Panicked Media Are Missing the Point on President’s Energy Policies

March 31st, 2017 6:08 PM

This past week, President Trump issued a sweeping executive order unraveling a host of energy regulations enacted by President Obama.

Predictably the news media were beside themselves over the matter. As my colleagues at NewsBusters adroitly pointed out, ABC, CBS, and NBC were in full panic mode. 

NBC’s White House correspondent Kristen Welker exclaimed: 

And tonight, environmentalists decrying the executive order, saying combatting climate change is key to protecting the planet, the economy, and even national security,” She followed that up with a clip of Democratic Senator Ed Markey asserting that “This is not an executive order, this is a declaration of war.

Here, reaction was emblematic of the rest of the media. Similarly biased, one-sided reporting was to be found on CNN, MSNBC, and across the rest of the media landscape.

The media touted many of the talking points of the environmentalist left to deride the executive order signed by President Trump.

So what exactly were they so up in arms about?

The Obama regulations the media were defending and which Trump overturned with his executive order were designed to put the coal industry out of business (as then-candidate Obama explained): “If somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it’s just that it will bankrupt them, because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.”

But there was more than the destruction of the coal industry at stake.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Myron Ebell pointed out that the order began our withdrawal from the “EPA’s greenhouse gas rules, including the so-called ‘Clean Power’ Plan. He added:

Also important are the President’s actions on the Social Cost of Carbon and the NEPA climate impacts guidance documents. If left in place, these two guidance documents would be used to justify ever-more destructive energy regulations and to stop public infrastructure and private natural resource projects across the country.

As Trumps executive order eviscerated one of the left’s sacred cows (environmental regulations), the establishment liberal media were only interested in telling one side of the story.

But indeed there is another side which rarely receives oxygen and certainly did not this past week. 

As Alex Epstein points out in his book The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, a free market approach to the use of fossil fuels is not only the best alternative for the economy, but indeed even the environment and modern day civilization.

As Epstein demonstrated there is a high correlation between the increased use of fossil fuels and quality of life. For example, “today the world uses 39 percent more oil, 107 percent more coal, and 131 percent more natural gas than it did in 1980.” And during that period, left expectancy around the world has gone up, average income has increased and child mortality rates have plummeted.

He continued: 

Consider the fate of two countries that have been responsible for a great deal of the increase in fossil fuel use, China and India. In each country, both coal and oil use increased by at least a factor of 5, producing nearly all their energy. The story is clear—both life expectancy and income increased rapidly, meaning that life got better for billions of people in just a few decades. For example, the infant mortality rate has plummeted in both countries—in China by 70 percent, which translates to 66 more children living per 1000 births.30 India has experienced a similar decrease, of 58 percent.

Arguably even the environment has improved along with the increased use of fossil fuels. Since 1970 with the increased use of fossil fuel, air quality has actually improved as measured by the diminished presence of six major air pollutants. 

And the same can be said for the quality and availability of water, and a whole host of other indicators of our well being. Fossil fuels provide more energy, more efficiently, and more cheaply than many other sources of fuel currently known to mankind. Along with a free market, cheaper and more abundant energy lead to a wealthier society. And wealthier, freer societies are cleaner than less free, impoverished countries like North Korea.

Free market theories about energy and environment are not infallible, axiomatic truths. But there are strong arguments to be made in their use and implementation. The media should give them a fair shake.