (President, Kentucky Coal Association)
My name is Tyler White, and I serve as the President of the Kentucky Coal Association. The people in my industry work every day to provide billions of people with the affordable, reliable energy they need to flourish. And that’s why we object to this plan: by forcing dozens of clean-burning coal plants to shut down, the CPP will kill an industry that is helping millions of Americans to live–without actually making them safer or healthier.
Around the world, people turn to coal because it is so often the best source of affordable, reliable energy to meet their needs. My state of Kentucky is one of least expensive places for energy in the United States thanks to coal power, which supplies 80% of our electricity. And using modern technology it can do so with outstanding air quality.
The CPP is designed to shut down the coal-fired electric generating facilities that power our businesses and electrify our homes. When you kill our industry, that will mean higher energy prices for those who can least afford it. Not just in Kentucky but across the country.
Fifty-one million American households take home $20,000 or less after taxes. Those households typically spend 16-20% of their income on energy: utilities and gasoline. When you increase that burden by outlawing their most affordable power source, they have less to spend on everything else–food, clothing, housing, medicine.
They have to make painful choices like: a warm home or a necessary medication—a running air conditioner or fresh food.
We are told this suffering is justified because we are protecting ourselves from climate danger. But the truth is that when you make energy expensive you increase everyone’s climate danger.
Climate is inherently dangerous. It’s hard to say whether it’s more or less dangerous now that we’ve increased the amount of CO2 in the air from .03% .04%, contributing to a mild global warming and a major global greening.
What we know for certain, though, is that the affordable energy we get from carbon-emitting fossil fuels has made us far safer from climate.
Over the last 100 years, climate-related deaths have plunged 98 percent thanks to technology and the energy that powers it–things like air conditioning, heat, and early warning systems.
Think of the recent cold spell or the 2014 Polar Vortex, when nearly every available coal-fired power plant was required to avoid disruptions to the national power supply. When we close down the coal plants that keep people from freezing to death, we are increasing climate danger–not decreasing it.
We also do a grave injustice to the members of the coal industry who work at those plants and supply those plants. The Kentucky coal industry provides high wage jobs in communities where those jobs are desperately needed. Jobs that involve helping our neighbors live better, longer, healthier lives. If we don’t repeal the CPP, too many of those men and women will no longer be able to pay their mortgages or send their kids to college.
Many people today have said that it’s not government policies that are killing coal, but that coal is getting outcompeted. Fine. Let us compete–let us compete on an even playing field with every other energy producer. No subsidies, no special favors–but no unfair burdens either. Repeal the Clean Power Plan so we can keep improving the lives of our friends and neighbors.