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David McKinley: Why gamble with America's economy?

GAMBLING has consequences - whether it is a card game or making energy policy.

Engineers, scientists, and physicists around the world continue their efforts to define the role of carbon dioxide, or CO2, in climate change and wrestle with whether the condition is man-made or occurring naturally.

But first a quick reminder from our science classes: CO2 emissions come from bodies of water, the exhausts of cars and trucks, heating, power generation, volcanic activity, respiration, and deforestation, among other sources.

These emissions have been typically absorbed by land masses and oceans or transformed into oxygen by plants through a process known as photosynthesis.

Since the industrial revolution there are more emissions entering the atmosphere than can be absorbed or transformed; therefore, the level of CO2 has been on the rise.

Some will argue that recent levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, measuring 400 parts per million are a prelude to an environmental catastrophe.

Their climate models predict that rising CO2 levels will cause higher global temperatures which they assert will result in hurricanes, rising ocean levels, droughts, and other disasters.

On the other side of the argument, researchers contend that plant life hungers for CO2 concentration higher than at the present and that humans are able to accommodate greater levels.

These scientists also demonstrate graphically the flaws in their opponents' climate models.

Both sides agree however that 96 percent of all CO2 emissions occur naturally and man-made sources make up the rest.

The United Nations has been at the forefront of this debate and recently released an updated, fifth edition of their IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) findings. Portions of the assessment have sent shock waves through this debate.  

For example, the IPCC and other experts have noted either collectively or independently that despite the increased level of atmospheric CO2:

1. Both the Arctic and Antarctica sea ice are expanding, not contracting,

2. For the next 70 years, i.e. until 2083, the benefits of climate change will likely outweigh the harm.

3. Since the mid-1970s, global temperatures have increased merely 0.25 degrees Centigrade despite the climate models used by environmental alarmists that forecast temperatures four and seven times higher.

To its credit the United Nations is walking back some of its previous environmental warnings embodied in earlier IPCC reports, lowering its alarm level, and suggesting more research is necessary.

In essence a "time out" may be warranted.

But this has not deterred the Obama Administration in its relentless pursuit of an ideologically motivated energy policy.  

Just this month the EPA announced yet another controversial regulation that would prevent America from constructing any new coal-fired power plants.

This rule was proudly announced even though U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy acknowledged that enforcing its compliance would result in "negligible" reductions in CO2 levels.

So let's put all of this into some form of perspective.

If the regulators in Washington were to shut down every coal-fired power plant in America, the global CO2 emission levels would be reduced by a mere two tenths of one percent.

The deforestation of our tropical rainforest is five times worse for carbon emissions.

And the Science and Public Policy Institute has projected that by similarly halting all coal-fired power generation in America, the global temperature reduction would be just 0.08 degrees Centigrade by the year 2050.

So in achieving virtually no environmental benefits, this Administration is using regulatory authorities, not Congress, to pursue an energy policy that will cause the loss of hundreds of thousands of good paying jobs, markedly increase utility bills for families and businesses, and watch more companies go offshore.

President Obama has acknowledged that all the nations of the world need to be engaged for his global climate initiatives to be successful.

But key nations are not following his lead. China, India, Germany and Russia are among the vast number of countries that are embarking on energy programs based on using low-cost, dependable coal for their power generation.

And their plans for using coal dwarf America's current consumption of coal.

Our nation produces approximately 320 gigawatts of power from coal; but these four nations alone have plans to expand their power base by nearly 1,200 gigawatts over and above their current capacity in the next 20 years.

To summarize:

  • The United Nations panel on climate change has downgraded its concerns for environmental threats.
  • If America were to stop its dependency on coal, it would result in only a miniscule reduction in global CO2 emissions.
  • If America were to totally halt the use of coal, the change in temperature would be insignificant.
  • The EPA acknowledges that their latest attack on use of coal-fired generation plants will have a "negligible" impact on CO2 levels.
  • Our economic competitors are ignoring America's de-carbonization policies and expanding their use of coal.
  • Therefore, more questions need to be asked:  Why is President Obama gambling America's economic stability in order to pursue an unproven agenda that the rest of the world and the many within the science community are still questioning?  

    And why would this Administration choose a policy that will cost jobs and cause families, manufacturers and businesses to endure higher utility bills?

    Proponents of the President's climate change agenda often say they are trying to leave a better earth for the next generation.

    My question is what type of economy will they leave with it? All of us on both sides of this debate need to continue asking that question.

    McKinley, a Republican, represents West Virginia's first district in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is one of two professional engineers in the House.


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