So argues Dan Henninger in the Wall Street Journal:
For years, hyperactive environmentalists have burned votive candles to the spirit in the sky, hoping she’d levitate energy prices high enough to make alternatives to oil economically feasible. That day has come. Result: The oil has hit the fan.
With gasoline over $4 and with life as they love it in the suburbs being shut down, did people call for the windmills? Nope. A heavy majority want to drill the bejeezus out of anywhere in America we can find familiar black slop.
No one has been hit harder by this unexpected truth than Nancy Pelosi and her green brigades.
Fearful of an up-or-down vote on drilling for oil in, of all places, our own country, the Pelosi House and Harry Reid’s Senate shut down Congress. House Minority Leader John Boehner calls drilling the greatest issue Republicans have had in his political lifetime. A party flat on its back is ready to run on oil pumps. . . .
When Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats spent a week holding the people’s chamber under house arrest, they made plain a political vulnerability beyond drilling. To achieve greenhouse gas goals in the out-years, they are willing to risk a slowdown now in the American economy. How else can you interpret what happened this week? These Democrats aren’t environmentalists. They’re enviromaniacs.
An environmentalist with two feet on the planet is someone who admits that fixing what economists call “externalities,” such as air pollution or climate effects, requires a balance between those goals and protecting the productive economy.
An enviromaniac is the sort of person who would say: “Breaking our oil addiction . . . will take nothing less than a complete transformation of our economy.” The complete transformation of our economy?
So said Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama in his major energy statement this Monday. Though the speech had hedged bows to oil, coal and nuclear, it was overwhelmingly a Goreian jeremiad about “building” a new economy on a promise called renewables.
“We can see shuttered factories open their doors to manufacturers that sell wind turbines and solar panels that will power our homes and our businesses,” he said. “We can watch as millions of new jobs with good pay and good benefits are created.” This will “meet our moral obligations to future generations.”
Whoa. “Millions” of new jobs building solar panels and wind turbines, and this is to “meet our moral obligations?”
Virtue aside, here’s the biggest problem with Sen. Obama and Democratic enviromania: It’s a risky roll of the dice with the U.S. economy.
The economy we’ve got works. We know that carbon makes the U.S. economy run like a Swiss watch (transportation, distribution, production, commuting). The bet between carbon inputs and growing American outputs is virtually 1:1.
Mr. Obama and his Democratic colleagues in Congress want a “complete transformation” of an already successful economy. Not partial. complete. Can any of them say what the odds are that all this economic activity, including the nation’s electrical grid, will work as well with their new fuels? Assuredly, growth’s odds aren’t as good as the ones we have now.
Sen. Obama: “I will not pretend we can achieve [my goals] without cost or without sacrifice.” Might this mean foregoing some GDP for five to 10 years? “Growth” appears in Mr. Obama’s speech only to describe the “clean energy sector.”
The problem with Democratic enviromania is that it’s uncoupled from the realities of a nation whose economy has to compete now with the Chinas and Indias of the world, whose high growth rates use proven energy sources.
Republicans this fall should push their argument beyond drilling. Drilling is mainly a proxy for one’s understanding of the U.S. economy. The Democrats and Mr. Obama showed this week they are so in thrall to Al Gore’s big climate bet that they’d risk having a slow-growth economy. The GOP should run on High Growth America as a better bet than Democratic Slow Growth.
Instead of enviro-messianism, they should propose a drill-to-transition for whatever energy source can prove it works at a nonsacrificial price — shale, coal gasification, nuclear, solar or some combination. (Windmill farms are a pox on the land.)
Don’t be oil-industry deniers. Mr. Obama and Rep. Pelosi want to hammer and punish the only players on the field who actually know how to put massive amounts of energy on the grid. Don’t we want them using their resources to drill here, rather than off in some godforsaken place producing gushers of cash for people who want to pound us into a hole? We need Smart Oil on our side for at least 10 years.
Democrats this week chose the prayer of alternative energy over proven prosperity. They’ve handed prosperity in the here-and-now to the Republicans. Run with it.