Republicans Need to Embrace Pragmatic Environmentalism

It’s time that the red elephant starts thinking green.

From a strategic point of view, the Democrats are profiting off being louder about environmental issues. Whether impending doom or fear-mongering activists are the cause, the percentage of voters that consider climate change to be a threat is steadily rising. Republicans tout research showing that the need to be alarmed about climate change is exaggerated, but nevertheless it has become a high-profile topic. The Democrats have responded by adopting a Green New Deal (GND) and an apocalyptic rhetoric. While these actions have dilated the concern for environmental issues among Democrat voters, they are also attracting many newcomers, particularly millennials and Gen Z, to the party. By largely avoiding environmental issues, Republicans have lessened their appeal to environmentally conscious young voters.

Read another viewpoint: Can New Technologies Revitalize American Nuclear?

More importantly, the demand on Earth for natural resources is enormous and endlessly increasing. The human population is currently 7.8 billion, and the UN expects that figure to reach 11 billion by 2100. There is also an expectation that living standards should increase across the globe. To satisfy these projections, the planet will have to provide us with more food, raw materials, and particularly energy. This issue is timeless, and humanity must continuously address it if we are to prosper. From both a political and practical perspective, environmental issues are extremely important.

The Democrats are taking charge with environmental policy, but their proposed solutions are economically devastating and ineffective.

The GND resolution introduced to Congress with over 100 co-sponsors named several environmental and social goals. Without specific policies addressing the goals, it’s impossible to name an exact cost. Considering only the energy and environmental goals, the American Action Forum estimates a bare minimum $8.3 trillion cost to taxpayers ($100,000 per family). The Heritage Foundation estimated the economic damages of carbon taxes and regulations necessary to achieve the environmental goals of the GND. They predict that meeting these goals would result in a shortfall of 24 million jobs and cost the typical family of four $165,000 in lost income by the year 2040. Additionally, energy costs would skyrocket, resulting in a higher price level and constrained gross productivity.

Proponents of such radical policies argue that any cost is justified to avoid cataclysmic environmental collapse, but will their response solve climate change? The United States has only a fraction of the world population and is not even the largest emitter of carbon. Realistically, no national policy can make a substantial impact. However, if spare no cost to do our part, what can the Democrat’s strategy accomplish?

Not much. The biggest problem is that Democrats over-emphasize wind and solar. Energy storage technology cannot support energy sources that do not operate around the clock. For example, to create storage sufficient for the state of Texas alone, Tesla’s Gigafactory would have to pump out batteries for 388 years. Consequently, the grid must have a constant supply of electricity that closely matches the immediate demand. Wind turbines and solar panels have drastically fluctuating outputs due to meteorological and temporal factors. As a result, increasing the amount of electricity sourced from solar and wind hampers grid reliability and exacerbates our dependence on fossil fuels to bridge the gap between supply and demand at any given time. The Democrat’s route leads either to nation-wide rolling blackouts or a fossil fuel dependency, which defeats the purpose of promoting renewables.

The US Energy Information Administration reports that in 2016 fossil fuels produced more than ten times as much electricity as solar and wind but received less direct federal financial interventions and subsidies ($2.035 versus $3.497 billion). Despite the left’s claims that the fossil fuel industry is propped up by government assistance, solar and wind received more than 53 times more subsidies per kWh when considering that only 30% of fossil fuel energy was consumed for electricity production. Still, Democrats have pushed for further increasing financial support for wind and solar above all other energy sources. They have also called for repealing tax deductions for depletion, measures that benefit all industries that extract finite natural resources from the Earth, in their crusade against fossil fuels.

Democrats also don’t pay enough attention to practical remedies. UN climate scientists argue that a $300 billion investment in restoring lands degraded by unsustainable agricultural practices could halt the net increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases. Democrats advocate for sending taxpayer dollars overseas for other purposes, but not to fund this substantially more effective way to address climate change. Instead, they support unnecessarily spending trillions of dollars pursuing ineffective measures.

Luckily, a pragmatic alternative exists – nuclear power. It is carbonless, land efficient, safe, and reliable. Many Democrats stand firmly against nuclear, citing concerns over a finite fuel supply, reactor meltdowns, and radioactive waste. However, nuclear power technology is advancing and addressing all these drawbacks. Numerous people have already made the case for nuclear. Rather than repeating what others have said here, I encourage readers to seek them out themselves.

If not because of climate change, Republicans need to support nuclear energy because fossil fuels have a limited supply. This is a forward-thinking policy that will minimize difficulties when inevitably fossil fuels become scarce many years from now. A comprehensive transition will take years. Demand for fossil fuels will not vanish either. Billions of people around the world still require access to high-density fuels.

Although anxiety about climate change has pushed energy policy to the front of the discussion, Republicans should develop a comprehensive strategy toward the environment.

Other issues need addressing: overfishing, aquifer depletion, land degradation, forest mismanagement. Planet Earth needs and deserves our care, and our quality of life depends on it. This is an opportunity for Republicans to make gains at the ballot box while improving our quality of life and our planet’s condition. Millions of Americans are pleading for someone to put forth viable policy solutions; may the Republican party answer their call. //

Madison Culper

Read another viewpoint: Can New Technologies Revitalize American Nuclear?

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