The U.S. Department of Energy released a report last week that world emissions of carbon dioxide jumped 6 percent in 2010 — a figure far worse than what climate scientists predicted four years ago. And half of the increase is attributable to China and the United States. Despite all of this, President Obama halted the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to regulate air quality in September, succumbing to a belief that regulations would kill jobs.
Thursday, 10 November 2011 10:34
95 percent of active climate researchers agree that humans are contributing to global warming, yet free market fundamentalists continue to deny our responsibility. Last month, former global warming skeptic Dr. Richard Muller released a comprehensive report, partially funded by fervent deniers, that confirmed previous findings that global warming is real.
If we continue to debate this issue, we may as well reopen the debate on whether the Earth is round. Far from being based in skepticism, denials of anthropogenic global warming are rooted in sycophancy to the energy industry. Exxon-Mobil alone donated over 1 million dollars to Republican candidates in 2010.
Relying on reports from energy companies, Republicans like Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) argue that the EPA’s regulations will kill jobs. Yes, it would kill jobs. That’s the point. It would kill jobs at coal plants, but open new ones at natural gas plants. Manufacturers of pollution-control devices would thrive. Construction investments would create 1.5 million jobs, according to a UMass Amherst study.
The United States must remain committed to promoting clean energy if we are to leave a prosperous nation to our grandchildren. Naysayers will point to Solyndra as an example of government failure, yet Solyndra represents only 1.3 percent of an otherwise prosperous portfolio of clean energy companies that received loans.
More money needs to be spent on research and development. While the industry average overall amounts to 3.5 percent of revenues spent on research, the energy industry spends only 0.1 percent, according to the American Energy Innovation Council. Further, the government spends only about $3 billion on energy research while defense research receives a staggering $77 billion. Neither the market nor the government is sufficiently spending money to innovate and create green technologies.
Though cap-and-trade foundered last year, the federal government should consider implementing a carbon tax. Lest anti-tax advocates shudder in their seats, the tax should follow Australia’s model, where the bulk of the tax proceeds allowed millions of Australians to have their income taxes reduced. An alternative to this, endorsed by some Republicans and Al Gore, is to cut payroll taxes in response to the carbon tax.
Care for the environment should not be sacrificed on the altar of jobs.