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Kathleen Harnett White: ‘Social Justice’ Energy for the Masses (Part III)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- March 20, 2018

[Editor Note: This is Part III of our series on Kathleen Harnett White, distinguished senior fellow and director, Armstrong Center for Energy and the Environment (Texas Public Policy Foundation). White’s nomination to head the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) was recently withdrawn due to extreme opposition from climate activists and allied politicians (see Part I of this series). There is growing concern over climate policy and human energy needs, such as this article in the current edition of Foreign Affairs (summarized here).

“The chief victims of the war against fossil fuels are the poorest citizens of the poorest nations. Developing countries need cheap energy.”

– Stephen Moore and Kathleen Hartnett White. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Regnery: 2016), p. 237.

The morality of fossil fuels is a major theme of Stephen Moore and Kathleen Hartnett White’s Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy. Their 300-page multidisciplinary energy primer documents the moral imperative of market-chosen, market-tested conventional energy.

Hardly unique, the authors are working in the tradition of Alex Epstein (The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels: 2014), an intellectual theme recently embraced by Ted Nordhaus in Foreign Affairs magazine.

Some excerpts from Fueling Freedom on the social justice theme follow:

Anti-Poverty Fossil Fuels

“Fossil fuels have been one of the greatest anti-poverty programs in history, improving the human condition more than all of the trillions of dollars of government welfare programs and foreign aid programs combined. By contrast, most forms of green energy aren’t green at all. They’re a prescription to make the poor poorer.” (p. 166)

“The astonishing leap in agricultural production in the twentieth century, known as the Green Revolution, could not have occurred without abundant, affordable fossil fuels. Indeed, the Green Revolution is simply a later chapter of the energy revolution on which the Industrial Revolution relied.” (p. 151)

Green Energy: Regressive Tax

“The costs of most green policies hit low- and middle-income families disproportionately; the wealthy don’t notice the extra digit or two on their energy bills.” (p. 191)

“The regressive effect of high-cost but low-performing green energy systems already harms middle-, low-, and fixed-income households in Germany and England.” (p. 146)

“Carbon taxes, cap and trade schemes, regulatory impediments to drilling, and renewable energy standards are all regressive taxes.” (p. 236)

Left Hypocrisy

“… we are struck by the irony that so many on the political Left who want to redistribute wealth are the same people who want to abandon cheap, safe, and efficient forms of power production in favor of much more expensive, unreliable, and even ecologically damaging forms of energy.” (p. 164)

“The polities of ‘environmental justice’ promoted by the Left are robbing the poor, who spend a much larger share of their income on energy than do the rich.” (pp. 236–237)

“The anti-fossil-fuels crusade in America and around the globe is inspired in part by a philosophical and theological revolt against the pursuit of growth and development. They want a ‘steady state,’ not a growth state.” (p. 233)

“… the war against fossil fuels threatens to pull off one of the greatest wealth transfers from the poor to the rich in history.” (p. 232)

Help, Don’t Hurt, the Poor

“… the global war on fossil fuels is a war against progress, prosperity, and the poor. Reliance on inefficient renewable energy will hit the poor hardest, denying opportunity and enhanced living standards to those who need them most.” (p. 236)

“One of the surest ways of increasing inequality and hindering the fight against hunger, disease, pollution, malnutrition, poverty, and deprivation is to make energy more expensive, because doing so makes everything more expensive.” (p. 166)

“For poor countries, which should be using more, not less, fossil fuel to power their twenty-first-century economic progress, mandatory energy reduction targets spell a cruel regression.” (p. 232)

“The chief victims of the war against fossil fuels are the poorest citizens of the poorest nations. Developing countries need cheap energy.” (p. 237)

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