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“The Cheaper the Energy the Better” (Julian Simon in 1993 speaks to us today)

By <a class="post-author" href="/about#r_donway">Roger Donway</a> -- July 13, 2009

[Editor note: This piece, written during the BTU tax debate by Julian Simon (1932–1998), is reproduced for its relevance for today’s energy debate]

As the fight intensifies about an energy tax in the budget bill, some cool heads ought to reexamine the underlying belief that it is good for us to “conserve energy.” We see that belief in headlines such as “The High Cost of Cheaper Energy,” and Washington Post editorials like “A Totally Free Market Leads to Over-Consumption.”

Conservation Isn’t Necessary or Good

Some people simply believe that it is ipso facto a good thing to use less energy and have less economic growth. As Paul Ehrlich put it, “Giving society cheap abundant energy is . . . like giving an idiot child a machine gun.” Other backers of the bill seek not only to preserve the supply of energy but also to return to a “simpler life” (for others, of course, not for themselves) because it will make us better human beings.…