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  • A Response to the President Obama's Earth Day Message

    For Earth Day’s 40th anniversary, President Obama and the White House released a video praising Americans for our environmental awareness, and urging us to get personally involved with improving our local environments. The president’s message of individual responsibility is commendable but his message that we’ll spend and regulate our way to a clean energy economy is troubling.

    “It’s clear change won’t come from Washington alone,” the president said in his message. The reality is that most productive change comes from outside Washington. The government is good at obstructing that progress or creating regulations that lag behind the improvements made organically. For instance, President Obama praised the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act but air and water quality were improving before the passage of these bills. While the right government regulations certainly play a role, often they are prohibitively expensive and even counterproductive. Take the Endangered Species Act, for instance, which creates perverse incentives for landowners to destroy their land if endangered species become an economic liability. Jonathan Adler, law professor at Case Western, explains,

    “Landowners have been known to destroy or degrade potential habitat on their land preemptively in order to prevent the imposition of the act’s requirements. It is not illegal to modify land that might become endangered species habitat some day in the future, nor are landowners required to take affirmative steps to maintain endangered species habitat beyond refraining from actions that “harm” endangered species.”

    Yet government is fighting to put in place more environmental regulations that will make it exceedingly difficult for businesses and individuals to develop economically while also protecting the environment. His vehicle for this change is to transition to a clean energy economy saying, “We have rejected the notion that we have to choose between creating jobs and a healthy environment.” The problem is that the President wants to force this transition through subsidies, mandates and set-asides.

    Unfortunately, the President’s plan is critical flawed in two regards. First, he assumes that money grows on trees. In other words, he does not consider the economic harm caused by taking money from one, more efficient part of the economy and giving it to some other, less efficient sector. This mistake demonstrates the second flaw, which is that government knows how to spend money better than the private sector.

    Together, these assumptions will inhibit our economic growth and our ability to protect the environment. These policies will lead us to less prosperity, more unemployment and higher energy costs—and fewer resources to commit to the environment. Further, it will stifle the technological advancements that have allowed Americans to grow economically without destroying the environment, and in many cases, those advancements improve our environmental well-being. The President’s attempt to pick energy winners and losers in tandem with a growing regulatory burden will significantly impact this ability. The reality is enterprise and innovation are the basis for why we don’t have to choose between the economy and the environment. These processes allow us to save money and be more efficient.

    President Obama’s video message was certainly not all bad. He is right to congratulate Americans for environmental strides our nation has made, but he needs to remember how we got here. It stems from policies that create wealth and prosperity that allow us to care for the environment and the establishment of private property rights that give individuals the proper incentives look after what they own.

    Instead of forcing individuals to change their behaviors through top down, federal regulations, environmental improvements can happen on a local level; President Obama seemed to agree. He said, “I want you to take action in your home or your community, at your school or your business, to improve our environment.” This is praiseworthy advice from the president. It is an attitude respecting the role of personal responsibility in the care and beautification of our personal environments. It is an ultimately capitalistic attitude, recognizing both the value and necessity of individual, local, and entrepreneurial action when it comes to improving our environment. It is an attitude that Heritage can get behind.

    Allie Winegar Duzett, a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation, co-authored this post.

    Posted in Energy [slideshow_deploy]

    6 Responses to A Response to the President Obama's Earth Day Message

    1. Michael Frazier, New says:

      First off you are misleading people. Today an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded in flame and there are many injured and a few lost people due to this. Casualty of war, or just gave it up for the "cause". I know you Republicans push the drilling off the coast but consider this. How much oil will get into the Gulf from this tradgedy? How much has already been spilled there? Is that why the shrimp and the shrimpers are slowly disappearing? You claim to care about people and the world and in the same breath say Drill baby Drill. Not only are you anti- earth but you are anti-American as well. Would you have me believe that cheap oil from the Gulf Coast will give me a better quality of life? I say NO.

      No more drilling in the ocean!!!!

    2. Monroe Bolding, Mobi says:

      You Mr. Frazier are apparently of the opinion that "if we could just get rid of the people, the world would be a wonderful place". To say the shrimp are disappearing and Republicans are pushing drilling show just how out of touch with reality you are. Somebody better get behind increased energy production (of all types) in this country in order to hold down cost because the current Washington regeme is apparently not interested in promoting employment.

      Well, I'm sure you won't be swayed by my comments because "employment" is probably another of your pet peeves. In my opinion it is phony of you to "use" the working men who were hurt on that oil rig, because they are part of the "sucker" class – hard working TAXPAYERS.

    3. Kathy Mathis, Ball G says:

      One of my biggest problems with trying to become a "greener" America is what my husband calls "Not in my backyard". We allow states, counties, towns, subdivisions, particularly HOA's to dictate what we can and can't do to go green. Our covenant will not allow wind turbines, solar panels (unless you can hide them) or any other visible form of using the earth's natural resources to provide power for the home. This country should be dotted with wind turbines from coast to coast, but the holdup is the "not in my backyard' mentality…do it somewhere else. What does the President have to say about that?

    4. Scott Soyer says:

      History repeats itself again. Under the Carter Administration, we the people were asked to cut back on every energy level possible. The means did not justify the ends because we continued to increase energy use indicating our hunger for energy decade over decade. We now use more than ever before. Gas guzzlers on our roads, computers/networks/peripherals (that did not exist in the 70's) and multiples of wide screen TVs in our homes that use more electrical energy than ever before in recorded history. Not more efficient, just bigger.

      Earth Day has accomplished…..nothing. The high energy usage also corresponds with our population increase. There is no doubt that the citizens do not want to pay more for energy, and/or use more than is necessary. The capitalist system corporations in their haste to make money advertises and sells what the people will buy and that means bigger, better, faster, which is not doing what it takes to save money/energy, and so those products that are available waste it for no true benefit and no efficiency–except to benefit those energy companies. Such are the pitfalls of still the best system in the world, the demand-supply capitalist system, without it, our nation would become third world status.

      The answer is two-fold, continue to make more Made-in-USA products, make USA products more efficient, and drill to keep USA less dependent on foreign oil. The recycled dollars will increase investments in R&D, create more/better jobs and a focus on efficient long lasting products, and prosperity will return to American soil. That means for us citizens, Buy-American. Yes, easier said than done.

    5. Ben Houston says:

      Michael, don't blame oil rigs for wildlife degredation. Repeated studies (many by Greenpeace itself) have failed to find any degredation. In fact, oil platforms act as reef foundations, growing coral reefs and acting as centers of wildlife blooms.

      As for how much has been spilled, you are fooling yourself. When Ike came through, the oil spilled was measured in drops, despite hundreds of damaged platforms. Besides, as any small child knows, natural, oil-eating bacteria work wonders on oil spills, so the "build up to toxic levels" argument that has been so popular is approximately the same as organic fertilizer.

      As for the decrease of yields you mention, the cause of that is also well known: fertilizer. Fertilizer runoff causes algae blooms which cause oxygen-deffiicient dead zones. The best method of minimizing runoff is no-till farming, which is completely incompatible with "organic" methods which are promoted by environmental groups. Ironically, organic farming is worse at causing oxygen depletion due to the high BOD of the runoff (translation: there is a lot more poop that needs to rot, draining the oxygen out of the water).

      The only thing you are doing is displaying gross ignorance of the issues at hand.

    6. Earl, QUEENS, NY says:

      So today is 'Environmentalist Wackos Day'?? In honor of this day, why not have tea-partiers, et al, at opposition events, i.e. talking about the EPA and environmentalist wackos in action!! I.e., the punishment of the farmer who accidently ran over a kangaroo rat with a tractor!! Or about the consequences of the water supply being cut off in California, just to protect a little species of fish!! We can also show pictures of spotted owls, and explain how the environmentalist wackos care more about them than the American people or our economy!! Better yet, let's look at some scenes from this past harsh winter – all the blizzards and record cold. This is all 'global warming in action'!!!! It's hard to believe that all of the lunacy listed above is actually happening, and the American people haven't taken corrective action or fought back yet!! We should have our own event – come November, let us….."GO GREEN – RECYCLE CONGRESS"!!

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