A Free-Market Energy Blog

Marlo Lewis: A Strong Voice for Energy/Climate Realism, Economic/Political Freedom

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- July 17, 2018

An outstanding energy/climate scholar/communicator of our time is Marlo Lewis, Jr., senior fellow of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). I am moved to high-five my friend as I read his recent post, “Climate Change, Fossil Fuels, and Human Well Being,” as well as an older one, “[DOE] Secretary Chu Crosses the Line; Should Resign (October 2009).

Human Improvement, CO2 Enrichment

Regarding Lewis’s recent post, consider his framing question.

Climate campaigners demand ever-greater government control over energy markets, resources, and infrastructure. Many believe the best thing governments can do with fossil energy is “keep it in the ground.” They claim fossil-fueled civilization is “unsustainable” and headed for a climate catastrophe. Are they correct?

And his answer:

Since 1950, fossil fuel consumption increased by 550 percent, annual global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions increased by 500 percent, atmospheric CO2 concentrations increased by about one-third, and the world warmed about 0.65 degrees Celsius.

How has humanity fared during this period? Globally, life expectancy increased by 48 percent, from 48 years in 1950 to 71.4 years in 2015. All regions made substantial gains, including Africa, the poorest continent, where life expectancy increased by 68 percent.

Julian Simon lives! Which brings up the fact that Dr. Lewis has not won CEI’s annual  Julian Simon Award because he works for CEI. Maybe we need to make just one exception…..

Secretary Chu Bullying

Oh how the Progressive Left does not like the provocations of the current administration! But Marlo Lewis jumped on an Obama official who committed a sin of politics nearly nine years ago. He wrote:

Yesterday, energy secretary Steven [Stephen] Chu told reporters at a solar energy conference in Washington, D.C.  “it’s wonderful” that Apple Inc., ExelonNikePG&E, and PNM Resources have quit the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or its board. He also encouraged other companies to leave, according to Reuters.

This crosses the line. The Secretary of Energy is not supposed to use the authority of his taxpayer-funded office to advocate the breakup of the Chamber of Commerce, or of any lawful private association, for that matter.

Chu is of course free to criticize the Chamber’s positions on climate policy. Even then, however, such criticism should be generic, focused on the positions, not on the organization, lest it have a chilling effect.

But when Chu praises companies for leaving the Chamber, he is not only injecting himself into a quarrel that is none of his business; he is taking hostile action against the organization.

Imagine the outcry from congressional Democrats, the liberal media, and the environmental community if Bush energy secretary Samuel Bodman had urged companies to quit U.S. CAP, or if Bush EPA Administrator Steven Johnson told Sierra Club members to cancel their memberships.

Chu has been in office too long to still think of himself as an academic free to spout off on any topic he likes. He is a cabinet secretary, and unless we’re now living in a banana republic, cabinet heads are not authorized to threaten people over policy differences.

Threaten how? DOE does business with Chamber members. DOE therefore has the power to affect the bottom lines of Chamber companies.

Let’s also not put blinders on here. Environmental lobbying groups are waging a campaign of intimidation against the Chamber because it refuses to put the short-term special interest of energy-rationing profiteers ahead of the long-term general interest of business in limited government, economic growth, and affordable energy. Chu’s remarks make him a de-facto partner in this intimidation campaign.

Most importantly, when Chu speaks, he speaks for the Obama administration, which wields vast regulatory and prosecutorial powers over the business community. It is precisely because the executive branch is inherently coercive that we expect cabinet secretaries to avoid even the appearance of trying to suppress political dissent.

Chu should apologize to the Chamber and then do the decent thing: resign.

Just weeks after EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt resignation, this Obama-era instance of official misconduct is newsworthy indeed.

Marlo Lewis, then as now, is a voice for intellectual consistency and economic freedom.

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