A Free-Market Energy Blog

Kathleen Hartnett White: Energy and Climate Insight (Part II)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- March 19, 2018

[Editor Note: This continues 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 White’s nomination to head the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) was recently withdrawn due to extreme opposition from climate activists and allied politicians (see Part I of this series). Part III tomorrow will review White’s views on energy consumerism, a major part of the ‘social justice’ movement.]

“A grasp of a few hard facts, a little arithmetic, and some basic physics are necessary to avoid calamitous blunders in energy policy.”

“Public discourse about global warming and climate policies ignores fundamental physical realities about energy and overlooks the profound benefits of carbon-rich energy.”

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

Kathleen Harnett White is an energy scholar. In addition to shorter pieces, she is the author of Fossil Fuels: The Moral Case (Texas Public Policy Foundation: 2014) and, most recently (with Stephen Moore), Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy.

Fueling Freedom, a 300-page multidisciplinary energy primer, reflects many years of study and analysis by this very well qualified nominee. A major theme is the relationship between sound public policy and clear thinking. “A grasp of a few hard facts, a little arithmetic, and some basic physics are necessary to avoid calamitous blunders in energy policy,” she writes. (p. 78)

A sampling of her conclusions and views is provided below.

Energy Expansionism

“A sustainable energy abundance is no longer in question. We now know that [mineral] energy resources that were thought to be running out will be plentiful for several hundred more years.” (p. 66)

“Like every other nation, we should be developing our own oil and natural gas resources. This is a simple matter of economics.” (p. 245)

“From an economic competitive standpoint, for the United States to stop producing fossil fuels would be like Iowa’s giving up corn or Colombia’s giving up coffee.” (p. 23)

“Producing American energy is the single best means of balancing the federal budget, eliminating our trade deficit, and retiring our nineteen-trillion-dollar national debt.” (p. x)

“If the United States, with its wide-open and decentralized oil industry, can act as the swing producer, the global oil market can function as a genuinely competitive market.” (p. 39)

“Although not in principle renewable, fossil fuels remain abundant enough to sustain economic growth for many centuries until fully comparable or superior energy sources are genuinely available at scale.” (p. 135)

Fossil Fuel Exceptionalism

“Fossil fuels are wonder fuels. If we want a just, prosperous, healthy, and safe world that respects the rights and dignity of the individual, we have a moral imperative to use them in a responsible and productive way.” (p. 26)

“The prophets of doom have the story backward: the abundant energy that is a product of human ingenuity makes our planet habitable, not inhabitable.” (p. 97)

“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)

“Spread the news! Man’s carbon footprint shrinks his physical footprint on the earth.” (p. 155)

Energy Physics/Energy Reality

“Concentrated energy sources confer enormous advantages for extraction, transport, and storage and allow versatile conversions… Quantifying the power density of different fuels reveals glaring contrasts between renewable energy sources and fossil fuels.” (pp. 82, 83)

“Coal, natural gas, and nuclear generation have far greater power density than wind, sunlight, or wood (biomass) as a source of [electrical] generation.” (p. 84)

“America’s $18-trillion industrial economy cannot be powered with windmills and solar paneling unless we can transcend the four laws of thermodynamics, the application of which put man on the moon, led to micro-processors, semiconductors, and innumerable technological breakthroughs that have extended our life spans and improved human life across the world.” (p. 170)

“Fossil fuels proved to be abundant sources of energy, scalable and reliable in a way that many forms of renewable energy are not.” (p. xiv)

“The inherent limitations of wind and solar are physically intractable.” (p. xv)

“Denial of the severe limitations of renewable energy has been institutionalized in national governments and global organizations such as the United Nations.” (p. 144)

“We will be highly reliant on fossil fuels for at least the next several decades.” (p. x)

Carbon Dioxide: A Positive Externality

“Carbon dioxide is an odorless, invisible, harmless, and completely natural gas lacking any characteristic of a pollutant. It does not contaminate or defile as pollutants do.” (p. 212)

“Carbon dioxide in the air we breathe has no adverse health effects, in contrast to carbon monoxide and high concentrations of the genuine pollutants listed in the Clean Air Act, the source of the EPA’s authority to regulate air pollutants.” (p. 212)

“… the chief factor limiting plant productivity—photosynthetic efficiency—is the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide, which is currently at a relatively low level compared with previous eras in the earth’s long history.” (p. 95)

“Human activity over the past two centuries has inadvertently enriched the atmosphere with carbon dioxide. At the same time, fossil fuels have shrunk the human footprint on the natural world by amplifying the food supply per acre of arable land through natural gas–based fertilizers and other fossil fuel inputs.” (p. 155)

“According to hundreds of scientific studies, the relatively slight increase in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide has enhanced native and cultivated plant productivity, growth, moisture retention, and resistance to pests.” (p. 156)

“Labeling carbon dioxide a pollutant is one of the climate-change lobby’s more absurd gestures…. In fact, carbon dioxide is a plant nutrient essential for all human, animal, and plant life.” (p. 211)

“‘Decarbonizing’ is a delusional concept. Our bodies are built of carbon. It is the chemical basis of life on earth.” (p. 46)

“… our carbon footprint is the means by which we live longer, healthier, and freer lives than our ancestors did only a century ago.” (pp. 45–46)

“Show me someone who uses very little carbon, and I will show you someone who is likely very poor (or very, very rich).” (p. 46)

“Global warming alarmists refuse to acknowledge a fundamental truth about carbon dioxide. This natural molecule, which [former] Secretary of State John Kerry calls a ‘weapon of mass destruction,’ amplifies life.” (p. 155)

Energy Politics

“Never before have the rulers of a society intentionally driven it backward to scarcer, more expensive, and less efficient energy.” (p. xv)

“The agenda of the so-called green movement, one of the most influential political forces in America today, does not end with carbon-based energy. It is a war on free-market economics.” (p. 2)

“The Left’s strategy is to make American coal so expensive that the industry can’t survive in global markets.” (p. 9)

“The goal of climate policies is to eliminate the coal, oil, and natural gas on which the world relies for 80 to 90 percent of its energy.” (p. 11)

Energy Freedom vs. Policy Poverty

“Most green energy policies undermine human progress. They are regressive, disproportionately hurting low- and middle-income families by driving energy prices higher, thus eroding their standard of living.” (p. 8)

“Without fully comparable energy alternatives, climate policies to rapidly subvert the energy-rich hydrocarbons risk a necessary foundation for human well-being and economic productivity.” (p. 123)

“Energy scarcity in Great Britain and Germany is the result of a deliberate choice to dismantle a well-functioning system of modern electric power and replace it with a system that is more expensive, uncontrollable, and inadequate.” (p. 196)

Clean Power Plan

“[The] so-called Clean Power Plan … is futile—all pain and no gain. By EPA’s own admission, the mandated carbon cuts will not meaningfully reduce predicted warming.” (p. 9)

“The Clean Power Plan is not merely another heavy-handed, expensive environmental regulation. It is nothing less than a federal takeover of our nation’s entire electric sector.” (p. 11)

Ethanol Policy

“Ethanol policy is a prime example of counterproductive, outdated, and ethically offensive federal energy policy.” (p. 48)

“The ethanol policies of the United States, which transform a basic food into an optional fuel, have been widely condemned by international institutions developed to eliminating hunger.” (pp. 159–60)

“Promoters of ethanol pitch it as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, yet research has shown that ethanol probably increases such emissions.” (p. 161)

Post-Climate Policy

“Given the weakening evidence for severe global warming and the counterproductive consequences of climate policies, surely increased economic growth offers the better bet for adaptation to whatever change in our climate may lie ahead.” (p. 21)

“We have found a $50-trillion treasure [of potential fossil-fuel production] lying under our feet. The income tax and royalty payments to the federal government would be $3–4 trillion over twenty years.” (p. 243)

One Comment for “Kathleen Hartnett White: Energy and Climate Insight (Part II)”

  1. John Garrett  

    Speaking the truth is always dangerous. The fact that it was necessary to withdraw Kathleen Hartnett White’s nomination is a measure of just how deluded and misinformed the U.S. public is.


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