A free market for a clean future
At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, leaders from around the world gathered to discuss the pressing issues of the day. Climate change was among the issues discussed. Unfortunately, the treatment many of these elites prescribe is worse than the disease. As I see it, the next 10 days may look bleak, but the next 10 months and beyond are filled with hope. This optimism is based on the rapid innovation and development of America’s energy resources.
Recent federal policies have set forth an “All of the Above” energy strategy that supports jobs, promotes energy independence, and addresses a changing climate. Drastic and misguided ideas, such as the “Green New Deal” or an immediate elimination of fossil fuels, would only exacerbate the effects of a changing climate and throw billions of lives into chaos. House Democrats recently released the “CLEAN Future Act,” a 600-page proposal that would set a 100 percent clean energy standard by 2050, while significantly damaging the most innovative industries. Proponents of these plans seem to have forgotten how sensitive most people are to rising energy costs. High fuel prices, not climate change, has led to civil unrest in France, Mexico, Iran and other countries. By promoting an energy strategy that incorporates all available options, we can work to reduce pollution through rapid innovation without punishing those who must pay the true costs. These problems require new, cleaner energy products, not more government mandates or subsidies.
In recent years, the United States has enjoyed the benefits of affordable energy. In the early 2000s, I vividly remember debating in the House Energy and Commerce Committee how to address rising energy prices and how to reach energy independence. The Energy Policy Act passed in 2005, instituting massive reforms to the federal regulatory process and creating new federal incentives and mandates. While this legislation may have included its own imperfections, it laid out a strategy to use all energy resources: fossil fuels, nuclear, renewables, and energy efficient technologies. It was this strategy that enabled the energy renaissance we enjoy today.
Beginning in 2007, America’s energy system has undergone a revolution thanks to the shale gas boom. Initiated by public-private research, funded by private investment, and driven by consumer demand, the shale gas boom has resulted in lower energy prices across the country. Such affordable, clean energy has fueled a thriving national economy and also started a trend of reduced emissions in the United States that continues to this day.
Climate activists claim more needs to be done. I agree. According to the International Energy Agency, in 2019 nearly 1 billion people lived without electricity. This figure represents millions of children who can’t study after the sun sets and hundreds of millions who are unable to achieve their full potential in life. Therefore, we must use all the tools at our disposal to deliver energy where it is needed, granting millions access to the energy that will better their lives. Clean, affordable technologies such as natural gas, carbon capture, nuclear power, renewables, and more can bring an electrified future to the most underserved parts of the world while reducing emissions along the way.
Apocalyptic rhetoric seeks to rile up fears of a climate catastrophe without considering the unintended consequences of rapid, radical change. By using all the resources at our disposal and accelerating the speed of innovations we can balance the needs of the nation and the world with environmental concerns. Innovative technologies provide affordable, reliable energy that are exportable to the rest of the world. Radical policies and government regulation are not solutions. Promoting innovation throughout the private sector will create affordable, reliable, and clean energy to all Americans. The next 10 days may be uncertain, but this innovative future holds promise for our nation, our world, and our environment.
Michael C. Burgess, M.D. represents the 26th District of Texas and is a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.
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